A lot has been made about who starts for the Sacramento Kings when they tip-off a new NBA campaign against the Chicago Bulls tomorrow. Cowbell Kingdom has its guesses. And surely you have your own hunches, too.
But what about who finishes for the Kings? When it comes down to the final five minutes in a tightly contested two-point game, who gets their number called from Keith Smart to close?
“It’ll be dictated on the feel,” Kings guard Aaron Brooks said after practice yesterday. “The match-up, the feel. Coach has a tough job and that’s at every position except for DeMarcus (Cousins) and JT’s (Jason Thompson) and Tyreke’s (Evans). He has pretty, pretty big decisions.”
Match-ups, foul trouble, fatigue, and other factors will all come into play when deciding who plays at the end of games. But luckily for the Kings head coach, this year’s team is the most versatile roster Sacramento has fielded in years.
“On paper we have a lot of talent,” said Kings big man Thompson. “But now, the talent has been shown.”
With the ability to defend guards and forwards, James Johnson could be everything the Kings wanted Donté Greene to be and more. Thomas Robinson can be a pest on both ends of the floor to both threes and fours. And Evans is highly capable of working from either the wing or backcourt. There’s no question that Smart will have plenty of options during the waning moments of games.
The key for the Kings this season is that they buy into what he’s selling – that the sum of their parts is greater than any one individual. An element of that encompasses swallowing one’s pride when Smart chooses his finishers for crunch time.
“I told these guys from day one, training camp…the makeup of our team right now, I can’t really say who’ll close the game because the situation may dictate someone else,” Smart said. “But your guys have to buy into that. And if they buy into that, then you have a chance to have some success this year.”
Brooks, the Kings’ most seasoned point guard, is following his coach’s lead. The fifth-year veteran started just two of the Kings’ preseason games and didn’t play in one. Whether Smart calls his number to close out games or doesn’t, Brooks suggests he’ll remain ready.
“I don’t really know what the expectation as far as minutes is,” the 27-year old guard said. “I know what my expectation is when I’m on the floor and that’s to be productive.”
In tight games, coach Smart will have some difficult choices to make. But he and his team have acknowledged that it’s a good a problem to have.
“He’s got a loaded hand,” Brooks said. “It’s like what cards do you want to play?”