4 takeaways from Sacramento’s preseason home opener
The Sacramento Kings faced off against a San Antonio Spurs with no Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, or Boris Diaw. Can’t forget to mention that their head coach Greg Popovich also was not in attendance Thursday night.
With none of these quality players on the sidelines, the Spurs still had a very formidable starting five, anchored by LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
The Kings would come out victorious (95-93) in front of their beloved fans that were anxious to see this new roster play in front of their eyes.
This was the first game in which there were more positives than negatives to look back on. Here are the biggest takeaways from game three of the preseason.
Rudy Gay is finding a rhythm!
After a terrible game against the Portland Trailblazers earlier in the week, Gay has really put his game back on track against the Suns and now the Spurs.
We got to see a glimpse of Gay flourishing in coach Karl’s system last season, and it looks as if Gay is starting right where he left off.
The 3-pointers have been falling at a high rate for Gay over these past two exhibition games.
Shooting over 57 percent from the perimeter is a dream for Kings fans and coach Karl.
“I think he just has the freedom where we want to shoot the ball from the 3-point line and he has it,” Karl said. “He’s always shot a good percentage. He’s big and I just think he needs to take advantage of just shooting over the defense.”
If Gay can carry this confident shooting into the regular season, look for number eight to have a huge year.
Anderson over McLemore?
In what caught many by surprise, neither Ben McLemore nor Marco Belinelli came out as the Kings’ starting two guard.
It was actually James Anderson.
McLemore has been playing poor through the preseason, which is an understatement.
The athletic shooting guard had seen most of his minutes split between both himself and veteran Belinelli through the previous two games.
Now adding Anderson into the mix will only raise questions and skepticism.
No one is expecting Anderson to take over the starting job during the regular season. However, getting the start over McLemore in the preseason may be a bigger deal than many may think.
The Kings are in tunnel vision and are only focused on one thing – winning games.
With the continued struggle for consistency from McLemore, the Kings will begin to face themselves with the question of how to fix it, while also not losing games.
Coach Karl is going to need options when McLemore is struggling. Yes, Belinelli is going to be the one gathering the majority of the minutes in those situations. But he may need to breathe.
In that case it’s up to the next man up, and as of now, that next man might be “Mr. Anderson” (Matrix reference).
It’s early, the Kings are only half way through the preseason and McLemore will have every opportunity to find his rhythm. Hopefully it’s soon.
Rondo became a leader!
Six points, eight rebounds, 10 assists, and 0 turnovers. That was Rondo’s stat line against the Spurs. Look a little familiar?
It was a vintage Rondo line. It’s something the NBA hasn’t seen in a long time.
The leadership Rondo can bring to this team is almost unmatched. His I.Q. on the floor is unmatched. He knows where players need to be and directs them there.
In the third quarter of the Spurs game, Rondo did just that. He demanded the ball more. He was an aggressor on defense.
The distributing point guard looks to be finding his place on this team. According to the players he has already earned their respect, so now it’s up to him to be the leader he is expected to be.
Is Willie Cauley-Stein the Kings starter?
“As of right now my feeling is Kosta fits the bench better than Willie and Willie fits Cuz (Cousins) a little bit better to,” Karl said. “I am not sure that’s where I’ll go, but that’s where I am titled right now.”
Big words from the future Hall-of-Fame head coach. Cauley-Stein has had a decent preseason, nothing that necessarily jumps off the page.
Cauley-Stein being the “better fit” next to Cousins seems both understandable and surprising at the same time.
You see the quickness and defensive prowess Cauley-Stein brings to the game. He is also a player that does not need to touch the ball on the offensive end, but is adapt to using the pick-and-roll to get easy baskets near the rim.
The starters seemed to always be talking to him as well. During the first half, Cauley-Stein tried to draw a charge on the Spurs. It resulted in a blocking foul.
The first person there to pick up the rookie was the Cousins.
Cousins is one of the leagues best at drawing chargers and began instructing the 7-foot rookie what he needed to do.
While the coaching staff is not looking for Cauley-Stein to draw too many charges, it was a nice sign of leadership from Cousins to give him pointers on how to execute a proper charge.
Koufos brings an extra offensive punch to the Kings bench, which is why Cauley-Stein might get the nod in the starting five come opening night.
The Kings had one of the worst benches in the league last season. As soon as the starters came off the floor, so did the teams momentum.
Having a bench with Darren Collison, Belinelli, and Koufos is rather scary because they can easily start on other teams.
With three games remaining before the tip against the LA Clippers, many teams will begin to evaluate the possibility of Cauley-Stein playing next to Cousins and finding ways to stop them.
That’s a good sign for Sacramento moving forward.