Even though it’s a day late, I’m writing this as if I haven’t seen the Spurs game. This is based purely on what we’ve seen from the players after the Thunder and Hornets games only.
Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm questioned on Twitter why the Kings didn’t play the starting unit down the stretch of this game because they were +8 for the game (something that is pretty incredible in a loss on the road). Personally, I don’t mind the final lineup of “Reke-Martin-Nocioni-Brockman-Thompson. Tyreke and Martin should always be there at the end of games no matter how they’re playing. Nocioni shot the lights out and played decent defense. Brockman was their best banger inside and Thompson was playing his ass off. Perhaps the starting lineup was playing best overall but I think the guys that finished the game were the best pieces for that moment.
And now for the player evaluations with an obscene amount of praise thrown the way of Jon Brockman and of course, Tyreke Evans:
Tyreke Evans: 22 points, 7/13 FG, 1/3 3FG, 7/8 FT, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, -10 on court
How good was Tyreke Evans? There was a closeup shot of him bringing the ball up the court with the game tied and only a couple minutes remaining in the game. This closeup shot gave me chills like I was witnessing something very special. That doesn’t happen very often and especially not in the second game of the season for just any player.
While some people discredited Tyreke Evans’ play in this game saying it was point guard enough for them, I completely disagree and think he did exactly what the Kings wanted him to do. He made more than half of his shots, scored multiple times in the post against Chris Paul, and set his teammates up perfectly throughout the night. I went back and looked for this and the Kings blew 12 legitimate assist attempts with five of those attempts having created wide-open shots. The ball simply didn’t fall through the net when ‘Reke set up his teammates. He could have very easily finished this game with seven or eight assists and a win. It just didn’t go the Kings way. That happens. But it doesn’t mean he didn’t set up his guys or that he played like a shooting guard trying to play point guard – not against the Hornets. He played like Derrick Rose that night.
On defense, he did a fantastic job of taking away Chris Paul’s ability to make plays for his teammates. Chris Paul didn’t have only four assists because his teammates couldn’t make shots. He finished with four assists because he couldn’t suck in the defense. He couldn’t suck in the defense because Chris Paul’s length kept the Kings from having to desperately collapse when he penetrated. CP finished with 31 points but only 11 of those points came when Evans was guarding him. Evans also had two deflections and one steal.
Overall, I give Tyreke an A- for this game. His defense was incredible, he took the challenge of playing Chris Paul heads up and won for most of the game, and he took over when his team needed him too. He really only had one bad stretch in the fourth when he turned the ball over twice in a short amount of time. But other than that, he was the best player on the court for the Kings for much of this game. This following sequence should make Kings fans excited about his future:
Kevin Martin: 20 points, 9/29 FG, 2/10 3FG, 0/0 FT, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, +1 on court
This was a rough one for Kevin Martin in this game. He couldn’t buy a basket most times down the floor and by the shooting numbers, you’d assume he shot his team out of this game. But the majority of his misses can be classified as bad breaks because he simply couldn’t get the roll. The reason people were so upset with Martin after this game was because it appeared that he was settling for the quick easy shot instead of being aggressive and getting the best shot or a trip to the free throw line. When you see Martin hoist up 29 shots in a game and not get to the line once, it’s pretty alarming. Personally, I had a problem with his shot selection and play in the closing minutes. Outside of the missed three that was blocked by Okafor at the end, it just didn’t seem like he was mentally sharp in this game. With his skill set, he needs to make his points either being aggressive going to the basket or properly running his man off screens. He just didn’t do that against the Hornets. He missed four of his five open three-pointers and was just 3/8 on open shots the entire night. It’s weird seeing him miss open shots.
On defense, he was active but not entirely effective. he constantly left his opponents open and the reason in worked as well as it did was because he was guarding Morris Peterson. The players he was guarding made 7/14 shots against him for 17 points. The problem was he often would make steal attempts that were unsuccessful and it left the defense at a huge disadvantage. Three times it led to wide open baskets in the paint because he went for an ill-advised steal. But he was very active, garnering three deflections and taking the Kings first charge of the year.
Overall, Kevin Martin gets a C+ for this game. I’m fine with him taking the majority of the shots, whether they’re falling or not. That’s his job on the court and in a Cuttino Mobley kind of way, I expect him to make the next one, so I say, “keep shooting.” He just didn’t play a very smart game overall. One big turnover with the shot clock violation plus some rushed shots and some defensive lapses that led to baskets.
Desmond Mason: 4 points, 2/5 FG, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 blocked shot, +7 on court
I love what Desmond Mason gave the Kings in his limited time on the court. He was asked to guard David West in order to keep Jason Thompson out of foul trouble and he did a great job of doing so despite giving up all that size. He played him hard in the post and kept him out of position most of the night. He also used his long wingspan to bother shots. The man he guarded only made one basket out of six attempts against him, he blocked a post move inside from West and he had two deflections.
The problem with Desmond’s game is that he takes jump shots in the game and you just can’t have that even if he makes one. I’ll give him a B for this game because even though his defense was great, he tried to do too much (for him) with shooting when he was on the court. His jumper is such a low percentage shot, you’d rather he just move the ball and wait for a chance to cut through the defense for a layup or dunk. Oh, speaking of dunks:
Jason Thompson: 9 points, 4/16 FG, 1/1 FT, 12 rebounds (6 offensive), 6 assists, 1 blocked shot, -5 on court
I loved the effort that Jason Thompson put into this game. He was active, he was pretty smart about the way he played on both ends of the floor and his rebounding kept them in the game and gave them a ton of second chances on offense. Much like Kevin Martin, he just couldn’t get the ball to drop through the hoop. He made 3/12 shots in the paint with many of them going halfway down before coming out. He made strong post moves during this game and got off a lot of good shots. He also hit the glass hard with six offensive rebounds, including a huge one off of Brockman’s free throw miss that gave the Kings a chance to win the game. He also set his teammates up beautifully, recording six assists. He moved the ball, created plays inside, and tried to counter the fact that he couldn’t buy a basket throughout the game.
On defense, he was put in tough situations most of the time. He was guarding the much stronger Emeka Okafor, who had an affective game in the post against him. He got switched out on smaller offensive players a few times and players made 9/14 shots against him. But he was very active on the defensive glass too and challenged several shots in the paint.
Overall, I give him a B for this game. He played hard, he played smart, and he busted his tail to try to give the Kings a chance to win the game. These are the types of games you love seeing from JT, especially coming off of an embarrassing loss.
Sean May: 7 points, 3/4 FG, 1/2 FT, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 turnovers, +8 on court
After Sean May allowed Nenad Krstic to look like a Hall of Fame center, he was much more active and solid defensively for the Kings against the Hornets. He made shots, set up his teammates well (see: alley-oop video above), and played admirable defense against the bigger (Okafor) and quicker (West) Hornets big men. He defended well in the paint with stepping up and covering open players inside when the Hornets moved the ball well. He was also all over the place, playing passing lanes and denying the ball in the post. He had three deflections, which resulted in two turnovers. Overall, I’d give him a B for the game. A very encouraging effort after he struggled mightily against the Thunder.
Spencer Hawes: 2 points, 1/6 FG, 0/1 3FG, 4 rebounds (3 offensive), 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 1 blocked shot, -6 on court
I really don’t want to kill Spencer Hawes in this space after every game but in the two games he’s played this year, he’s been terrible. He’s been soft on offense and defense. I’m tired of him stepping back and shooting threes when he hasn’t established anything inside. He was very good on the offensive rebounds but only grabbed one defensive rebound in 14 minutes. That’s not good enough in my opinion. I totally understand why Westphal doesn’t appear to have much faith in him right now. He settles for weak turnaround jumpers instead of taking the ball hard into the lane and trying to create something. He did have two deflections on defense and blocked a shot but you definitely want to see him more active and establishing a greater role on both ends of the floor. Hawes gets a C- from me on this game. I want a tougher Spencer inside, not a guy settling for jump shots.
Andres Nocioni: 16 points, 5/8 FG, 3/6 3FG, 3/4 FT, 1 rebound, 1 assist, -10 on court
Noc was fantastic shooting the ball in this game. He struggled with his shot in the preseason but stepped up on the court against the Hornets and knocked down bucket after bucket. He reminded me a lot of Peja in this game because he moved well without the ball and found the open spots on the floor. He had a quick, accurate release on his shot and helped a second unit that struggled to put up points, otherwise. He made 3/5 open shots on the floor and 2/4 open three-point attempts. The fact that five of his eight shot attempts were open shows you how well he moved in this offense. He worked really well with Beno on the court and they seem to have a nice chemistry and understanding when they play together. Defensively, he was okay but he definitely could have hit the glass much better. A slick-shooting Nocioni is a nice thing to have but a slick-shooting Nocioni who is active defensively and making things happen on both ends of the floor means much more to a team like the Kings. I give him a B+ for the night.
Jon Brockman: 5 points, 2/4 FG, 1/5 FT, 10 rebounds (5 offensive), 1 assist, -3 on court
Jon Brockman got extended minutes in this game and ended up with double-digits on the boards. That’s not exactly a surprise for anyone who has witnessed his maturation process since joining the Kings. His strength inside is a really underrated thing and something you should definitely pay attention to. If Hilton Armstrong was a good basketball player, he would have dominated a matchup like this. But since he isn’t, Brockman was able to play him physically and make up for the fact that he gave up so much height. Brock grabbed five huge offensive rebounds for the Kings, drew a couple of fouls in the paint, and did a nice job being opportunistic with a couple of put-backs. The scary thing with him though is he’ll be a target for teams to just take the foul when he has the ball late in games. The 1/5 free throw shooting can’t be a regular occurrence if he wants significant minutes like he received in this game. Otherwise, he’ll be more liability than gain for the Kings and he’ll find himself on the bench more than he should be. He gets a B+ for this game.
Omri Casspi: 4 points, 2/5 FG, 0/1 3FG, 1 rebound, -9 on court
After a ground-breaking and exciting first game, Omri came back down to Earth in this game. He was pulled after a minute and a half in this game because he blew a defensive assignment and rushed a jump shot when he got the ball. Or at least, that’s the reason I came up with while watching the quick Showtime at the Apollo-type of hook off the stage. He got two open jump shots (one of them a three) and he missed both of those. But he made a tough, aggressive layup against Emeka Okafor inside and knocked down a nice jump shot against David West. His defense was solid as he didn’t give up a single made field goal in a one-on-one settingbut they weren’t exactly testing him like a rookie cornerback either. I’ll give Omri a C- for this game. He’ll probably have more games like this one this season than what he did against the Thunder. But I love the fact that he comes in ready to play on BOTH ends of the floor.
Beno Udrih: 3 points, 1/4 FG, 1/3 3FG, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, +2 on court
Beno didn’t shoot the ball well but he did a great job of running the offense and finding the open man (Noc). This is the kind of play you primarily want to see from Beno too. He didn’t really force anything. He just tried to pick apart the defense with his passing and set up his teammates. That’s what backup point guards are supposed to do. But on defense, he struggled against Chris Paul (as most people do). He gave seven quick points to CP in limited time guarding him. It wasn’t the fact that Chris Paul scored on him; it’s the way he attacked him and Beno didn’t really slow him down at all at the initial point of the attack. That was the bigger problem. Overall, I give Beno a C off the bench.
Sergio Rodriguez: 0 points, 0/2 FG, 1 rebound
Sergio gets an incomplete for not really playing in this game. Didn’t even see a full minute on the floor but did manage to put up two shots in that time. He basically pulled a Darrick Martin.