Nuggets of hope: Sacramento Kings midseason report

Too bad the Kings can’t have Nuggets every night.

Too bad the Kings can’t have Nuggets every night.

At the soon-to-be-untitled Gas Pump in Natomas last Thursday night, I asked a young Denver Nuggets fan behind me if her team had a mascot. Without missing a beat she said, “A chicken nugget.”

And sure enough, the Sacramento Kings feasted on Denver last week like they were fried poultry bits. Pick your sauce, the Kings slathered it on.

It didn’t hurt that star Carmelo Anthony didn’t even try, what with his Brooklyn (by way of a year in New Jersey) state of mind.

What won it was that the Kings scrubbed it out on defense. Carl Landry was stellar. An “Omri of OneCasspi hit crucial three-point shots and drew Anthony’s ire. The Nuggets surged back in the third, but for once the Kings didn’t fold. Instead, EugenePoohJeter provided spark off the bench, and the Kings surged past the taco line—it was free tacos from Jack in the Box—for a 122-102 “W.”

After bizarre and occasionally hopeless struggles this year, the Kings finally are showing hope. DeMarcus Cousins continues to “What, me?” at calls, but he retains composure most of the time and gets past things.

Still, if it were 2010, you might admire how these young Kings are finally, as we approach midseason this week, discovering swag. But unfortunately, it’s 2011: The term “swag” is done, the Kings are a year older but this season is a step back. They’re the worst. If last week’s game against the Nuggets was college football, it’d be what people refer to as a “toilet bowl.”

So then why are we so optimistic about the rest of this season?

For starters, players are finally beginning to understand their roles. Landry and Casspi—the former trade bait, the latter off the table—both seem comfortable in a shared sixth-man role. Critics panned coach Paul Westphal for disciplining Cousins after the “Big Choke,” but since Cousins has been on a veritable tear, averaging just about 24 points, seven rebounds and three assists in seven games.

Oh, and then there’s that Tyreke Evans guy, whose shined brighter than his mom’s sunshine blond hair with 20 points and eight assists a game over the past seven—granted he’s nursing some busted-up feet.

The Kings aren’t this year’s Oklahoma City Thunder after all. But give them 41 more games—and then a year or two, when Cousins and Evans would be peaking as college upperclassmen—and then let’s talk.