The Kings appear destined to be leaving Sacramento. But not before racking up some wins along the way.
Entering their Wednesday night back-to-back affair at Denver, the Sacramento Kings are the winners of four consecutive games and five out of their last six. Not only hadn't the Kings won three straight games all season long prior to this recent winning streak, but they'd only won two straight once.
In an otherwise forgettable final season in Sacramento (the Kings are rumored to be moving to Anaheim for next season), the Kings have somehow put some extra wins on the board...most, surprisingly, while playing on the road. But before Nuggets fans start worrying about a Wednesday night "trap game," note that the Kings' recent victories came at Minnesota, at Milwaukee, at Indiana, at Philadelphia and home against Phoenix. Their lone loss in their last six games came at Chicago where the Bulls thumped them by 40 points. Something I suspect the Nuggets will do Wednesday.
No one blows out bad teams quite like our new-look Nuggets, who have averaged 31-point victory margins against sub-.500 teams at Pepsi Center these past few weeks. And with the Kings coming in on that brutal Pacific Time Zone-to-Mountain Time Zone back-to-back after playing to the wire against the Suns on Tuesday night, they're sure to get slaughtered by a well-rested Nuggets team. The Nuggets haven't played basketball since Friday night and will undoubtedly shake off the rust in time to run the lowly Kings out of the building. Because while the Kings' mini win streak might be impressive to some, there's a reason why this team has just 21 wins to show for itself this season.
When we last saw the Kings in Denver (on New Year's Day), the Nuggets used a big second quarter and an even bigger fourth quarter to best the team from California's capitol city by 18 points. And that was when the Kings had Tyreke Evans - their best player - in the lineup and with the Nuggets' best player - Carmelo Anthony - missing 16 of his 22 shot attempts while turning the ball over six times.
Sadly, the Kings picked an inopportune time to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season and play for ping pong balls instead of playoff seeding. With California dead broke as a state, it's hard to sell the Sacramento tax payers on the need for a new stadium...especially for a rotten team. But most unfortunately for Sacramento's NBA fans, a new stadium is needed to keep the Kings in Sactown. Just like the unnecessary and unfair circumstances that led to the Supersonics ouster from Seattle years ago, the Kings appear to be heading elsewhere. In their case, to Anaheim - a most peculiar NBA destination considering two current NBA teams, the Lakers and Clippers, already occupy the Los Angeles metro area market.
But just as I wrote when the Sonics officially moved to Oklahoma City, it's never a good thing when a mid-to-small market team leaves its current environs for supposed greener pastures elsewhere. Not only do such moves leave a bitter taste for the NBA in the mouths of the fans whose team has departed, but it gives other small market owners comfort that they can hijack their current cities' taxpayers for a new stadium or they, too, can move the franchise elsewhere. Fortunately for Nuggets fans (I hope), the Kroenkes own the Pepsi Center, so in theory it behooves them to make their own arena profitable by having an NBA team play inside it for years to come.
In a scheduling oddity, the Nuggets/Kings Wednesday night matchup is the first of a home-and-home series against the Kings as the Nuggets play at Sacramento Friday. When the Nuggets last played at Sacramento (again, oddly just five days after their January 1st game against each other), they suffered one of their most humiliating losses of the season in a 20-point loss. But certainly today's Nuggets look like a far distant cousin from the ones who couldn't put bad teams away a few months ago.
Scouting the Kings...
-DeMarcus Cousins: Head case. Nut case. Beast. All three apply to Cousins, who has been a rebounding machine for the past two months while displaying a soft offensive touch around the basket. Should Cousins ever get his act together mentally, he could have an All-Star career in the NBA.
-Marcus Thornton: Thornton is finishing the 2010-11 campaign akin to how he finished the 2009-10 season while as a member of the Hornets - with gusto. Thornton flamed out in New Orleans this season prior to being traded to Sacramento. All he's done since is average 22.0 ppg on 47.1% field goal shooting and 43.2% three-point shooting.
-Joe and Gavin Maloof: Known commonly as "The Maloof Brothers," Joe and Gavin appear to be hellbent on ending the Kings' 26 year reign in Sacramento and moving the team to Anaheim where they'll play second fiddle...to the Clippers. It's no secret that the Maloofs would prefer to have the Kings in Las Vegas (where they own the Palms Casino). But instead of dickering with Anaheim they should be constructively working with Sacramento mayor - and former NBA All-Star - Kevin Johnson to keep the team in Sacramento, a city that has supported the Kings through good times and bad.
-Jason Thompson: What happened to Thompson? The 6'11' power forward/center hybrid showed so much promise in his first two seasons before his production fell off a cliff this season.
Great teams decimate bad teams, especially at home. Mediocre teams allow bad teams to hang around. So far our new-look Nuggets have been more of the former than the latter, and the same should hold true against the lowly Kings on Wednesday night.
Opposition's Take: Sactown Royalty