Opening Statements: Wizards at Kings, Game 67
Last time out…
In the District on February 9, a Sunday… I attended the game as a fan, the Wizards, for the most part, appeared to have the contest in hand, leading by a game-high 17 points with 3:33 left in the third. But then #SoWizards malaise set in…
Prompted by a monster Quincy Acy dunk over Marcin Gortat, the Kings ended the third period with an 8-2 run and began the fourth in similar fashion, a 9-2 run, cutting the Wizards’ lead to four.
During the entire seven-minute, 17-4 stretch, it would not surprise you that Kevin Seraphin went 1-for-3 on shots with two turnovers, Martell Webster silently missed one shot in the entire seven minutes, and Garrett Temple, in 3:28 of action, contributed two unheralded misses from the field and a turnover. Otherwise, the likes of John Wall (12 pts, 5-6 FGs, 4 asts, 5 TOs on the night) and Trevor Ariza (8 pts, 2-11 FGs), contributed just as much to the overall slumber.
After the Kings got within four early in the fourth, putting a peek-a-boo of a scare in the Wiz Kids, Washington safely ended the game 16-11, winning by nine measly points, 93-84. The increasingly clutch Bradley Beal hit two 3s down the stretch and got relatively even contributions from teammates otherwise.
Now, no Nene. But a new day old Wiz Vets have brought–Drew Gooden, Andre Miller, and a healthy Al Harrington. Still, the Kings, especially against road Wizards (or any Wizards, for that matter) are just as dangerous. They haven’t wowed folks since the All-Star break but are losing close, such as a 102-104 defeat in Minnesota on Sunday without DeMarcus Cousins, who is reportedly supposed to return to the court tonight.
Teams: Wizards at Kings
Time: 10:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Washington fav’d by 1.5 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: The Kings are 5-9 since the All-Star break, averaging the least assists (17.3) and most turnovers (17.4) in the NBA during that stretch–also making the least amount of 3-pointers but second-most free throws. So what’s up with that?
@James_Ham: The Kings made two moves around the trade deadline to open up playing time for rookies Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum. Those moves happened to involve two of the team’s best three point shooting threats in Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette. While Thornton wasn’t having a great season with the Kings, he is a player that averaged just 0.8 turnovers per game while shooting nearly four 3-point attempts a night. Jimmer was the Kings best 3-point shooter on the team, hitting 49.3 percent during his 41 games in Sacramento. Without Thornton and Jimmer, defenses are collapsing on DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, leading to a higher turnover rate and more free throw attempts.
Q #2: Go through the Rudy Gay decision (whether to opt-in for $19 million next season) in the mind of Rudy himself, team brass, his teammates, and finally, yourself.
@James_Ham: This is a difficult decision for Gay. He turns 28 in August and would love to get a three-year extension on his deal or opt out and sign a long term deal with Sacramento (five years) or another team team (four years). If he can’t get an extension, he has to make an educated guess on whether he can recoup the wages he will lose by opting out.
The Kings brass want to keep Gay long term. They would prefer that Gay opts out and signs a four- or five-year deal, which would allow them to make moves while remaining below the luxury tax next season.
Gay has instantly become a team leader. His teammates respect his opinion and he has flourished alongside Cousins and Isaiah Thomas. There is no question that his teammates want him back in Sacramento. His quiet demeanor and history of success has gone a long way toward balancing the Kings’ locker room.
As for myself, covering Rudy Gay is a joy. After years of struggles at the small forward position, Gay is the closest thing Sacramento has had to a star at the wing position since Peja Stojakovic left. I’m not sure what happened in Toronto, but Gay is an elite talent.
Q #3: To make the playoffs next season the Kings first need to [blank].
@James_Ham: The Kings are missing a few substantial pieces to hit the next level, but first and foremost, they need to retain Gay and Thomas. If they can accomplish that goal, they have a top 10 pick in a great draft and a few pieces to move for better fits. High on the priority list should be a veteran shooting guard who can defend and hit an open 3-ball while McLemore develops. Secondly, the Kings need a defensive-minded four/five with shot blocking abilities. In my opinion, a perfect off-season would include retaining both Gay and Thomas, landing Joel Embiid in the draft and stealing away a Danny Green/Thabo Sefolosha/Tony Allen type player. Wishful thinking, but that’s a potential road for a playoff push for next season.
The following players have spirit animals, name them:
With that, we shall end with Trevor Ariza cuddling with a tiger.
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