The Game Thread Dude
So I was out on a first date the other night and when the night was over at it was time to say goodnight and everything and do the customary kiss thing as people normally tend to do when things are not a total disaster, I was hit by a new crippling wave of paralyzing think-iness. Do I take off my mask and kiss her? Do I hug her? If I do kiss her does this mean I need to go back into quarantine for a couple of weeks on the off chance she’s infected?
I say all of this not as some sort of weird lamebrag flex that I’m dating during a global pandemic but rather to say that I am as equally confused about how to feel about this Kings win over the Nuggets as I was about how to share a medium amount of affection without potentially passing on a deadly disease. By all normal standards, I should just take the W and be happy with it (the Kings win, not the romantic one) BUT this is the Kings in their unending quest to finally reached the promised land after thirteen years of pure suckage (my dating analogy peters out somewhere around here) and in pure Kings fashion, in this long term pursuit of finally being relevant again, every surprise win can be seen as an unwelcome step back in the pursuit of getting a top pick in this year’s strong draft class. That’s right, the Kings can’t just win anymore.
”But Stephen, one win won’t hurt,” you saw while scrolling through this thread while on the toilet or watching Wonder Woman on HBO Max.
Sure, but it doesn’t necessarily help. For years, I have been against the general idea of the tanking for a high pick idea. This year, now that I have finally decided to relax and embrace the tank, the Kings decided to up and win an opening night against a good team for the first time in what feels like forever. Not only did they win but they looked good doing it!
Fox made a star play with the game winning block. Buddy made a game wining hustle tip in. Tyrese Haliburton somehow looked even better than he did in the preseason. Marvin played a healthy amount of minutes for the first time since he broke his hand in last year’s season opener. Hell, Hassan Whiteside even looked good playing surprise crunchtime minutes against the Nuggets. By all means, this was the young core players of the team leading the Kings to a victory. This should be a win. Full stop.
And yet... the visions of Cade Cunningham in a Kings jersey just won’t go away.
Tony Delk Memorial Award - Cory Joseph. I know! The first awards of the season and I’m already doing something weird liking giving the random bench explosion award to a guy on the Kings. But that first quarter stretch in which CoJo was randomly the best guy on the floor for both teams won the Kings the game and thus the trophy is his.
Luke Walton Vacuum Cleaner Award - Jamal Murray. Hero of the NBA Bubble, zero of NBA tipoff week. The dude was simply invisible for most of the game despite somehow fouling out of the game in limited minutes. Normally this award goes to dudes who just suck and Jamal went beyond that and just didn’t exist.
Mikki Moore Award - Harrison Barnes. Harrison had a great game but when you miss an emphatic tomahawk game winning breakaway dunk for the overtime win when a simple layup would have probably sufficed, you wind up in the Mikki Moore rankings.
WTF Moment of the Game - Lots of ref moments would suffice but the refs reviewing a relatively innocuous ball that looked like it was off the Kings that wound up being a clear foul by Hassan on Jokic and it still winding up Kings ball rather than a Nuggets ball as originally called probably stands out the most. For the first time ever, the Kings seem to have benefitted from bad reffing. Huzzah!
Merry Christmas! Tonight Slamson Claus brings us a matchup against the quickly revamped Phoenix Suns, who, fresh off an undefeated bubble campaign, now sport CP3, Jae Crowder, and the expectations that come with trading young assets for an elder (point) god.
They started off the season by beating the Mavs on national TV but I’m not so sure how much of that was the Suns being good and how much of that was just the Mavs having no one capable of doing anything on a consistent basis aside from Luka. Devin Booker started off hot but then pretty much decided to take the rest of the game off and Ayton didn’t look awesome in his season debut. Chris Paul also didn’t look spectacular in his first game as a Sun but his OKC season started off the same way so it’s probably too early to call him washed. Also they passed on Haliburton to draft a back up center so there’s that.
Can the Kings beat the Suns? Talent wise, it’s not as big a gap as you‘d assume. Will they beat them? Probably not. But who knows?
Ayton vs. Holmes: Ayton has become a solid defender compared to when he first came into the league. On offense, with two ball dominators like CP3 and Booker around, he has yet to become “David Robinson but with a jumper” as predicted by some draft “experts”. Meanwhile Holmes can‘t seem to stop fouling enough to show us exactly how he fits into the Kings plans this year. Advantage: Ayton, but I wouldn’t expect us to see much of this matchup tonight.
Crowder vs. Bagley: Crowder is a super solid glue guy and it’s clear that the Grizzlies still miss him. Meanwhile, MBIII remains the Kings’ major wildcard. If Marvin gives the general defensive effort/hustle he gave against the Nuggets every night in addition to his inside scoring, he is an entire useful starting big. If he continues to build on it, thanking might not be a viable option this season. That said, defending Crowder, while still a challenge, is going to require a different skill set than trying to guard Jokic in the post. Advantage: Bagley
Bridges vs. Barnes: This may be the most interesting matchup of the night in that both guys are surprisingly similar in what they offer to their teams as 4th options who play solid defense and generally aren’t gonna complain about how things are going. If Barnes had to play Bridges one on one, Barnes has the clear size advantange so I guess he’d win but who knows. Advantage: Barnes, but by a slim margin.
Booker vs. Buddy: Whatever the over/under is on points scored between the two, I’d take the over. Buddy has played better defense this year but asking him to defend a playmaker of Booker’s caliber full time is probably a bit too much while on the other end, Booker’s probably not going to affect Buddy’s ability to hit threes on the move that much. Advantage: Book. I like Buddy but he’s not Booker.
Paul vs. Fox: This should be fun. When CP3 was young, he was the best defensive point guard in the league. Now that he’s old though, he might have significant issues keeping Fox in front of him on that end of the floor. On the other end, guarding CP3 for 30 minutes (if CP3 plays that much) is going to be a good test to see how De’Aaron has grown as a defender within Rex’s system and individually. Advantage: Wash. I think CP3 has gotten a little worse while De’Aaron has gotten better. Don’t hate.
Suns Bench vs. Kings Bench: This is one matchup that I think goes the Kings‘ way. Hassan is a useful third big who will force the Suns out to the perimeter (Which is probably where they’re at their best anyways). Bjeli is going to heat up eventually. CoJo isn’t useless and will probably play tight minutes in a close game as our best guards body defender. AND Tyrese is a stud who is probably immediately better than anyone the Suns have on their bench (sorry Cam Johnson). Cam Payne has looked nice after being out of the league for a bit but I’m not so sure he’s very good. Despite getting picked 10th by the Suns, Jalen Smith doesn’t look better than the guy they drafted him over.
Final Prediction: Suns 117, Kings 111
The Suns are solid and the Kings are still trying to figure out that Richard Holmes running plays from the top of the post isn’t a viable source of offense. But I think it’ll be a close game. Buddy drops 30. Marvin looks good. Tyrese makes Joe Johnson regret passing on him. We get a GRIII appearance. The tank is back on track.
But maybe a win wouldn’t completely suck.