Kings Hope Not to Get Royal-Flushed Out of West RaceAdded - Nov. 22, 2014 - Comments
For years, the Sacramento Kings wallowed around in mediocrity and ineptitude. But this season the atmosphere may be changing. A team that had been comprised of talented individual players who did not mesh together as a unit may now be doing just that. A new ownership group (which includes former NBA center Shaquille O'Neal) has brought energy to the situation, and they have enthusiastically embraced analytics as a tool in scouting and strategy. More importantly, chemistry is getting better, and for that reason, the Kings may just have a chance to challenge for playoff spot in the hyper-competitive Western Conference.
Everyone knows how talented DeMarcus Cousins is. The bulky center has gradually improved with each season, and is now ranked seventh in the NBA with 23.5 points per game, while leading the league with 12.6 rebounds per contest. The difficulty with Cousins has been that he's been slow to mature. During his rookie season, he caused unending trouble for the coaching staff, and took a few suspensions for his misbehavior. He also contributed to then-coach Paul Westphal being fired. But he is coming along to the point where he can be considered one of the team leaders.
But the player who may have become the "straw that stirs the drink" is Darren Collison, who was Chris Paul's backup with the Los Angeles Clippers last season and has been given the opportunity to run the show in Sacramento. He has responded, through promoting the idea of ball distribution and unselfishness. Even Rudy Gay, a self-centered pure scorer who has provided "addition by subtraction" for a couple of his previous NBA teams, seems to be on board with the program.
Recently the Kings have hit a bit of a roadblock, and it is yet to be determined how sizable that roadblock is. Collison had to sit out a couple of games with a quad injury, and it appears that he has been slowed down a bit by it, even after returning to the lineup. And what might be more significant is a viral infection that has landed Cousins in the hospital. He missed three games in a row, and Sacramento dropped all three of them. The Kings have a sort of "little Big Three" situation going on with Cousins, Gay and Collison, and when any of those three players is out of the lineup, this team has lost five out of six games. In this early part of the transition process, they need all hands on deck in order to make a run. So Collison and Cousins need to be healthy for this team to contend, especially as there are other improved teams in the West, not to mention an Oklahoma City Thunder squad that has recently welcomed back Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.