Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Opposing View: 11/6 at Sacramento

All season long, Sonics Beat will be consulting an expert on the opposing team as part our gameday preview. Today, we couldn't pick just one. Tom Ziller of SactownRoyalty.com is one of the finest bloggers writing about the NBA, while Andrew Nicholson does a great job covering the team for Kings.com. We got both of their responses to five questions about the Kings.

How happy are the Kings to see the friendly confines of ARCO Arena after starting the season with a three-game road trip?
NICHOLSON: I'll allow future All-Star Kevin Martin to answer this question:
"We're very excited to be home because the fans at ARCO Arena are the best in the league and they give us the extra energy we need."
ZILLER: I imagine quite happy. There may not be many three-game road swings tougher than New Orleans, San Antonio and Dallas, and when you consider it kicked off the season for a team who played exactly one preseason game knowing it'd be without Mike Bibby, it was an impossible trip. Things aren't going to be infinitely better back at ARCO ... but playing Seattle at home on rest is a lot more palatable than driving into Dallas on a back-to-back.

How do the Kings replace Mike Bibby while he is sidelined?
NICHOLSON: You've surely heard this opening line before. The Kings cannot replace Mike Bibby's offensive output, on-court leadership or clutch late-game performances. To make up for his absence, the team will do their best by committee. Francisco Garcia and John Salmons have both stepped up their offensive efforts. Garcia is playing more in control which is important for his growth as a third-year player. On Saturday, he had just one turnover in 41 minutes and no turnovers in 27 minutes the night before.
Through three games, Garcia is averaging nearly 17 points and gathering two steals per contest. Salmons, meanwhile, is showcasing his multifaceted skill set by doing a little of everything. Salmons is making up for the assists lost with Bibby's left thumb surgery, by dishing out a team-high 6 assists per game. More impressively, Salmons is shooting 11 percent better this season (53 percent) than his career average (42 percent) and is second on the team in scoring. He's averaging 21 points per game which is a nice jump from his career average of six points per game.
ZILLER: The problem is they can't replace him on offense. Brad Miller and Kevin Martin basically haven't played without Mike for three years; it shows how valuable he is in the possession-to-possession grind without a post option, how good of a shot creator (often for himself) he has become. Reggie Theus doesn't seem to have any confidence in Orien Greene's abilities, which is unfortunate -- we can't judge OG on his performance when considering he's getting six-minute stints at best. Francisco Garcia can't simultaneously play rationally and defend with the type of passion and energy we're conditioned for, so it appears it may come down to Beno Udrih.

Kevin Martin: All-Star?
NICHOLSON: Yes, Kevin Martin will be an All-Star very soon. Right now, he is discovering what it means to be the focal point of the opposing team's scouting report. Through the process, he is experiencing a few growing pains without his favorite point guard (Bibby) and forward (Ron Artest) flanking him. Martin is well aware of the challenge at hand and is already adapting. He's confident, as are his teammates, that he'll flourish - whether he has one, two or three guys guarding him. When he proves he can dictate a game despite the opposition's efforts to shut him down, he'll be suiting up for the Western Conference in February.
ZILLER: Yes. He was on the edge last year, and Ray Allen has moved East. People talk all day about Michael Redd, who put up 27 points on 24 shots on Sunday. Kevin put up 28 points on 14 shots, people! He needs a distributing point guard and a post presence to alleviate some defensive pressure, but it's not like he isn't performing incredibly well without those aides.

What can we expect from Seattle native Spencer Hawes when he gets back on the court?
NICHOLSON: Opposing teams should expect a seven-footer that is a potent scorer and passer with either hand. Spencer's defense is respectable, contrary to the naysayers. The most notable element of his game is not a tangible one. His fire, as Coach Theus calls it, is merciless. The guy hates losing, has a tremendous passion for the game and plays with a sense of urgency. By the way (laugh), don't folks in Seattle know a little bit about the guy who spent his first 19 years in the Emerald City?!
ZILLER: The most improbable rejoicing from a once-skeptical but now deliriously desperate fan base. The front court of the Kings has looked so terrible, anything more than 10 points and four rebounds from Hawes would cause riotous cheers. One thing he showed at Washington and in summer league: He's not afraid to take a lot of shots. The Kings need that from a forward not named Kenny Thomas, certainly.

What don't we know but should about the Kings?
NICHOLSON: Coach Reggie Theus may be a first year head coach in the NBA, but he has quickly gained the players' respect. The Kings faced a tough road trip to open the season, but the team played hard throughout the three losses. Coach Theus brings intensity, accountability, unity and excitement back to the Kings.
ZILLER: Francisco Garcia and Quincy Douby are incredible shotblockers for their positions. Garcia has great make-up speed and he isn't afraid to hack a bit in the process of altering shots. And Douby is actually much stronger up top than he looks and infinitely longer than his body would suggest. Look for both guys coming off-ball to make a Sonics player or two sweat.

Thanks to both guys and be sure to check out Kings.com's Q&As with Sonics swingmen Kevin Durant and Damien Wilkins and Assistant Coach Paul Westhead.