Reviewing the first half of the Sacramento Kings’ 2012-13 season

DeMarcus Cousins looks for an explanation from an official against the Mavs. (Photo: Steven Chea)

The All-Star break is here, signifying the metaphorical halfway point in the Sacramento Kings’ season.  Jonathan Santiago and James Ham look back and offer their takes on first half of the Kings’ 2012-13 campaign.

The most valuable player was…

Jonathan Santiago: No one.  Can you really name an MVP on a team that’s won just 19 of its first 54 games?  One natural candidate would be DeMarcus Cousins, but he hasn’t taken the leap forward many had hoped he would make.  Though his field goal percentage is the highest its been in his three-year career, it’s only improved marginally.  Meanwhile Tyreke Evans, the Kings’ other candidate for this honor, has had his growth stunted by injury.

James Ham: I’m not sure that the Kings have an MVP.  Cousins would be the obvious choice, but he has cost his team dearly with his emotional issues.  Tyreke Evans is out as well after taking a 16-game sabbatical in the middle of the season.  Who’s left?  I would say that Isaiah Thomas is the one guy that brings everything he has night in and night out.  If he isn’t the Kings’ MVP, they don’t have one.

The least valuable player was…

JS: Aaron Brooks and not because he’s a bad basketball player.  The Kings signed Brooks in the offseason because they needed insurance at point guard after a horrible rookie year by Jimmer Fredette and the concerns about size with Isaiah Thomas.  But the two sophomores have pleasantly progressed in their second seasons, making Brooks an expendable asset.

JH: The Kings have been looking for a legitimate small forward since Peja Stojakovic and Metta World Peace left the building.  James Johnson was supposed to be that guy, but he has been a disaster.  He is a defensive stopper, but on the offensive end, he is constantly out of position on almost every play and forces just about everything.

The one shining moment was…

JS: Here We Buy Night.  Last Saturday’s game was a terrific display of support by Kings fans and the greater Sacramento region.  The game wasn’t a sellout, but it came pretty close.  And that’s impressive considering two things: the plan to make a statement for that game were under a tight timeline and the Utah Jazz aren’t a glamorous draw.

JH: Here We Buy night was an incredible show orchestrated by the fans.  For a 19-35 team threatening to leave town at season’s end, you would expect them to start turning their back on the franchise, but that is just not what’s happening.  More than 16,000 fans came out on Feb. 9 and they brought the noise, chanting “Here We Stay” and “Sac-ra-mento” for close to an hour after the game ended.

The biggest disappointment was…

JS: The number of times DeMarcus Cousins lost his cool.  Cousins has missed five games this season and none of them have been because of injury.  The “hostile confrontation” with Sean Elliott, the low blow to O.J. Mayo and the verbal halftime spat with Keith Smart all cost Cousins and the Kings success in the first half of the season.  He’s also been ejected three times and leads the league with 11 technical fouls.

JH: The Maloof family have to be the biggest disappointment this season.  I’m fine with them wanting to sell the franchise, but to sign a deal in Seattle without even giving Sacramento a chance to make an offer?  It speaks of two things: poor loyalty to fans and employees and horrible business sense.  If nothing else, wouldn’t you at least want to get as much possible out of Seattle’s rich?

The most shocking moment was…

JS: The sale of the Kings to the Seattle-based ownership group.  Everyone knew Seattle was a threat, but I’m not sure anyone expected that third act of this saga would begin this soon.  After the Maloofs backed out of the arena deal last year, the owners and Sacramento entered into a period of cold war. So when the news of the sale broke more than a week into the new year, it was almost like a suckerpunch to the fans and the city.

JH: James Johnson buried a game-winning 3-pointer on Dec. 28 to beat the New York Knicks at the buzzer.  That was Johnson’s first three-ball of the season and he has only hit one since, shooting an abysmal 2-for-18 total.  It was a good moment for both Johnson and the Kings, but shocking.

The outlook on the final 28 games of the regular season is…

JS: Dreary.  Keith Smart’s insistence on playing to match-ups has led to unstable play by a team that isn’t short of talent.  It can’t be easy to build rhythm or chemistry with teammates when the lineups change on a nightly basis.  It’s his philosophy, which he’s entitled to have as head coach of this team.  But with another losing season likely on the horizon and new ownership on the way, he may not have much longer to implement it.

JH: Bleak.  This is the strangest situation in recent NBA history.  Two cities vying for one team.  New ownership is guaranteed, but with that comes a new front office, new players and most likely a new coaching staff.  Lame duck doesn’t quite capture what the Sacramento Kings are for the next 28 games.  This is the group that will finish the season, regardless of wins or losses.

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