Friday, November 12, 2010

The painful education of growing up - the Sacramento Kings

It has been disappointing watching the Kings in their past two games. Collectively, they’ve stunk up the joint.

When Sacramento meets Phoenix Friday night, it’ll be a match up of two of the NBA’s worst defensive squads, so look for many, many points to be scored.

However, the Kings are youth-laden while the Suns are a veteran crew. When in doubt, take the experience.

When you can’t take care of the ball (19 turnovers in a 98-89 loss Wednesday night to Minnesota), you can’t muster consistent offensive production and you can’t find a way to keep an admittedly ultra-talented Michael Beasley and clearly improved Sebastian Telfair from dominating your squad, disappointing is the word that comes to mind.

Here’s another: $#@@&%%!!

Once again, the basics of Basketball 101 in Marty Mac’s World are a team usually needs four or five players doing what they do to snatch a victory.

It would be a good thing if one of those players was your best player.

However, Tyreke Evans was as terrible against the T-Wolves as Minnesota’s defense was determined to keep him from the basket. Omri Casspi scored 17 points in 27 minutes, but he was the first victim of Beasley’s assault.

Beasley treated Casspi as if he were his little brother. The second-year forward is an amazing talent but he was allowed to get off early, as almost every Kings opponent has been.

By the time, Donte Greene, yes, that Donte Greene, came off the bench for 3:40, Beasley was so hot, he’d have lit up an in-prime Dennis Rodman, the 6-foot-8 forward who already should have defended and rebounded his place in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Francisco Garcia, Samuel Dalembert and Antoine Wright followed in the procession of torches, uhh, defenders to get some from Beasley on the way a career-high 42.

Only Dalembert, Darnell Jackson and Beno Udrih (other than those four turnovers) played well.

That’s not enough to overcome missing 12 of 32 free-throws, committing 19 turnovers (many sloppier than unforced) and making just five of 20 three-point field-goal attempts.

That left the Kings with three straight home losses during a stretch eight home games in nine. It’s extremely early in the season; however, this is where habits are formed.

This is where identities are created and established.

Remember, identities can be negative. It’s important for a team to establish difficult-to-discern and measure qualities like toughness, confidence, teamwork and chemistry.

Yet, without those qualities, a team has no shot at success.

Right now, the Kings have none of these qualities.

And it’s the team’s composition that is most responsible for that status.

Minnesota assistant coach Bill Laimbeer was discussing talented young forward Kevin Love and working with a young team.

He was speaking of the Timberwolves and Love, but his words equally could be applicable to the Kings and Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.

Laimbeer was asked how Love can improve.

“By learning the game, how to get more involved in a team structure, which all of our young guys have to learn,” he said of the T-Wolves. “Defensive wise he has to learn how to short cut things and take away other guys opportunities and discourage passes coming into the post because he’s not the tallest guy or the strongest guy.

“He has to do his work early in order to discourage his guy from getting the ball.”

Laimbeer, one of the league’s great intangible players as well most despised, said many dynamics go into team and individual growth.

“When you don’t get to grow up as a unit,” he said, “it can be frustrating. That takes a few years. As far as Kevin, he’s going to learn his way. When you are young like this, you are thinking about how I’m going to get mine and how I’m going to establish myself as a player. And unless you are surrounded by intense veterans who are winners, you are going to stub your toe along the way and these guys are no exception.

“He’s very young, yes, and that’s a positive and a negative. You are so young you want to get out of the bad habits you pick up because you don’t know any different. And quite frankly being on a team where he hasn’t won that’ll wear you down and you don’t want to get into that rut early in your career.”

Youth means learning how to make the most of one’s ability and skills. It means avoiding one’s weaknesses and mostly, how not to defeat yourself.

We have yet to see how long this process will take, or if will occur. And tonight against a veteran Phoenix team, we’ll get one more indication.

1 comment:

  1. I think that Westphal needs to get a lot tougher on Tyreke Evans and get him to be the distributor a lot more often and trust his team mates. They need to talk about the whole ROY campaign last spring and put it to rest, and realize this is a new season and other teams know what he is trying to do and are going to shut him down if they can. Evans needs to do more give and go, and make hard cuts and get those kinds of back door passes that Vlade used to give Christie and Peja and Webber lots of points, and maybe they can watch some tape of those games and get a clue...

    On the other hand, those guys are so dang young, what can you say? Maybe they just need time to grow up a little and see how they respond.

    I remember seeing the Kings in 2002 get blown out by the Hawks, who sucked at the time, or the Knicks, or whoever, and Adelman didn't yell at them or anything. He just let them lose, if they weren't going to play defense or run the offense, and they lost. And they got the message, that it was up to them. And maybe these Kings will get the message with a nice losing streak, and see if that gets the players to "take it to the next level" or something.... We will see!