Desperation

July 13, 2009

As the summer of 2009 approaches its halfway point, I find myself in a strange position.  My first sporting love has always been baseball, and the team I’ve lived and died with since I was a young boy – the San Francisco Giants – are having a surprisingly fine season, and seem to have that “magic” that occasionally goes hand-in-hand with a team unexpectedly thrust into playoff contention.  Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are both among the early favorites to win the NL Cy Young award, the bullpen is solid after some really ugly years, and the team is actually getting production from some of its homegrown bats.  Add to this, I frequent McCovey Chronicles, arguably the finest, most entertaining sports message board on the ‘net.  The energy that one feels as a Giants fan right now is off the charts.

Another of my passions is fantasy football, which satisfies the stats geek side of my personality to no end.  Normally, at this time of the year, I’d have a few spreadsheets thrown together and I’d be setting up player ratings by position and hanging out at a few different fantasy football sites getting the inside info that will assist me come draft day.  And on draft day, I will spend five or six hours with a dozen of my oldest friends and catch up on what’s happening in their lives.  I usually start getting excited for draft day two or three months out (yes, I’m turning into an old fogie).

So why is it I find myself spending most of my available internet time at SacTown Royalty?  Here we are, three and a half months out from the start of the regular season – and I’m arguing (seemingly endlessly) about Tyreke Evans’ ability to play the point guard position in the NBA, and loving every minute of it.

Have I gone mad?  Am I depressed?  Have the years of caffeine abuse finally caught up to me?

There is something about this particular version of the Sacramento Kings I find increasingly compelling.  Not that I sense this team will be substantially better record-wise than in the ’08-’09 season.  And not that I think Paul Westphal is a Rick Adelman redux.  Nope, there is something more working here.  And I think I’ve figured it out – the word that would most likely apply to my current mental state regarding this team is “desperation”.

As I’ve written here in the past, my connection to this Kings franchise goes back to it’s very first days as a Sacramento entity.  During my senior year of high school, I was lucky enough to spend a fairly significant amount of time with many of the original Kings and their families, most notably LaSalle Thompson and Mike Woodson.  Having been a huge sports fan growing up, and still absorbing the notion that our little ‘burg really had a professional team coming to town – I felt like a lottery winner when I discovered that many of the Kings were moving into homes within a block or two of my parent’s home.  Before I would finish up high school and move out of that house, I would get to know a few of those Kings fairly well – and not a one of them ever gave off the vibe you would expect from an elite athlete.  What a great group of ambassadors the Kings were lucky enough to bring with them from Kansas City.

So there was an immediate connection with this franchise, one that gradually pushed my Giants down to second fiddle on the hierarchy of “important things” in my life.  A quarter of a century later (wow), and nothing has changed in that regard.  They are still numero uno, the bomb, the one team I’d take with me if I were stranded on a desert island.

But that still doesn’t explain the feeling of desperation I have over the impending Kings season.  I think I’ve known for a while now that this is THE most important season ever of Kings basketball.

There is the most obvious issue – a small market team with declining attendance and arena issues needs to improve to get butts in the seat to get that arena built and ensure its continued existence in said market.

Additionally, you have a highly regarded general manager that appears to be in the twilight of his career.  His missteps of the last few seasons have been well documented, and the question surrounding him is whether the condition of this team is related more to an attempt to delay blowing up the team to reach for a championship ring, or to the possibility that the game has passed Geoff Petrie by.  Players come and go, but NBA general managers of Geoff Petrie’s caliber are hard to find.  As a fanbase, I know we all hope that Petrie still has whatever “it” is and can get this team back into contention rather than visiting Secaucus every June.

The short-term outlook is fairly positive.  Petrie (or the calendar if you are a cynic) has shed the team of most of its ornery contracts.   This franchise has drafted at its highest position since 1989 and appears to have found a dynamic young talent in Tyreke Evans.  The frontcourt may need a defensive/rebounding specialist, but seems to have found a solid tandem in Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson.  And the still young Kevin Martin adds the type of efficient scorer any team with playoff aspirations would love to have.  In short, there is some talent on the roster, and some tradeable assets (including KTEC).  These are not your Kings of the late 80′s and early 90′s, devoid of wins and talent.

Looking at these last few paragraphs makes me think of one question – is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning?

And this is where the word “desperation” comes into play.  If Petrie & Co. have made the wrong decisions – if Tyreke Evans does turn into the next Larry Huges or John Salmons, if the team makes another putrid signing with the mid-level exception, if Donté Greene and Omri Casspi end up netting us nothing from the Ron Artest deal – we may well be seeing the end of our beloved franchise in Sacramento.  Another seventeen win season and an average attendance of around 10k per game (I believe) results in a relocation request by ownership.

Maybe this is why I’ve turned into such an unabashed fanboy of the Maloofs and Petrie and Tyreke Evans.  I think at this point, I have to have faith they are going to turn this thing around.  Because the alternative is unthinkable.


Endgame approaches?

September 26, 2008

Or should I say the “end-time” approaches for the McCain/Palin campaign?

Could this, one of the most anticipated Presidential elections of my lifetime, be a done deal before a single vote is even cast?

What was John McCain really trying to accomplish with his campaign/debate suspension? 

Was he going to ride into Congress on his white horse, bring about consensus, then claim victory?  If so, he forgot that the Democrats, as inept as they can be sometimes, understand the political ramifications of the current “crisis” – and do currently hold a majority in both houses of Congress.  Did he not expect some resistance?

Was this really a ploy to move tonight’s debate back into the slot being saved for the VP debate, then find a way to not come to agreement on a reschedule of that debate?  Word is, the McCain camp has done a mock press conference and mock debate with Palin and the results were disastrous.  Problem is, the press has latched onto Palin’s inadequacy as a candidate for the executive branch like a pit bull.  Any attempt to finagle Palin out of a debate with Biden is not going to come off well in the media.

Who in the world is running this inept campaign?  Is this turning out better for the Republicans than an issues-oriented campaign would have?  I would say not – McCain could have engendered himself more to his base and many moderates by staying away from attack dog politics and pushing back against the Bush administration’s lack of fiscal stewardship that has brought the economy to its current (supposed) breaking point.  Instead of insults and allegations, how about some tangible ideas for moving this country forward?

Thing is, as socially liberal as I am, the trickle down effects of the economy’s problems have hit home for me – in the increased cost of groceries and a tank of gas,  the lack of a cost-of-living increase with my company (first time in the last seven years), and probably a reduced and potentially non-existent annual bonus this year.  As a responsible husband/father, I have contingencies in place to deal with these issues, but it also leaves me more amenable to political ideas that would normally be anathema.

Having said all that, I don’t see a scenario where I would have voted for John McCain.  I feel the damage he would do to this country just based on his potential foreign policy is a deal-breaker.  War with Iran is a near certainty in a McCain administration.  Also, I don’t have any confidence that the man knows enough about the economy, or is willing and able to learn enough to steer the ship safely. 

For many independents, and even moderate Democrats – I think a calmer, issues-oriented McCain would have been a formidable opponent come November.  The McCain we see now is almost a parody of himself, and Palin has already transformed from a positive game-changer to a quite heavy anchor for the Republicans.

You can never count your chickens before they are hatched in politics, especially Presidential politics.  But the knuckleheads running the McCain campaign are threatening to snatch a huge defeat from the jaws of close victory.  I, for one, would like to thank them.


Odds and Ends – Valentine’s Day Edition

February 14, 2008
  • I’d love to see the C-Span ratings for yesterday, I’d imagine they have probably never been higher. There is so much interest in Roger Clemens’ alleged PED usage, and ridiculously so.  Henry Waxman’s ridiculous intro on the reasons for having McNamee and Clemens appear seemed more appropriate for a Saturday Night Live skit.  And the ensuing, clear split of opinion between Democrats and Republicans and their treatment of the “star” witnesses gave everyone a glimpse of how partisanship trumps common sense in the United States Congress.
  • Having said that, clearly both McNamee and Clemens are outright liars – and only one of them is admitting it. There are two points that stand out to me regarding Clemens, both regarding HGH usage. First, the testimony of Andy Pettite, and Clemens using terms like “misheard” and “misremembered” regarding Pettite’s disclosures.  Second, who in the flying fuck believes that McNamee would give an injection of HGH to Clemens’ wife without Roger Clemens’ knowledge?  Asinine and ridiculous.  The only question left is whether McNamee or Clemens will face perjury charges – I’d have to imagine not, and the whole thing fades away for a bit.  If Clemens decides to pitch this year, it will certainly pop back up, and I have my doubts he wants to deal with that nonsense.
  • Hillary Clinton is becoming increasingly desperate as the last few bastions of her strongest support (Latino and women voters) are increasingly chipped away by Barack Obama.  She would love to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates at the convention, a thought that must give Howard Dean nightmares.  Additionally, she wants more debates, and not just because she’s a strong debater, but it gives her the free face time her money-starved campaign needs.  If Obama is smart, he will defer on the debate and delegates question.  I love the fact that he is already taking on McCain – proudly acting like the front-runner for the nomination.  It’s looking more and more that he has a real shot at winning Texas (unthinkable a few weeks back), and if he does so and keeps Ohio and Pennsylvania close, Clinton may have to spit the bit.  If not, the Democratic Convention will look like a civil war battleground before all is said and done.
  • Reggie Theus has done an admirable job with the Kings this season, but there are still so many times he’s looked the part of a rookie coach.  He has been exposed repeatedly in late game situations, and last night’s game against the Rockets was such a time – not using the extra foul he had in his pocket on the last Rockets’ offensive possession was bad enough, but the final Kings’ attempt was a poorly drawn play with very little chance of succeeding.  Let’s hope that part of Theus’ coaching ability improves over time.   Oh, and good to see you Justin Williams. 
  • There’s gonna be a lot of Mavericks fans pissed off at Devean George, but why would anyone expect a player in his position to just give up their potential Bird rights?  Most likely, he will never get to use them, but his agent is smart to advise him not to give it up without a fight.
  • Oh, and thanks to Kusian for the heads up on John McCain’s daughter.  Yes, she’s a very nice!  /borat off
  • I still won’t vote for him.>

Underestimating HRC

February 11, 2008

I apologize for the length in advance – there is some stream of consciousness here, but this whole nomination process has made me pretty reflective on my past, and where I’ve come from and what I believe in.

I’ve got to admit, I was a pretty lucky kid.  My Mom and Dad started our family in the late 60’s in a crowded, dingy section of Norwalk, California.  The five of us (my parents, me and my two sisters) were pretty poor – my pops was driving a truck and doing odd jobs where he could find them, Mom was doing some accounting work.  When I was a few years old, they moved us into a decent part of Long Beach, not too far from Grandma’s house.  

Grandma was a big-time Republican, and I remember her and my father arguing politics from time to time. Of course, I never understood the issues they were discussing, but I knew they seemed to find it pretty important. And it was clear to my entire family early on that I was a political savant. Looking at a picture of Richard Nixon on the television screen, I started crying. My Grandma asked me why I was crying and I said “because he’s scary”. Turns out I was probably more knowledgeable about politics at 3 than I am now as a grown man.

Anyways, my Dad took a job in Sacramento when I was 6 years old and I’ve lived in the area ever since. My parents were always fitness freaks – ate well, exercised, played sports. And that’s why I consider myself to be a pretty lucky kid – I absorbed their interest in sports, and not just watching sports on television, but playing them. I played Little League, swam competitively, and even learned how to play tennis. I’d shoot jump shots on the basketball court for hours during the summer and play football with my friends most weekends during the winter.

My love for sports has been a pretty big influence on my life. Learning to play within a team, understanding how the disparate talents of individual players can mesh into something considerably more, how this meshing of talent can lead to victory against others who on paper had better talent – these were all important life lessons that I’m not sure I would have received outside of this little world of mine. To this day (now in my early 40’s) sports and competition is still an important part of my life.

When I was 12 (way back in 1978), my parents joined a health club for the first time. Up until that point, most “health clubs” were strictly about lifting weights – muscle gyms filled with Schwarzenegger-wannabe’s. This was completely different – they had a basketball court, the free weights were separated from the resistance machines. There were tanning beds, and an upstairs lounge with a full food menu. There was a big-screen television, video games and dart boards, a pool and a pool table. The mens locker room had a sauna and a Jacuzzi.

It was like Disneyland for a kid who was into sports.

Best of all, they had racquetball courts. Eight of ‘em actually. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’d even heard the word “racquetball” up to that point. Who spends their evenings in a 40 foot long by 20 foot wide by 20 foot high box?

Turns out, lots of people did. Every night, I’d watch the older guys and girls play round-robin matches on the courts that had the glass back walls.  Damn, they even played doubles! You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen 4 large men play racquetball at the same time. 40 by 20 by 20 starts to look like a very small confined space.

But it sure looked like fun. So I took a few lessons with our club pro, and I was hooked. I was drawn to racquetball like Hurley to the Dharma Ranch Dressing.

After a few years, I was pretty damn good…and I started playing tournaments. I graduated from small tournaments at my own gym, to local tournaments, to larger regional tournaments, and on a few occasions national tournaments. I even played a few years at the professional event down in Stockton.  

I always loved the team aspect of playing baseball, basketball or football, but the bottom line was that there was only a marginal amount of influence one player could have on the game…on the baseball field you would come to bat three or four times per game, maybe make two or three defensive plays depending on the position you played. Racquetball tournaments were much much different.  It was you and one other person, locked in a small room – and the outcome often relied on factors other than pure skill. Tournaments are where you figured out how much fire you had in your belly…they were a test of endurance and stamina as much as pure talent. There were times when I would wake up the Sunday morning of a tournament, after playing seven or eight matches over the Friday night/Saturday preceding, and wonder if I would even be able to limp around the court for my upcoming semi-final or final match. But there was always the combination of a couple of painkillers, IcyHot, stretching, and a pre-match beer to get my body loosened up.  

It sounds funny, but there was always something very spiritual for me in these matches late in the tournament, when I was playing the best remaining players in the draw, wondering if they were really hurting as much as I was, whether I would break their spirit before they broke mine, whether I had enough in the cajones department to survive a war of attrition, then likely need to do the same thing an hour or two later.

I’ve gotta admit, early on in my racquetball “career”, there were times  where I couldn’t do it – I’d go into a match, get down early, try to fight back, but just gave it up in the face of superior talent and superior physical ability. But after a while, I learned a very important lesson – most of the other players I was facing had the same doubts, the same concerns about endurance, and the questions about their own mental toughness when you had your back against the wall in a match.

So I worked on changing my mindset – I’d work my ass off for every damn point, every game. If I showed my opponent that I wouldn’t concede an inch – over time they will have to question whether THEY had the guts to beat me. And some did…others (and occasionally much “better” players) didn’t.

About two years ago, I was lucky enough to marry a beautiful woman, a single mom with a young girl whose smile melted my heart. Subsequently, I adopted this amazing girl and have been doing the most important job I could ever imagine. But, as so many can surely attest, having a small child to take care of can put a major crimp in your social schedule, and can add a few pounds to the waistline. Racquetball, and exercise in general, became far less important. So I stopped playing.

That little girl is getting ready to turn five now, so recently my wife and I decided to join the local health club. Nice place, lots of tennis courts, and a good kids facility for my daughter to play in while we are working out.

And four racquetball courts.

Turns out, they have a racquetball league at this gym, and on a whim I decided to go ahead and sign up. I figured the competition would keep me interested enough to practice a bit, maybe see where my game was. In the back of my mind, I knew what I was really doing – seeing if I still had the stuff to compete, maybe play a tournament down the road and let my little girl see something that Daddy used to do really, really well.

First night (two weeks ago), I played my first matches in the league.  We would play two doubles matches to start out – I was paired up with a decent player, and we won one game, lost the other. Immediately, I had to go back on the court and play my first singles match – and I was paired up with a pretty good player.  Low A / High B maybe – good forehand, decent backhand – very good game in the frontcourt.

And here I was, wheezing like a Ford Escort with a blown cylinder. Two games into my “comeback” and my knees and back are rebelling to the extra 20 pounds I had put on during my hiatus. So I sucked down a couple of ibuprofen, drank some water, and discretely looked around to see if there was a defibrillator on standby. Immediately, the guy got me down 7-1.  I was having trouble getting him out of the frontcourt, and wasn’t even making him sweat – he moved me around from one side of the court to the other, front and back. I was hoping at that point to get 5 points on him.

Then he made his first mistake. He relaxed. He stopped drive serving and went to lob serves to my backhand. Slowly, I started to get a rhythm, hitting better ceiling balls that forced him out of the frontcourt. And once I took control of the frontcourt, I was determined not to give it back to him – since I didn’t really have my power game, I just finessed him. Lob serves, ceiling balls, pass shots to move him back and forth.  And I ended up beating him that first game 15-8.

The second game was much easier…mentally, he seemed to have already decided that it was going to be tough sledding. I won that game 15-5.

Man, was I psyched. I was back! Well, maybe not fully back, but I definitely got the bug.

So this past Tuesday night, I show up for week 2. I’ve dropped a few pounds, my legs are adjusting a bit and aren’t quite as sore. This is the week I’m going to turn it up a notch.

Again, we play two doubles matches, with split results. My singles matchup is against a lower level player, maybe a high C, low B. Nice guy, and a hard worker on the court.

First game, I get up on him pretty quickly – but he’s making me work hard for each point. The guy has a motor that won’t quit, and some balls I think he has no chance getting come back up to the front wall and I have to extend the rally another two or three swings.

After about 10 minutes of this, I can feel my legs wearing out.  Sonufabitch – this guy isn’t going to just “lay down” for a better player. He’s seeing me as a nice little conquest!  I’m not putting the ball away, and he’s getting everything. I feel like I’m running uphill for every point I get.

And he broke me. 15-8, 15-5. Shit. Back to the drawing board. Lots of work to do.

________________________________________________________________________

When I read liberal websites of late, there are heavily partisan people on both sides, making grandiose claims of the inevitability of their chosen candidate. And when I read things like “Hillary will quit on March 5th”, or “Obama’s way too far ahead in fundraising”, I just shake my head and laugh.  

Whether you like her or not, Hillary Clinton is a formidable opponent. And it doesn’t have anything to do with money or how many primaries or delegates she’s won. What it has to do with is her desire to win and overcome the obstacles that have been placed in front of her.  

This is a woman who has been unfairly vilified by the mainstream media for years, who has been hammered with every vile accusation under the sun by the right-wing machine. And she is a woman who had to absorb the heartache of seeing her husband’s infidelities broadcast to the entire world, and somehow being scorned for HIS indiscretions.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would have been greatly inclined, after all that, to disappear quietly into public life, to avoid the snide remarks and haymakers that would continue to be thrown my way. But she didn’t…far from it.

This woman has become a very popular sitting Senator and has herself on the cusp of something I don’t think any of us could have foreshadowed in our lifetimes. She’s a survivor, and a truly remarkable human being. She would make a tremendous President of the United States, and I will gladly back her if she is the nominee.

However, I’m an Obama guy – I was on the Edwards train for a long time, and made the jump to Obama after my guy suspended his campaign. I think Obama’s is the right voice to get the people of this country energized and back in the process. In my heart, I really believe it’s about time the younger generation stepped up to grab the reigns of this country, to start pushing the old guard out and move this country away from the angry, partisan machine it has become. I think Obama is the guy to bring about that change.

But make no mistake, Obama will not win because Hillary is going to quit. He is going to have to beat her, period. She is that guy that kicked my ass on the racquetball court last Tuesday, but with infinitely more raw talent. She and her supporters are energized, and more importantly, they believe she can win. And Barack is not going to be able to just throw his jock out on the court and finish this thing off – he’s going to need to be brilliant. From now until the convention, if necessary.


It’s Been a Long, Long Time

February 4, 2008

Holy cow, how time flies.  Has it really been so many months??  With so much going on – Super Bowl, a rejuvinated Kings team, pitchers and catchers preparing to report, and Super Tuesday – there are plenty of things to write about.  Where to start??

*Blows dust off keyboard*

  • Yesterday’s game was three quarters of pure boredom followed by 15 minutes of probably the most compelling Super Bowl play I’ve seen.  When Eli hit Kevin Boss for a 45 yarder to open the quarter, I felt the Giants had a very good chance to win that game.  Talk about coming right out and punching a team in the mouth in crunch time.  Even after the Patriots scored the go-ahead touchdown with a few minutes left, it felt like the Giants had a decent chance to win.  Why?  Because they had been the better team pretty much all day long, whether the score reflected such or not.
  • Bill Belichick is a stubborn jackass and for once it cost his team.  New England’s offensive juggernaut was predicated on Brady’s ability to throw, throw, and throw some more.  Early in the season, it appeared that neglecting the rushing game was not going to be a problem for the Pats, since Brady and his receiving corps were good enough to make it work.  But when it comes to the playoffs, good defenses can figure out how to stop one-dimensional offenses.  Belichick’s refusal to attempt to establish the running game meant that the Giants defense could focus on pressuring Brady and playing the pass all game long.  48 passes and 16 rushes in a low-scoring, close game?  Are you kidding me?
  • The most gratifying part of the Patriots’ loss?  Randy Moss still doesn’t have a ring.
  • Super Tuesday approaches and it’s a damn good thing for Hillary Clinton that it’s not occuring on February 12th.  I’m guessing she comes out tomorrow with a slight lead in total delegates, but Obama’s growing surge of support and cash reserves mean he’s in this until the convention, unless he gets blown out tomorrow.  That appears to be less and less likely.  If Obama stays somewhat close tomorrow, he will continue to rack up endorsements and funds that Hillary will be unable to match.  Of course, Clinton seemed to be in trouble prior to New Hampshire, and pulled off a big win, so it would be crazy to underestimate her – but I have a feeling things will be fairly bleak for the Clinton campaign in the upcoming weeks.
  • The Kings continue to fight their way to .500, which is the first step to actually talking about the playoffs.  This is one of the years though that they probably neeed to fight their way to .600 to be a playoff contender in the West.  The success of the current roster brings with it a few dilemmas, such as Brad Miller’s sudden trade value spike, and the future of Mike Bibby.  Ron Artest is still almost a lock to be traded by the deadline, but it’s quite possible Bibby hangs around through the remainder of the season.  Clearly, Francisco Garcia is the odd man out in the rotation due to the logjam in the backcourt and Petrie needs to reconcile that situation pronto.  Garcia is not a 5 to 10 minute guy in the NBA.
  • Ah, yes – the end of football season marks the buildup to spring training.  My beloved Giants are clearly on pace to have one of the worst offenses the league has seen in the last decade, but the starting pitching should be good enough to be competitive most days.  Problem is, Bengie Molina is the odds on favorite to bat cleanup this season.  And that is a sentence that should never be uttered by a major league baseball team.  My pre pre-season over/under for wins by the Giants?  Let’s say 70 and hope for the best.

Four Games In

November 8, 2007

Last season, I was an unabashed supporter of the Eric Musselman regime.  Maybe I was fooled by his “greater than the sum of its parts” performance of his Warrior teams.   Maybe I was looking for the kind of youthful enthusiasm he brought in contrast to the walking corpse Rick Adelman tended to be during the waning days of his tenure in Sacramento.  Whatever the reason, I was ready for a fresh start with a new voice directing things for our special little jewel of a franchise.

What an unmitigated disaster that turned out to be.  I couldn’t have been more offbase if I’d worn John McClane’s sandwich board from “Die Hard 3″ in the middle of Oak Park on a Saturday night.

So I’ll try to temper my enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the Reggie Theus era appropriately – I’ll stick to simple observations through the first four games:

Let’s start with the negatives:

  • This team is going to stink on the road.  Of this, there is no doubt.  I’ll be happy if this team can play .400 ball on the road after the All-Star break.
  • We may be witnessing a historically bad frontline.  When your bigs are neither big, long, or athletic it does not bode well for defensive success. 
  • I’m not sure there is any tangible proof of this, but from listening to Reggie’s interviews I get the impression he could be a bit thin skinned.  And if this is true, that trait combined with a drill instructor mentality towards his players could be a bad combination,  especially staring down the barrel of a sub-30 win season.
  • Geoff Petrie’s clearly not comfortable putting a roster together (primarily speaking of front court players) for anything other than a Rick Adelman-led team.  Mikkie Moore is a perfect example – here’s a guy that, while somewhat athletic, appears to bring very little on the court.  Subpar rebounder for his size, so-so defensively, hell I can’t figure out what exactly he does well.
  • We still don’t know when Justin Williams will be back…and we still don’t know if he will get off the bench for Reggie Theus.  If Darryl Watkins can’t get consistent minutes, will Justin?
  • The lack of a decent frontcourt puts so much pressure on Speed Racer, Cisco and Salmons (Douby too) to carry the load offensively.  Will these guys be able to handle the increase in minutes and the added pressure of really carrying this team to victory?
  • This team is going to have to earn it’s home court advantage back – the fans are clearly not going to just give it to them.

Considering the ass-whoopin’ this team received in the first three road games, and going down 20 points in the home opener to a very poor Seattle team, that’s not a horrible amount of cons.

Pros:

  • You have to add the caveat to all the cons listed above – it’s only four games.
  • I love, absolutely love the continuing development of our back court.  Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t hate Mike Bibby – I just think he’s an average NBA player.  This team is in rebuilding mode, and Bibby needs to be taken out of the equation somehow to allow these young guys to continue to develop.  Injury now, trade later – whatever it takes, I hope Bibby can be moved sometime this season.
  • Kevin F’ing Martin.
  • Damn, Reggie just looks like a coach.  Visually, there’s something about him that commands a bit of respect.
  • I can probably get tickets to the game at discount prices now.

Geez, that’s five “pros”, and the last two are a stretch.  Honestly, I can’t get too worked up about player rotations yet, as Reggie is missing four important pieces (Artest, Bibby, Hawes and Williams).   Once that group comes back, we’ll have a bit more firepower and depth.  This team won’t be worldbeaters this season, but it’s possibly the best young core of talent this franchise has seen in years.  And that will make the losses eminently more tolerable.


Sacramento Kings Preview

October 10, 2007

With the start of the football season and the baseball playoffs heating up, the first Sacramento Kings preseason game kind of snuck up on me.  Thankfully, I check in on the best Sacramento Kings site around each day so I was aware of the first preseason game for the hometown team last night.   I didn’t get to watch the entire game, but caught a good portion of it (and thankfully, Dish Network just recently added the high-def feed of Comcast Sports Net.)  A few random thoughts on the team’s chances this season:

  • Reggie Theus is clearly trying to downplay expectations for this season.  When he’s talking about guys struggling  in practice, or being surprised by last night’s offensive output (“I didn’t think we’d score 50″), it’s pretty clear he prefers the Lou Holtz style of press management over the Eric Musselman style.
  • The team was hustling on defense as if they truly believed their playing time is predicated on their involvement on the defensive end of the court.  I’ll believe it when I see it about a month or so into the season. 
  • Kevin Martin picked up right where he left off last season – 27 points on 11 shots is borderline ridiculous.  I like the fact that he did quite a bit of damage with Durant guarding him.  That is an indicator that he wanted to stick it to the rookie a bit, which may also indicate a desire to be more of a leader on the squad.  That might be wishful thinking, but I think that’s what Kevin needs to do more of to make the leap.
  • I’m still trying to figure out what Mikki Moore brings to this squad outside of another undersized front court player.  The guys rebounding rate over 48 minutes was mediocre last season, and I saw nothing last night that really impressed me.  I know he’s a hustle and energy guy and that might be needed from time to time (especially on the road), but over the 82 game haul I don’t expect him to be much more than a low minute bench guy.
  • I love Justin William’s athleticism and rebounding as much as the next guy, and I would have liked to have seen him play more than seven minutes last night.  But he’s still a liability to you on the offensive end and in the team defensive concept.  This isn’t baseball, where a bad defensive player only hurts you occasionally but you get all the benefits of his positives.  This is the NBA, where that player’s weaknesses will be exploited each and every time down the court.  Guys like Rodman and Ben Wallace could get away with their poor offensive abilities because they were elite players on the defensive end.  Until Justin becomes at least adequate on the offensive side of the court and becomes an above average man and team defender on the defensive end, he shouldn’t be playing big minutes.  If he were showing off those abilities in practice, I assume he would have played more minutes last night.  Of course, he’s still young and will learn, but similar to Mikki Moore, I think he’s a guy we will see in short stints most times and occasionally in longer runs against certain opponents.
  • In the past, I’ve been somewhat critical of the squad Petrie has put together because I just don’t see what exactly the team does well as a whole.  We’ve got big guys who aren’t big, but don’t really run either.  We don’t have a bunch of outside shooters, although there are a few guys that can put the ball in the hole.  Alternately, we don’t have a team full of aggressive drive and dish guys who attack the basket.  Defensively, we aren’t quick or big either.  In essence, this team does not cause too many matchup problems for the opponent on either the offensive or defensive end.  However, I could see this team playing a bit more of a run-and-gun offense.  Speed Racer, El Flaco and Ron-Ron can run the floor a bit.  Brad has lost some weight and looked significantly more mobile last night than at any time last year.  Justin and Mikki Moore can run, as can Douby and Kenny Thomas.  But that’s the thing…if you try to open up the offense, that means less Shareef, less Bibby and Miller and MORE K9 and Douby.  We will see how that works out.  Can Reggie put this type of offense together without getting the team’s doors blown on the defensive end?
  • IMO, Petrie’s job security should be on the clock from now until the end of next season.  I know it’s sacrilege in the Sacramento area to make that kind of statement, but Petrie’s performance hasn’t exactly been stellar of late.  And how do we know that he’s capable of building a team for anyone other than Rick Adelman?
  • Bottom line – if Theus is able to get these guys to at least TRY to play defense each and every game through the year, and plays an aggressive, more free-wheeling offense, I think this team has the talent to get 40 wins.  Is that enough to make the playoffs in the West?  Could be.  More likely, I’m guessing we are in the 33 to 35 win range and Theus makes his first appearance at the NBA draft lottery.

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