The Weekly Snitch: Kings still looking for identity
By Patrick Ibarra
The Sacramento Kings are not going to make the playoffs this season. Sacramento is not going to be the surprise team in the Western Conference to pull off a first-round upset over a No. 1 seed and advance as America’s favorite underdog deeper into the tournament. The NBA isn’t March Madness.
With only 12 games left in the season and an overall record of 24-46, the Kings have been eliminated from playoff contention. They currently sit at third-to-last in the Western Conference, and their star player is injured.
In many scenarios, that means a team’s season is over. For the Kings, however, it means something entirely different.
After 70 games, the Sacramento Kings are still looking for their identity. With less than a season under new coach Paul Westphal and behind the leadership of rookie guard Tyreke Evans, the Kings have bettered their dismal 17-65 record from a year ago, but in the eyes of many, still underachieved this season.
With a hot start in October, November and December, the young Kings looked on pace to transform their program in just a matter of months. Then old habits with new players kicked in, and the Kings went back to true form, falling down the standings like an egg dropped out of the refrigerator, cracking under the pressure of a cold floor.
The rest of the season has been a feeling-out period, with the Kings looking to find themselves through tough battles with the league’s best teams, and embarrassing blowouts to others. Each loss has pushed Sacramento to search for something new, an identity that could lead to victories for a squad full of talent but lacking several fundamental pieces to long-term success.
While it’s clear the Kings still have a ways to go, it was evident how far they’ve come when Evans was recently injured. When the rookie superstar, who has carried the team all season, injured his jaw in a game on Friday, all seemed doomed for the Kings the following game. With Evans out, production of the rest of the team was expected to fall tremendously, yet in a moment of heroics, Evans’ replacement at point Beno Udrih stepped up in his place against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, scoring 20 points and dishing out a career-high 17 assists in a 102-89 victory for Sacramento.
It was an important sign for the Kings. The 2009-2010 season began with Evans becoming a superstar because Kings’ leading scorer Kevin Martin went down with an injury. Sunday it looked as if Udrih had some of the same stuff in him.
With Evans returning after an X-ray and CAT Scan came back negative for a fractured jaw, the Kings can have confidence in two players running the show. Such is the trickle effect the rest of the team must find before the season ends.
When the season began, much of the Kings’ success stemmed from the ability to have a leading scorer come from any of the five positions on the court. While the Kings relied on Evans, on any given night Donte Greene could be the leading scorer for the team, or Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson and so on. That situation changed with the start of 2010, and any remnants of success have disappeared.
If the Kings can rediscover who they are supposed to be, with each individual understanding his importance to the team, the Kings can use the final 12 games to learn a lot about themselves, and more importantly, prepare themselves for next year.