OAKLAND – The new Sacramento Kings era got off to a rough start with a 94-81 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Owner Vivek Ranadivé was in attendance, celebrating his 56th birthday with his daughter and two sons. But his presence wasn’t enough to inspire his new team to knock off his old one.
Isaiah Thomas led the way for the Kings, finishing with 15 points and six assists. Rookie Ben McLemore looked strong off the bench, scoring 13 points in his first preseason game, but the rest of the Kings second unit looked outmatched by a hungry Warriors team.
Notes and Analysis
- Cousins is clearly “the man” on this team. From the moment the ball was tipped, the Kings ran the ball through the fourth-year center on almost every set while he was in the game. He is owning the responsibility, but almost to a fault. Cousins still needs to improve his shot selection, but his “Dream Shake” on the baseline looks very nice. On the defensive end, Cousins showed flashes of brilliance. He has very quick feet for a man his size and although it’s a small sample, it appears that someone has told him what moving his feet means. He was active and even cut off the baseline as help defender.
- If this is how Thomas is going to play on a nightly basis, Vasquez is in for a dog fight for minutes. The 5-foot-9 powder keg is one of the few players on the Kings who looks ready to start the season. Thomas turned the ball over six times, but that hasn’t been an area of concern over his first two seasons in the league.
- Jason Thompson has been listening in practice. Starting alongside Cousins, Thompson looked like a different player than we have seen in the past when defending the pick-and-roll. He was active and stole the ball repeatedly from the Warriors who were clearly banking on the Thompson of old. He also led Sacramento with nine rebounds on the night.
- Patrick Patterson was okay, but pairing him with Chuck Hayes was a failed experiment. He hit a couple of top of the key jumpers and a nice little bank shot late, but he finished with just four rebounds in 27 minutes of action.
- Marcus Thornton needs to avoid his streak shooting ways of a year ago or McLemore will take his minutes quickly. He finished with 11 points in 24 minutes tonight and was solid. But solid isn’t going to keep the super athletic rookie at bay for long.
- Jimmer Fredette, DeQuan Jones and Trent Lockett were the only Kings not to play in tonight’s contest. Coach Malone was clear following the game that he would try different lineups and rotations as the preseason unfolds, but said nothing specific regarding Jimmer.
- Stats of the Night: The Kings turned the ball over 26 times in the loss. Cousins shot just 2-for-10 from the field. Thompson was credited with two steals when he had at least four by my count.
Three answers to what to watch
1. Who starts for the Kings?
The Kings kept a tight lid on the starting lineup until a half hour before tip-off when the Warriors PR staff brought around the official lineup card. Surprisingly, it looked very similar to a lot of last seasons starting fives. Isaiah Thomas drew the point guard duties, with Marcus Thornton playing the shooting guard spot. Veteran John Salmons got the nod over Luc Mbah a Moute, while Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins anchored the post.
2. How will the rookies look surrounded by upgraded talent?
McLemore buried his first career 3-pointer right before the half and overall looked pretty solid. He is still a ways away from taking Thornton’s starting job, but he has tremendous upside. The rookie finished with 13 points, while shooting 4-for-8 from deep. Ray McCallum needs to become confident with his jumper. He is strong and has a good grasp of how to run a team, but overall, he dribbled too much and ran into the teeth of a sagging defense. Both players showed a strong understanding of defensive concepts and hustled up and down the floor.
3. Who will impress at small forward?
John Salmons couldn’t buy a basket tonight, missing all five of his attempts from the field. If he can’t provide an offensive presence for the Kings, Mbah a Moute is going to start and play a whole lot of minutes this season. After game No. 1, Mbah a Moute is leading the small forward battle.