It was one of the ugliest starts I’ve ever seen in a Kings’ game—regular or preseason.
Less than five minutes into the game, the Kings’ starting center and point guard, DeMarcus Cousins and Aaron Brooks, had picked up two early fouls each that took the team completely out of their up-tempo game.
The Sacramento Kings never could recover from—at one point—a 15-point deficit, and lost to its rivals the Golden State Warriors 98-88 at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 17, in front of 10,708 fans.
After closely watching the position battle at the small forward spot during the Monday, Oct. 15, contest against the Trailblazers, I thought I’d focus my attention toward what is quickly becoming the most talked-about and healthy battle of them all.
Who will open the season at starting point guard? Will it be Brooks or the super rookie Isaiah Thomas?
Surprisingly to some, Brooks got the start for the second game in a row for the Kings.
What was the reason?
“I just need a little more data on them,” Smart said. “I know (the way) Marcus, Tyreke and Isaiah (play) —I had 66 games with those guys last year. I need to see how Travis (Outlaw) responds, how he plays. You see how he responded in the third quarter after having a so-so first half, and I thought he did a good job. I wanted to get a better understanding of who Aaron Brooks is. I knew who he was a couple of years ago, but I want to get a feel for him, and you see some flashes there.”
Brooks put himself in a hole when he picked up his second foul less than five minutes into the game and had to be replaced by Thomas.
After the game, Brooks knew exactly what happened.
“I didn’t react to the way the game was being called,” Brooks said. “They were calling it pretty tight in the first half, and I was still playing ‘China’ basketball out there. They made some good calls, and it was just my fault for not adjusting well to it. We just got off to a bad start, period.”
He’s right. No one in the starting lineup seemed to be particularly fired-up to start the contest. It’s the main reason they found themselves down 10-1, 15-3 and finally 29-20 at the end of the first quarter.
When Thomas checked in less than halfway through the first, he immediately hit a three-pointer, then shortly into the second, he hit another. Besides that, Thomas was very quiet, even on defense.
Although Stephen Curry was held scoreless in the first, he and Jarrett Jack seemed to get to where they wanted to be on the floor very easily.
Jimmer Fredette replaced Thomas with seven minutes left in the first half. Fredette will probably only see point guard action in cases like this, which should be rare.
Even though he hit a runner at the rim and had another solid drive through the lane, which picked up a foul, the hard truth of the matter is that Fredette can’t guard anyone.
Several times Fredette’s man easily shook him and found himself open. Fredette’s other major issue is too often trying to take the ball into the forest of big men that are awaiting his arrival at the rim. What’s the outcome? Fredette is either on the floor or has his shot blocked. It’s a problem that doesn’t seem to bother Brooks or even Thomas that much, although Thomas does enter the lane too often when it’s all clogged with defenders.
Brooks seemed to be his old self once the second half began. The Kings opened the half behind by 14, but the energy of Brooks and the rest of the starters brought the team back to within six points. The Kings only found themselves down by seven entering the final quarter.
One reason is that Brooks stopped playing what he called “China” basketball. What is that?
“It’s not as physical in the NBA,” Brooks said. “It’s like playing football in China. A lot of stuff you get away with, such as grabbing and all that, and it doesn’t fly here. The guys are a lot quicker. I’m just making that adjustment. It’s like riding a bike once you get out there.”
Thomas was back in to start the fourth, but didn’t make some of the plays he should have. He made a bad pass almost right after checking in that almost resulted in a turnover, and then shot an ill-advised three when he had plenty of time on the 24-second shot clock.
Shortly after that, he was called for a travel that stopped what little momentum the Kings had rallied.
The offensive flow; that elusive fast-paced flow was missing on this day. Thomas talked about how hard it is to find your rhythm and get into the up-tempo game that Smart is looking at running.
“It is, especially when you’re not getting stops, it’s hard to get out on transition and be aggressive like that,” Thomas said. “It’s more of a half-court game when you’re not getting defensive stops. We just have to watch film and learn from it and move on.”
This is the position battle that, I believe, will come down to the last minute. It is the toughest decision he will make to open the season.
Do you start the guy that opened so many eyes last year while garnering several Rookie of the Month honors? Or do you let the more experienced guy, the guy who Geoff Petrie has wanted for several years, get the opening day nod?
LeBron James thought he had issues a couple of years ago with his "Decision."
It seems that this season, it’s Coach Smart that has a big decision to make. And he only has two weeks to figure it out.
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