Likes And Dislikes of the Kings’ Latest Three-Gamer

Another losing streak for the Kings is upon us and with the upcoming schedule it’s not going to get any easier for this team to rack up some wins.

Spurs tonight, Suns tomorrow and then a three-game road streak on the East Coast.

At this point, you can’t assume the Kings will win any game the rest of the year and I don’t mean that as a dig at them. They’re not the worst team in the league. They’re not the Nets and they’re certainly not as bad as the Wolves. But they also can’t seem to close out road games and the home schedule will get tougher and tougher as this team struggles to put winning streaks together.

There are some good and bad things that we’ve learned from this current three-game slide that has capped off the Kings 3-17 record over their last 20 games. First I’ll start with the bad news because the bad news is always what you want to get out of the way. End on a high note, I always say.

Bad Things

- Tyreke Evans hip is a concern to me. Not because I think it’s going to be a chronic problem for the rest of his career that will derail him from being the superstar we all see that he can become. I’m concerned that his style of play of being aggressive and attacking all the time is going to lead to more and more injuries. Luckily, he hasn’t suffered any serious hiccups in his physical health that would cause him to miss 10 to 15 to 20 games at a time, like has befallen Kevin Martin over the past three years.

But watching Gerald Wallace the other night reminded me of how aggressive players can find themselves doing as much harm to themselves as good to the team. It starts with an ankle here, a back injury there, and maybe even a bad hip pointer. And perhaps, the addition of a consistent jumper and an inside presence to help him out will eliminate the amount of times he has to go crashing into another object. I’m probably just being paranoid but that’s what happens when you see a young player getting nicked up from time to time.

- The Kings starting frontline has given 69 points to this team over the course of three games. That’s all. And that’s including a 23-point outburst from Spencer Hawes against the Nuggets. They’ve also grabbed 55 rebounds between the three of them, which isn’t bad by any means but it’s also a number that has been inconsistent in these three games. It was helped by Jason Thompson’s 16-rebound explosion in the Bobcats game.

The Kings frontline has a ton of potential. Jason Thompson is much better than he’s played over the past six weeks. In fact, I’d say he’s much closer to the fantastic first couple of weeks that he enjoyed than what we’ve seen lately. Spencer Hawes has all the tools in the shed. He can be a really good, All-Star caliber center if he makes the commitment to be aggressive and tough. And Donté Greene might be the Kings best defensive player in three years and that’s with the caveat that I believe Tyreke Evans can be an All-Defensive team regular in his career. However, at some point this frontline has to start producing, producing together, and finding some better positive consistency than what we’ve been shown.

- The late game and end of quarter execution with the Kings is extremely suspect and confusing. I don’t mind what Kevin Martin did at the end of the Nuggets game. I don’t think the refs got the call wrong but I think the idea Martin had was good. Now whether he broke from the designed play and just did his own thing or not is a whole other issue. You can’t have a young, impressionable team getting the mentality that it’s okay to go into Kobe mode. You can’t just break off from the plan and go on a gut instinct. It undermines the coach and that’s a bad thing for a young team to learn is okay. As for the actual play itself, it was a very good idea. He took Kenyon Martin one-on-one, tried to draw contact and get to the free throw line for his 12th and 13th attempts of the night. Most of the time, he gets the call. Whatever.

I also still can’t figure out what Spencer Hawes was doing with the ball, down three and needing to make a full court pass with 0.7 left in the game. He didn’t throw it anywhere near to a spot on the floor that would benefit the Kings. He threw it to the free throw line area, which would have been fine if the Kings were down two. This type of late-game decision-making is the issue I have with the Kings right now. And it’s not just late-game. It’s every end of the quarter possession the Kings seem to have when Beno Udrih doesn’t have the ball in his hands. The Kings waste possessions far too often and get turnovers when they should at least be getting shots up.

It makes me remember the game against the Memphis Grizzlies from back in November when the Kings needed a quality possession and score to force overtime.

I feel like Tyreke Evans should be making plays at the end of games right now when he’s available because he needs to learn that pedigree for closing out games. But when he’s not an option, I’d love to see more plays like the video above in which the Kings are given a number of options out of the high (or very high) post. This is Kings basketball to me – good passing big man with cutters, scorers and shooters all over the floor.

- I love the Kevin Martin-Tyreke Evans backcourt with the way they’re playing off of each other. However, it’s been a terrible thing for the rest of the guys on the team. It seems like Evans is making it a point to show he can work with Martin (see: first half against the Bobcats at home). He’s over-looking for him on every play. The rest of the guys on the court are being completely ignored and that’s a bad thing. Kings need to stop force feeding Martin. I think after the past three games, his scoring touch is back. Now, the Kings need to concentrate on running a team instead of a backcourt.

Good Things

- I really like aggressive Spencer Hawes (or Rick Hawes as Jared Wade dubbed him). When he seems to have a purpose to his moves, he’s hard to stop. He can mix in the jumper with his scoring in the post. It’s much better than watching him just settle for the jumper. He also seems to be more active defensively and on the boards when his offense is clicking. I can get behind this version of Spencer Hawes. I can be optimistic about the Spencer Hawes we saw in the Nuggets game. I just wonder if we’re going to see him tonight.

- Andres Nocioni seems to be out of any shooting slump. He’s eight for his last 15 from the field and four for his last six behind the three-point line. Until he’s traded, the Kings need his shooting threat off the court to keep the spacing on the floor and the offensive flowing.

- I loved what I saw from Omri Casspi towards the end of the Nuggets game. He took players inside and showed a nice half-hook from around four to six feet. He was also aggressive and didn’t hesitate to take the big shots. Couple that with the flurry of playmaking we saw from him in the game against Charlotte and maybe he’s getting out of his funk. He’s the guy that needs to step up on the perimeter with Martin and Evans trying to find each other because when they make the extra pass, he’s the perfect guy to make slow defensive rotations pay.

- Hopefully, Jason Thompson is out of his slump. Although he played poorly against the Nuggets, a team he’s struggled against all season long (8.0 points per game in three games), we saw a very active JT against a very active Bobcats frontline. Even when his offense isn’t there, he should be a rebounding force. 16 rebounds against the Bobcats is nothing to sneeze at. I almost don’t mind the fact that he committed four fouls in the fourth quarter of that game because at least it showed how aggressive and positive he was trying to be. He ended up with eight points and six boards in the final period to help the Kings almost complete a comeback.

An active JT and an aggressive Spencer Hawes to go with the re-emergence of Omri Casspi and the burgeoning backcourt of Evans and Martin are all good things to help this Kings team snap out of these losing ways.

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