Attention, K-Mart shoppers
This year, the Maloofs are digging deeper than ever into their bag of tricks to entice Sacramentans out to Arco Arena, even going so far as to fork over the quintessential Las Vegas comp: a free buffet.
Of course, there’s no need for buttering up fans with chicken cacciatore; the Kings are actually an entertaining, if scrappy, team this season.
Consider: When the game was on the line last week, the team’s purported best player, Kevin Martin, was out with a fractured left wrist. Sophomore Donte Greene was supposed to be on the court, guarding the Oklahoma City Thunder’s inbound pass, but he too was AWOL. I knew where Greene was, though, because I had some baller courtside seats, and the gangly small forward was right in front of me chatting up the ultimate sixth man, Bobby Jackson.
Rookie Jon Brockman finally hunted down Greene, and he got on the court just in time for Kevin Durant to clunk the game-tying three. It wasn’t pretty, but the Kings won, scrappy style.
Nobody’s running out to buy season tickets, but Greene’s insouciance in the face of a high-stakes moment speaks to everything good—and downright frightening—about this year’s Kings: They don’t choke and aren’t soft but, man, they sure as hell are in another world sometimes.
Case in point: In the Kings three wins last week (against Golden State, the Thunder and Houston), they coughed the ball up an inexcusable 53 times. Even so, basketball is a game of numbers, so when you out-rebound said teams 157-105, second chances best pathetic first impressions, giving you hope to end up head and shoulders above the competition. At least for a week.
Because make no mistake: This Kings team is a 30-wins-at-best squad. They contest on defense but give up too many easy back-door layups. They live, and most certainly will die, by the three. And with so many young players, there’ll ultimately be too many off nights to overcome.
Still, the team is better without its two best players, Martin and overpaid fifth-year guard Francisco Garcia, who are injured. This is all the more reason to shop K-Mart. Take whatever you can get for him. Hawk him for wounded Pacer Mike Dunleavy. Seriously.
The crowd up in the nosebleeds during the Houston game probably wouldn’t notice.
They’re too enamored with rookie Tyreke Evans, a beastly 6-foot-6-inch guard out of Memphis. When he kissed the game-clinching shot off the glass, the cheap-seat din was unlike anything Arco has seen during the past four seasons. This Evans guy had panache. He wanted the ball. And he nailed a 25-footer without flinching. High-fives abound.
So why put Evans in a situation where he’d have to defer to Martin or Garcia?
No way. Evans—like Milwaukee’s Italian import Brandon Jennings—is the real deal: clutch, aggressive, hazardously raw. Green like Greene, but a good show nonetheless.
And he’s not soft.