Weekend of Disappointment and Hope

Here are the bad numbers from the weekend of a new era in Sacramento basketball:

- 177 points in two games.
- 29/46 (63%) from the free throw line in two games.
- 35 turnovers in two games.
- Outrebounded 94 to 68 in two games.
- Outrebounded 30 to 14 on the offensive boards in two games.

Maybe the bad offense wasn’t Kevin Martin’s fault, eh? Or are the Kings still reeling from the stank he mopped all over the Kings during his 22 games here this season? I think it’s safe to say that the Kings have had issues with or without Kevin Martin on the court this season and the aftermath after this trade has proven as such. The thing about the Kings offensive struggles hasn’t been anything to do with poor shots or not being able to make baskets. They’ve actually shot 46.3% (70/151) in the two games since shipping off Kevin Martin and bringing in Carl Landry, which is better than their season shooting percentage of 45.5%.

No the problem has been the same old issue with this team – they’re missing free throws and turning the ball over. They’ve also reverted to last season’s rebounding plan of getting killed on the board and giving up second and third shot chances against their opponents.

The Kings were able to stay in the game against the Clippers on Saturday night because the Clippers turned the ball over an obscene amount of times. The Kings took advantage of the Clippers’ 24 turnovers for 30 of their 89 points. But they also kept turning the ball over themselves. 10 first half turnovers kept the Kings from staving off the Clippers big second quarter. And then Los Angeles’ ability to clear the defensive boards limited the Kings to just five offensive rebounds in the entire game.

As for the game against the Suns, the Kings couldn’t keep the active Phoenix squad off the boards. The Suns grabbed 20 offensive rebounds Sunday night and it allowed them to take 15 more shots than the Kings. Couple that with the fact the Suns took care of the ball with only 11 team turnovers and Sacramento had very little chance at making it a game for 48 minutes.

With Carl Landry on board and starting (which he should be), it has thrown Jason Thompson into the starting center position. I, personally, believe this to be his future position in this league. But the Kings were killed by a big man in both games this weekend and you have to wonder how long before Jason Thompson figures out how to defend and neutralize these guys. Now, the two guys who killed the Kings inside also happen to have made the All-Star Game this year but Amare Stoudemire and Chris Kaman still obliterated the Kings interior.

Chris Kaman had 22 points, 16 rebounds and two blocked shots. He made 9/18 from the field and 4/6 from the free throw line. Amare attacked them with 19 points and 14 rebounds with six offensive boards. JT didn’t have bad nights in terms of effort and production. He had nine points and seven boards against the Clippers and 10 points with nine rebounds against the Suns. Are those good numbers? No, not really. But they’re also not bad numbers by any means either. The biggest problem is the fact that he needs to slow down the star big men inside. He doesn’t have to shut them down. He doesn’t even have to stop them from getting their numbers. He just needs to make them work harder in doing so. They continued to score and rebound quite easily.

As for Carl Landry, his being undersized is going to continue to be an issue against big front lines on the defensive end of the court. He’s just a little too small to truly slow down guys bigger than him. But you can see a decent fundamental approach to his post defense and that’s very active. He doesn’t roll over. If anything, he’s a little too aggressive in the way he tries to block shots. It gets him out of position and when that happens, the offensive players are able to get into better rebounding position to steal extra possessions.

Offensively, you have to love what you’ve seen from him. He is so quick inside that you really hope he can show Spencer and JT how to attack a post defender. He isn’t just a face-up guy, either. He has a nice mixture of going after a guy from 10 feet out and with his back to the basket. He also gets to the free throw line at a rate the Kings aren’t used to see. Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes combine to average 5.5 free throw attempts per game this season. Carl Landry has done that all by himself in two games. It was a bit alarming to see him miss three free throws in the first game. Considering he shoots over 80% on the season, you worried that the Kings uniform caused players to miss their charity chances. But he responded nicely against the Suns with a six for six effort.

As for another new addition to the Kings, I loved what Dominic McGuire brought to the team against the Suns on Sunday. It’s hard to say this for certain off of one game but he was fundamentally perfect in the way he defended guys one on one. He stayed into their chest, slid his feet to cut them off and challenged shots. Now, I’m not very confident with him having to dribble or shoot a basketball but he could be the shutdown wing defender the Kings hoped Ime Udoka and Desmond Mason could be.

Things pick up again Tuesday at home against the Pistons. But the Kings are going to have to crack 100 points, make their free throws and take care of the ball to get back to winning.

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