Sunday Musings: Keith Smart and the mismatched socks

Keith Smart patrols the sidelines as the Sacramento Kings take on the Phoenix Suns in preseason (Photo: Steven Chea)What actually happens to all of those socks that go missing in the laundry? You sit down to fold your clothes and one by one, you begin to accumulate a stack of socks that have no matches. You swear that eight pairs went in, but now you have five and four other loose socks that have no matches.

You search your drawers and everywhere else in the house, but alas, it is part of life. Socks disappear and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

If you listen to the national media, that is exactly how they describe the Sacramento Kings. A collection of mismatched socks, longing to be reunited as a whole, but forever doomed to sit in a special place that mismatches go to die.

“It’s just horribly put together,” Grantland’s Bill Simmons said of the Kings roster during his season preview. “It’s one of the dumbest rosters I’ve ever watched.”

Simmons would continue with his critique saying: “They’re like a pick-up basketball team from hell.”

Are they that bad?

While Simmons has a way of saying what’s on his mind without pulling any punches, our friend Sam Amick of USA Today had a similar, but less abrasive way of saying the same thing.

“There are a lot of guys that individually I enjoy watching on that team,” Amick told us during the most recent Cowbell Kingdom podcast. “But when you put them on the floor together, it’s almost frustrating. It’s always taking turns offensively.”

Game one against Chicago didn’t go so poorly. The Kings were in the game, but their youth and inexperience cost them down the stretch.

If I were to judge the team off of game No. 2 in Minnesota, I might start to believe that Simmons and to a lesser extent Amick are on to something.

The Kings were horrible against the Timberwolves. DeMarcus Cousins picked up his first personal foul just seven seconds into the game and played a total of 25 minutes because of foul trouble. This isn’t a rarity; it has become the norm for Cousins over his two-plus seasons in the league.

Keith Smart went 12 deep against the T-Wolves and no, it wasn’t because it was a blowout. When Isaiah Thomas got off to a slow start, Smart went to Aaron Brooks for a boost. When Brooks missed his first five shots and allowed Jose Barea to run circles around him, Smart went back to the sock bucket and gave Jimmer Fredette a shot.

Travis Outlaw played eight minutes in the first half off the bench after sitting out Wednesday’s opener, but in the second half, coach Smart turned to Francisco Garcia instead. It almost feels like Smart is grasping at straws at certain points in the game.

In the first two games of the season, Smart has already used 11 and 12 players respectively while searching for combinations that can work together.

We heard about data collection during preseason. Smart was always looking to gather more data, but at this point, is there really a single combination that is working together on the court?

The answer is no.

The Kings have been aggressive on the defensive end, but players are fresh this early in the season, especially when your team leader in minutes played just 34 minutes.

They aren’t the Lakers with four Hall of Famers still getting to know one another. The Kings are a team that has had time to simmer and still, there is no clear-cut understanding of who and what the Kings are collectively.

So the question is, when do you start accessing who stays and who goes? How long to you give this experiment before admitting that maybe this wasn’t the most well conceived roster.

I’m willing to give coach Smart and this team a couple of months to figure it out, but an identity needs to be established now.

Maybe the first place to start is to tighten the rotation to eight or nine guys and then slowly filter in one or more players over time. I’m not sure who those eight or nine guys might be, but on-court chemistry is an issue and one of the few ways to solve that is to let the players grow together as a unit on the floor.

Kings color commentator and Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reynolds has always gets a chuckle out of me when he says the line, “This isn’t little league, not every player gets to play three innings.”

Reynolds is right, but that means that someone has to tell those three or four players that they aren’t going to play for a spell, while the shortened rotation works out the kinks.

While I don’t think this roster is an abomination like Simmons believes, it does look like a big stack of mismatched socks. It might be time to pair up what you can and put the rest of them back in the drawer for a while.


James Ham

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