Preview Denver Nuggets at Sacramento Kings: JaVale McGee versus DeMarcus Cousins

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The season gets underway tonight in Sacramento. There is no doubt the Sleep Train Arena (horrific name) will be rocking as Kings fans will be celebrating basketball remaining in SacTown.

Loading Scores
Game 1: 2013-2014 NBA Season
Denver Nuggets (2009 - Pres)
@
Sacramento Kings (1995 - Pres)
0-0 (0-0 road)
Series 0-0
0-0 (0-0 home)
October 30th, 2013
Sleep Train Arena - Sacramento, CA
8:00 PM MT
Altitude TV / 104.3 FM / 950 AM
Starters
Ty Lawson (?) PG Greivis Vasquez
Randy Foye (?) SG Marcus Thornton
Anthony Randolph (?) SF John Salmons
J.J. Hickson (?) PF Patrick Patterson
JaVale McGee C DeMarcus Cousins
Notes
You're here! Blogs SacTown Royalty (game day coverage up)
Wilson Chandler (hamstring) is questionable, Lawson (groin) game time decision, and Foye (hip), Kenneth Faried are both probale Injuries Carl Landry (hip) day-to-day
Nuggets went 2-5 in the preseason Stat Kings went 5-2 in the preseason

Last season the Nuggets opened up in Philadelphia and were beat down by the 76ers 84-75. The emotion inside the Wells Fargo Center could be felt through the television screen. The Sixers went on to win just 33 more games during the 2012-13 season (34-48) and the Nuggets wound up losing just 24 more times (57-25).

The lesson that night in Philly is the same painful one the Los Angeles Clippers just went through against Xavier Henry (game high 22 points), Jordan Farmar (16 points), and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers in a 116-103 opening night loss. Even though a team may finish with a dismal record, opening night for the home team lends itself to the emotion of the night.

There shouldn't be a louder arena in the NBA this season than the ones the Nuggets will face tonight. The Kings' fans helped keep their team from bolting to Jeff Morton's second-city, Seattle. Tonight will be a celebration of the team staying put and it's up to the Nuggets to spoil the party.

The problem for the Nuggets? Are they healthy enough and are they good enough to beat the Kings? The question marks in the above game-table next to the Nuggets' starters indicate that players in those positions are either injured or expected to make a start for an injured player. Anthony Randolph will go from getting a DNP-Coach's Decision to start things last season, to a likely starter tonight in place of the injured Wilson Chandler. Brian Shaw also indicated that J.J. Hickson will start for two reasons: one, he played well in the preseason and two, because Kenneth Faried is coming off an injury.

Denver will be tested tonight in two major ways: the first being Greivis Vasquez. He's a big guard at 6'6" and had a breakout season for the then New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) by averaging 13.9 points and 9 assists. He gives the Kings a true starting point guard, something the team has been needing for years. In two games against the Nuggets with the Hornets Vasquez averaged 9.5 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 44-percent from the field. Lawson and company did get Vasquez to turn the ball over 4.5 times per game, well over his 3.2 per game average.

The second big challenge will be from the biggest man on the floor, DeMarcus Cousins. He goes 6'11" and 270 pounds and plays the game with a lot of physicality and will be a big test for JaVale McGee. JaVale tends to play well against the premier big men around the league and he should be up for this one. Like McGee, Cousins is expected to take on a larger role this season as both a player and from a professional standpoint.

Take this snippet from Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee:

Cousins, however, said he's committed to putting the past behind him and becoming a team leader.

"To (critics), the leader is the clean-cut guy, the nice guy," Cousins said. "I'm going to go out there every night and leave it on the floor. I'm the leader of this team. First one in, last one out, and I'm going to show it on the floor every night. That's being a leader. I'm going to be the one diving on the floor for balls."

When Malone was hired, he told Cousins he needed him to be a leader and harder worker.

"Being a leader is hard because you have to be ready and willing to do the right thing every day, and a lot of guys don't want to do that," Malone said. "And if you took a poll from NBA coaches, I don't think there are many true great leaders in the NBA."

Will we see changes from McGee and Cousins this season? Their respective teams are banking on it.

Views You Can Use:

-Don't leave Marcus Thornton open. The scoring guard shot 37.2-percent from deep last year and hit two threes per game in his 5.2 attempts. Thornton also averaged 16.7 points per game against the Nuggets last season.

-King bench could be dangerous. With Isaiah Thomas, defensive ace Luc Mbah a Moute, Jason Thompson, Ray McCallum, and Ben McLemore ready off the bench, the Kings have some scoring pop and defense - oh and human roadblock Chuck Hayes is still around too.

-Will the Nuggets shoot well? Shaw's team didn't connect on a high percentage of shots from just about anyone on the floor in the preseason. They will need to find some offense tonight if they want to start the season off on the right foot.

And if you haven't seen "Lights" yet, check out Nate Robinson in this Pepsi Max commercial with Kyrie Irving and Maya Moore.


Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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