Keith Smart's inheritance of the head-coaching responsibilities of the Scaramento Kings came at a rough time that got rougher after the injuries to Chuck Hayes and Marcus Thornton. Losing the top rebounder and scorer, respectively, is a challenge that would leave most coaches without a solution.
While difficulties abound for this young club, since Paul Westphal left town, there have been four major areas of improvement that give hope for Kings fans.
The toxicity of the DeMarcus Cousins situation seems to have stabilized for now. The pipe burst of emotion and negative publicity has subsided for the moment.
It was clear that Westphal had lost whatever slim influence he held over the team and Smart is working on establishing a system.
Cousins is a tough sell to trade and the most talented big man Sacramento has to develop in order to succeed. His potential for filling stat sheets is unmatched among his teammates.
Cousins has been quiet since his new coach arrived in town. Keeping down negativity in the public eye is crucial to holding fan support.
One visible improvement under Smart is the willingness to play rookie Jimmer Fredette more minutes. The comfort with trusting his young players is essential to finding combinations that will work on the floor.
In the last Kings game prior to this piece, Jimmer had a breakout game with 20 points and six assists.
Smart's coaching career with the Fort Wayne Fury of the Continental Basketball Association from 1997 to 2000 has helped the Kings by running a freestyle offense that suits the young legs on the roster.
Confidence may be developing between Smart and his players. The Kings fought hard to the end to pick up the victory.
Statistical evidence for the Kings is not so optimistic, though. The Kings are far below average in key categories, including shooting (last in the NBA at 39 percent), assists per game (14.6) and three-point shooting (25.8 percent).
Francisco Garcia, J.J. Hickson and Isaiah Thomas are all eager to be a part of the contributing core of the Kings. These three saw limited minutes prior to the coaching change. Now they are important factors in the daily success strategy for Sacramento.
These players have a big opportunity to prove their worth in the league by producing while Hayes and Thornton are on the mend.
The Kings have youth, but can they translate that into victory? Maybe the reserves will show the starters how to pass the ball. This team needs a lot of work.