Sunday, October 31, 2010

Baby steps work for newbie Kings

Three games into their 2010-11 NBA season, the Kings have displayed enough positive traits about which they can feel good entering Monday night’s home opener against the Toronto Raptors.

Sacramento came home Sunday morning with two victories in three road games to open their season. The methods of victory likely won’t become the blueprint for success.

Yet, the Kings have one of the league’s youngest teams. Any victory is a good one and any road victory should be appreciated that much more.

Ultimately, it won’t make a difference if the opponents - Minnesota, New Jersey and Cleveland – prove to be weaklings. As the Kings attempt to establish themselves as a solid team, one of the keys is defeating teams the league’s weaker teams.

Those are teams against whom confidence can be built and lessons to be learned.

Moreover, the Kings have a four-game home stand over the next 10 days during which they can use practice time to work on weaknesses.

The best way to look positively at the season’s first three games is consider the alternative. The Kings, who certainly could have won Friday night’s game in New Jersey, also could have lost each of the three games.

Perhaps the trip’s most impressive feature is getting two victories without playing particularly well as individuals.

Tyreke Evans missed the first game due to the league mandated suspension stemming from his reckless driving arrest this summer. Evans played erratically in both games, yet remains capable of taking over contests.

Evans’ growth will be a major determining factor in how quickly the Kings improve. There has been a constant harping on his perimeter shooting. His shot does look much better, but ultimately it will be his shot selection and decision-making that most influence his and the team’s advancement.

Evans has to find the fine line between being aggressive and trying to do too much. It is a line only supremely talented players encounter.

People question his shooting ability, yet it must be remembered he’s 21 and working with just one season of college. It’s no coincidence other young guards of similar experience – Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings and John Wall – also have similar mountains to climb.

Consider Hall of Fame guard Walt Frazier came out of Southern Illinois in 1967 incapable of making open 18-footers. Frazier played three years at SIU and ultimately became a seven-time NBA All-Star because of his ability to get where he wanted on the floor. Frazier worked on his shot and became one of the league’s best scoring guards because he combined shooting ability with getting the shots he wanted when we wanted them.

Currently, Evans, even in most half-court situations, relies on physical and natural ability. The sooner he learns how to survey situations and take advantage of defenses and defenders, the more prolific he’ll become. He won’t have to work as hard to score.

The Kings don’t need Evans attempting 19 and 20 shots as he did respectively against New Jersey and Cleveland, especially when many of them are forced attempts.

However, it merely is one important factor in the team’s overall learning process.

There are many basics upon which the Kings must improve to begin maximizing their potential. It’s clear to see they have improved team athleticism and depth.

Yet, running their offense more efficiently begins with making hard cuts. It includes developing the offensive patience to work for good shots and thereby forcing defenses to work.

The Kings want to run so they must secure defensive rebounds and run the floor hard collectively. However, they must work at converting fast-break opportunities. Right now, simply put, they stink on the break.

Perhaps more important is the Kings need to run hard to get back on defense. That commitment is paramount to becoming a sound defensive team.

They’ve taken a few baby steps towards becoming a viable team by winning a couple of road games they easily could have lost.

Momentarily, that will suffice.

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