The Kings 116-114 home loss to the Nets was a disappointing one—a number of boneheaded mistakes down the stretch prevented them from stealing a very winnable game. However, the Kings roster is too poorly constructed for the team to taste any reasonable degree of success this season, and into the foreseeable future.
Let’s see what the Kings have—and don’t have, to determine what their future holds.
John Salmons is a stud. Creative off the bounce, a fearless finisher, a smooth jump shooter, an earnest defender, and a tough rebounder, Salmons gives the Kings hope in any ball game. He dominated Vince Carter and Jarvis Hayes to the tune of 11-19 shooting for 38 points.
However, it was his points left on the table—three missed free throws in the final minute of regulation and overtime that doomed the Kings.
Beno Udrih is an unselfish ball handler and passer who can knock down mid-range jumpers and finish with his left hand at the rim—5-12 FG, 10 AST. He doesn’t have NBA-quality athleticism though, making it tough for him to do much against good defenders and on the defensive end. In a perfect world, Udrih would be a very effective backup on a very good team, but he’s more than serviceable on the Kings.
Jason Thompson can handle and pass remarkably well for a man his size, but he’s a stranger in paradise.
Mikki Moore can hit straight away 18-foot jumpers, but he attacks the offensive glass with more alacrity than he boxes the defensive boards, and his defensive rotations against the Nets were perpetually late. Moore’s only a starting-caliber big man if Jason Kidd is his point guard.
Brad Miller hit a number of 22-foot jumpers, made a handful scintillating passes from the high post, set effective screens, and even hit a right hook late in overtime—8-19 FG, 2-5 3FG, 13 REB, 6 AST.
However, Miller can’t run, he’s slow off the floorboards, and he shies away from physicality on defense. Even the ogre-footed Brook Lopez was able to outrace Miller to the hoop on a backdoor cut, and Lopez got whatever he wanted against Miller when he attacked with his back to the basket.
Plus, a brainless technical foul in overtime gave the Nets a free point that eventually was the difference.
Since the Kings aren’t going to be competitive in the near future, Miller should be traded for any youngster on any team that could use more ball movement in their offense.
Spencer Hawes can block shots when he gets a running start and time to set himself, but he too couldn’t slow down Lopez in the post. On the other end, Hawes was able to post Yi Jianlian, though he didn’t have any success near the basket against the Nets stronger, more muscular post defenders. Hawes has range, has nice hands, and can pass, but the early returns are that his game is all finesse.
Bobby Brown is quick and fast, but he also made a number of defensive mistakes. Still, he’s one of Sacramento’s few NBA-quality athletes.
Donte Green can shoot it, but is also overwhelmed by the details of the NBA game. Like Brown and Thompson, Green has a bright future, but will suffer through a lot of mistakes in the present.
Bobby Jackson kept both the Kings and the Nets in the game with his shooting—5-14 FG, 1-7 3FG, 12 PTS.
The Kings offense rarely set up any good looks at the basket. Instead, they had to rely on screen/rolls or isos at the end of the shot clock with either Salmons creating for himself, or Udrih creating for others.
Defensively, the Kings collapsed hard on penetrations, but their rotations were either flawed, confused, or absent. One rotation plan had Jason Thompson double teaming the left baseline post 15 feet away from the baseline, and then recovering back to his own man on the right wing. It’s a nearly impossible rotation and the Kings were lucky the Nets ensuing wide open three-pointer was missed.
Other times, the Kings would collapse and fail to recover to three-point shooters, or the would rotate three guys out to the same shooter.
Also, with seconds left in the fourth, the Kings’ Bobby Jackson sagged off of Devin Harris allowing him to sink a game-tying three. On the Kings next offensive position, Reggie Theus called for Beno Udrih to spin right to left and create in the paint.
Udrih had hardly operated on the right side of the court all game long, and instead of having Salmons work his magic, the best play Sacramento called for had Udrih under the hoop with all the Nets converging on him? No surprise the possession ended in a Kings turnover.
Also, late in overtime, the Kings dribbled the basketball up the court before calling timeout, and were forced to burn their final timeout to advance the ball into the halfcourt.
The flawed rotations, the ineffective offense, the confusion, the lack of attention to detail, the puzzling play selection at the end of the regulation, the failure to get the most out of a veteran club, all of these suggest that there is merit to Kings co-owner Joe Maloof criticizing Theus.
When the Kings get back Kevin Martin, they’ll get back a bona-fide scorer which will ease the pressure on the other players. Still, is Martin a franchise lynchpin, or just another talented scorer? And what to do about the Kings’ mediocre veterans, ineffective defense, and raw, inexperienced youngsters?
Theus deserves criticism for not having a system, but the Kings’ organization deserves criticism for not having a plan. Are they a veteran team, a young team, an uptempo squad, or a halfcourt one? Then again, it is the same ownership group that fired Rick Adelman after he almost coaxed a very flawed roster into a first round upset of the Spurs.
Three seasons later, and jesters are still running the Kings’ court.
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