The Sacramento Kings are wrapping up a forgettable season. Despite a decent roster, the Kings season has been marred by questionable management which has made peculiar decisions in regards to dealing with the apparent rift between the players and their coach. Right before the all-star break rumors ran wild that the Kings would fire coach George Karl during the time off, only to have those rumors be refuted in the same day with reports that Karl would be retained and ultimately one of his assistants was the only one who was dismissed. Then, as the season progressed, the rift between the coach and his star center DeMarcus Cousings became very apparent and an outburst from Cousins towards the coach resulted in a suspension which was a stark contrast to the beginning of the season when management refused to uphold a suspension Karl wanted to levy on Cousins for a similar outburst.
It wasn't long ago that similar discord could be found among the member of the Denver Nuggets locker room, but luckily (an ironically because he's the only guy Cousins seems to get along with) they hired coach Michael Malone and while the Nuggets once again find themselves out of the playoffs, there is no doubt that the team has made good on its promises to change the culture of the team and to develop their young talent. However, in order to continue to accrue young talent, and given the proximity of the two teams records, many will argue that the Nuggets are best served dropping this game to the Kings.
That'll be a difficult task. Beyond the fact that the Kings have struggled mightily this season, they will also missing one of the few bright spots of the season tonight, Rajon Rondo. Rondo has enjoyed a renaissance year (funny how that happens in contract years) and once again finds himself atop the NBA leaders for assists but is being given the night off. To tilt the game even further in favor of Denver, the Kings played last night in California and likely didn't get into the Mile High City until the wee hours of the morning. Cousins, however, will return from a one game suspension (too many technical fouls) so the Kings will have their star big man. The Nuggets front court will be bolstered as well, with Jusuf Nurkic likely to play after dealing with a sinus infection.
Who: Sacramento Kings (30-46) at Denver Nuggets (32-45)
When: 7PM MDT
Where: The Can, Denver CO
How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE AM 950
Rival blog: Sactown Royalty
|Sacramento Kings||Denver Nuggets
|PG||Darren Collison||Emmanuel Mudiay||Even|
|SG||Seth Curry||Gary Harris||Nuggets|
|SF||Rudy Gay||Jakarr Sampson||Kings|
|PF||Quincy Acy||Kenneth Faried||Nuggets|
|C||DeMarcus Cousins||Nikola Jokic||Kings|
Will Barton, D.J. Augustin, Axel Toupane, Darrell Arthur, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller, Jusuf Nurkic,Jameer Nelson
Injured players: Jusuf Nurkic - questionable (illness), Wilson Chandler - out (hip), Danilo Gallinari - out (ankle), Marco Belinelli - questionable (foot), Rajon Rondo - out (rest), Omri Casspi - out (hamstring)
Key match up: DeMarcus Cousins vs Jusuf Nurkic
Cousins and Nurkic have had some dust ups in the past as both big man carries a sizeable amount of strength to go with a sizeable ego on the basketball court. Nurkic has been dealing with a sinus infection but if he is a go tonight he should give a big boost to Denver. Nikola Jokic will likely get some time battling with Cousins as well but Nurkic was playing the best ball of his season prior to getting sick. Beyond his ability to body up Cousins, Nurkic has proven to be the guy who holds Denver's defense together. Without his presence in the paint, the Nuggets opponents have been getting to the rim at will and with the Kings speedy score first point guard Darren Collison, Nurkic will be needed tonight. Cousins of course is a handful at the rim himself (and pretty much anywhere else on the court) and only the Bosnian Beast has the strength to keep him at bay.
Key thing to watch for: That other Curry guy
Northern California has been abuzz lately about this sweet shooting guard named Curry. Seth Curry that is! He's found his way into coach Karl's starting lineup and he's making the most of the opportunity. Over his past five games he's averaged 14+ points per game and is shooting over 50% from beyond the three point line. Last night was perhaps the best performance of his career as Curry scored 21 points while being able to get to the free throw line with regularity. He won't have it easy tonight however, as he draws Gary Harris the outstanding defender. Harris can't sleep on Curry though, or he might start getting him confused with that guy who plays for the Golden State Warriors.
Opening thought: How about a video tribute...or something
After completely ignoring everything Coach Karl did for the organization when he returned to Denver last season, his first game here this season was met with minimal recognition, basically amounting to a hearty introduction from the PA announcer and nothing more. To me, that's ridiculous. The guy is the second greatest coach in the history of the franchise (and the greatest, who had a very similar type run with the team, has his name in the rafters) and was unceremoniously shown the door after guiding the team to their best regular season ever. How about a video tribute to the coach showing some of his biggest moments with the team? Maybe a shot of him wearing a classic Nuggets jersey while coaching a game in his first season with the team (a stunt that ended up costing Karl thousands when he was fined). I get that some things were probably said when Karl's firing went down that may have rubbed the Nuggets the wrong way but why not just bury the hatchet, give the coach his due and send him off the right way.