What They Say? Preseason Game 2

Last night, I was actually able to see the Kings play in person. Before that, I thought they lived in a preseason world that only existed in Gary Gerould’s vocal chords. I had no idea there would be so many bright colors, loud noises, and Jon Brockman-induced bruises.

For the most part, it was your typical, crappy preseason game with waaaaaaaaaaay too many fouls called and waaaaaaaay too many turnovers because of the fouls called (offensively, of course). Of the 41 combined turnovers, fifteen of them came from offensive fouls. Of those fifteen offensive fouls for turnovers, I’d say that five of them were legitimate fouls and the rest were frustratingly bad calls on both sides.

Before I get to my thoughts and ramblings from the game, here are other writings from around the web:

- From Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee:

“The third-year center missed Wednesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Arco Arena because of a sprained left ankle. The injury occurred when rookie guard Lanny Smith landed on Hawes’ ankle during a practice last week.

So rather than battle the likes of Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge again, Hawes watched a night after playing against the Blazers in their exhibition opener Tuesday night in Portland, Ore.”

- From Aileen Voisin of the Sacramento Bee:

“Sixty-three fouls. Ugly. The inordinate number of ticky-tack fouls notwithstanding, Jason Thompson (six fouls, 17 minutes) isn’t furthering his cause with his incessant complaining. He should have figured that out during his rookie season.”

- From Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee:

“And one night after the team that was widely believed to have had the worst defense last season outrebounded the bigger Blazers 44-34 and forced 16 turnovers, there were again signs that his new approach could pay off.

Down 89-82 and using a zone late in the fourth quarter, Kings forward Sean May stripped Blazers center Greg Oden down low, Omri Casspi hit the floor for the loose ball and passed ahead for a Beno Udrih jumper that started the run. The frenetic play that delighted the announced Arco Arena crowd of 10,454 didn’t stop there.”

- From Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty:

“It would appear my Tuesday comment that Sergio is definitely behind Beno Udrihon Paul Westphal’s depth chart is correct, and Wednesday night’s should have done nothing to change that: Beno had eight points on six shots, five assists and zero turnovers. That is “aw, yeah, we can trade Bibby” Beno. Vintage. (Yes, eight points and five assists actually qualifies as vintage Beno, after the abomination of the 2008-09 season. Sad, yes?)”

And now for my own ramblings and thoughts on what I saw last night:

Tyreke Evans
I have to admit that Tyreke Evans on the court seems to be the equivalent of sliced bread, the wheel, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I even gushed about him for 1,000 words over at Hardwood Paroxysm yesterday.  

I find myself fascinated with the way he approaches the game of basketball and how he attacks on the court. I honestly felt sorry for Steve Blake last night because it seemed like he was completely helpless against Evans. Evans is so quick for someone his size that he’s able to get even with his defender when going to the basket. Once he gets even with them, he’s able to use his body and strength to out muscle them for position as he slows his motion when he gets to the rim.

A couple of times, he used spin moves to get free around the basket and found himself with an easy lay-up opportunity. It was like watching someone of Kirk Snyder’s build doing a good Tony Parker impersonation in the paint.

He was also able to get some positive things going out of the post. On three memorable occasions, he took his man into the post within the flow of the offense. It resulted in an easy turnaround jumper over Bayless (missed), a wide-open three for Cisco (missed), and a baseline spin move that freed him for a lay-up.

Defensively, he’s very good despite being a rookie. He did a fantastic job of jumping the pick and roll plays with Jon Brockman to trap the dribbler and still keep the pass from going to the rolling player. He was also able to stay with quick guards like Steve Blake and Jerryd Bayless. He learned early by straying too far from Blake, which resulted in a three-pointer, but did a much better job of closing out on defensive rotations after that.

However, it’s not all roses and sunshine for Evans. He has some gaping holes with his passing decisions and ability. He should NEVER throw a cross-court pass to any of his teammates. In the regular season and against athletic teams, those are going to result in a lot of turnovers. His cross-court passes are too lofty and high-arching, giving the defense plenty of time to react and attack. He also had trouble with penetrating to the side of the key and then kicking out to a perimeter player at the top of the key (often Sean May). He needs to work on coming to a jump-stop and gathering himself before he passes on those plays. Instead, he was almost jump-passing in a very off balanced manner.

Also, he’ll have to be careful on how physical he is going to the basket. He’s not going to get the benefit of the calls as a rookie and could find himself in foul trouble when trying to bully his smaller opponents.

Jon Brockman
There was a man on the court that was bothersome, scrappy, and a complete annoyance to the Blazers players. No, it wasn’t Beno. It was Jon Brockman, who Sam Amick dubbed The Thing last night. Brockman is a much more coordinated version of Mark Madsen. And that isn’t a slight in any way.

He was very solid last night with nine points and six rebounds in just 18 minutes of action. He was so physical with Jarron Collins (I can’t believe he’s still playing, either) that at one point there was a double foul on Collins and Brockman and Juwan Howard (I REALLY can’t believe he’s still around) started complaining to the refs about Jon’s play.

He’s a great energizer off the bench, solid enough defensively and the most active guy on the boards that the Kings have seen since Michael Smith. He did an admirable job of slowing down Greg Oden in short spurts. I find it hard to believe Coach Westphal will not find a slot for him in the regular rotation.

Kenny Thomas
Yes, THAT Kenny Thomas. Canis Nine-us received the start with Spencer Hawes sitting out the game due to a sprained ankle. And Kenny actually played extremely well. His numbers only show one point and six rebounds from 20 minutes on the court but he was as effective as a 6’7″, 245-pound power forward could be against the size and length of LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. I think he can definitely be used effectively by Westphal in a limited role this year and think it would be a bad idea to keep him relegated to what he was for the team last season.

Team Passing
The team passing is a legitimate concern so far in the first two games (even if they are just preseason). They have totaled just 26 team assists in two games on 61 made baskets. That’s not very good, especially when you consider that they’ve turned the ball over 33 times. The team does seem to suffer somewhat with neither Evans or Martin being a natural distributor. And I think it would be dumb to ask either of them to concentrate on something that they don’t excel at.

With that said, Hawes’ return to the floor and more of a set offense during regular season play will quell some of that concern. Evans will grow more as a combo-ish guard and figure out how to better set up his teammates while staying true to his strengths on the court. And Hawes along with Thompson will be effective enough in the post to get some double-teaming and swing passing going to get the offense in a better flow. But after two games, outside of Beno Udrih on the floor, it seems like the play-making is something to keep an eye on.

Interior Defense
This is going to be the biggest problem the Kings will have this year. I actually think the rebounding will be good and active enough for this team not to get killed in the category on a nightly basis. But the interior defense is a whole other issue.

Against a big frontline like the Blazers have (and especially one featuring a strong inside player like Greg Oden) the Kings are going to get killed. They don’t have nearly enough depth or size with the guys they do employ inside. Any injury or foul trouble to JT and Hawes will expose just how anemic the Kings are inside.

The defensive rotations were effective in closing out on shots and forcing the next pass but it left the offensive rebounding wide-open against Portland. Since they’re an exceptional offensive rebounding team, it’s expected they’ll struggle against them in that facet of the game anyway. But it looks like it could very easily be a problem against ANY opponent if Martin and Garcia aren’t willing to crash the boards and mix it up.

That’s all for now. I’ll have more on certain players throughout the next couple of days. Next game is on the 15th in Las Vegas against some team from Los Angeles.

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