This morning, I awoke to read that there is a tentative agreement between the players’ union and the owners in the National Basketball Association (NBA). This ends the 149-day lock out that cut the season by 16 games. The season likely begins again on December 25 with a 66-game season. From all reports, the owners acquired much of what they were hoping, but the players, too, benefit from this agreement. By comparison, at least this isn’t a 50-game season like the one we had during similar battles during the 1998-1999 season. Everyone should be happy, right?
With a quarter of the season lopped off the books, how will the owners or the players fare? Considering the numbers that are bandied about, such as the $400-plus billion per year in revenue, $80 billion is a lot of money lost during this lockout. In the microcosm of Sacramento Kings-World, we are in an even more tenuous situation considering how this recent lockout and tentative agreement will affect the new arena being considered for the Kings.
When the Maloofs were considering moving the Kings to Anaheim, one of the stringent requirements to stay an extra year was the construction of a state-of-the-art arena to house the Kings. With the economic situation in the United States right now, the Maloofs watching every penny they offer as well as the pennies from other governmental bodies and private corporations toward the arena, the security of the Kings continued residence in Sacramento remains in the balance… the Power Balance, if you will; and Power Balance Pavilion is not where they want to be.
With Sacramento’s mayor, Kevin Johnson, losing his “strong mayor” referendum in the courts, he has a relatively small voice regarding whether or how this arena is built. The city council members, the city attorney, and other unelected city officials are now the movers and shakers in this process, and some of them do not agree with Mayor Johnson at all. Compound that with the reluctance of local corporations to flood this project with money, and the risks to the completion of a regional arena and the loss of the Kings escalate.
The NBA rift was at the worst time possible for the Kings and Sacramento. We will see in the coming year whether the resolution of this current contract was enough to keep the Kings here. My crystal ball suggests it may not be enough, with the caveat that in one way, this battle may have had an unusually good side-effect: The Maloofs cannot afford to move the Kings because of the revenue loss this year.
The biggest challenge for all NBA teams this year is the rebuilding of fan confidence in the league. When it was announced that a tentative deal had been struck among the various factions, comments on the social media site, Facebook, resounded like a giant raspberry, “Who cares?” As it has in contentious seasons in the past, it can take a couple of years for the fans to renew their faith in their favorite teams and the league. The resentment for being so ignored in this process can be enormous. Bitterness equals additional revenue loss through unfulfilled season ticket renewals and reduced new ticket purchases.
Of course, time alone will tell what will happen, but my guess is that the Kings will remain at least one more year beyond this season. Yes, the players will likely get the lion’s share of the revenue. Yes, the agreement will certainly encourage greater visibility for small market teams like the Sacramento Kings. If the fans have any hope to retain the Kings in Sacramento after that, though, there is no other choice but to ensure that the arena is built in short order. Grand plans mean nothing without a groundbreaking ceremony. The final part of this equation has to do with the Kings themselves: They must win ballgames. Without a winning season, between the fan disconnect, economic concerns, lack of a new arena, and political wrangling, this could spell doom for Sacramento’s involvement with the Kings. Although this NBA agreement helps, we are still a million miles from security regarding where the Kings will decide to settle are concerned.
When one looks at the three top-runners for the NBA Rookie of the Year, it’s all about perspective. We can look at their raw statistics comparatively, of course, and get a good idea about what they’ve actually done. The real test, however, is answered only by asking, “What have they done within their environment.” In other words, what have they added to the teams on which they play?
Of the organizations on which the big three, Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, and Brandon Jennings, play, only the Milwaukee Bucks are in the playoffs, and then in sixth place in the conference. That tells you that it’s not about their teams. It’s the men themselves whom we have to evaluate.
Tyreke Evans, 20, from the Sacramento Kings, has claimed the number one slot statistically in the areas of points per game, assists, steals, and blocks, and second only to Jason Thompson in defensive rebounds among his teammates. Admittedly, he tops the list in turnovers, as well, but this may come from the sloppiness that shows in the fast and furious game he plays.
Overall, Evans has added a dynamic to the team that was sorely needed. There has been talk about the challenges to the chemistry of the team as Kevin Martin was traded, and the fact that Evans seems to have a lot to learn about team play, but he is, after all, a rookie. Certainly, he has got to learn to make those three point shots more consistently, as well.
His greatest strength is that he is absolutely fearless. Height, weight, experience, celebrity – none of these matter to Tyreke. As a rookie, one might expect a little awe when playing the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neill, or Steve Nash; but there is none of that. When Tyreke takes the floor, he is there for business… always.
As an asset to the team, Evans has been golden. For the fans, he has been a real shot in the arm, as have been Carl Landry and Omri Casspi. Since last year, this team has improved for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the excellent coaching leadership of Paul Westphal. Westphal has been able to assess each of the players’ strengths in ways that every coach, since Rick Adelman left the Kings, has been unable to do.
The Kings are moving forward, if only slowly, partially because of Tyreke Evans. All these reasons should make a difference in the voting.
The Golden State Warriors are nearly equivalent to the Sacramento Kings in the win-loss category, and they are both in the Western Division, so they have had the same teams against which to play. With that in mind, when it comes to Stephen Curry, 22, he has the top team stats in only one category, which is assists. Although Curry is playing 36 minutes per game on average, he is still achieving second place status to players like Anthony Morrow and Corey Maggette.
This well-heeled, handsome young man has a well-earned reputation for graciousness and amiability amongst his teammates and fans; however, amongst the three top-ranked possible rookies, Curry has the top percentage of field goals, three point shots and free throws; however, Darren Collison from the New Orleans Hornets, has better numbers with both field goals and free throws. All the charm in the world will not change that fact.
Brandon Jennings, 20, of the Milwaukee Bucks is a good player, especially for a rookie, but he doesn’t come close to Curry and Evans in achievement or consistency. He was having a great year in the beginning, but when his shooting began to dwindle, his numbers plummeted.
With regard to how he fares by comparison to his teammates, he does fairly well; however, one must remember that after the top slot in the Eastern Conference, the other teams are overshadowed when evaluated side-by-side with the Western Conference. It’s like comparing the best baller in a high school of 200 and someone who catches the top spot in a school of 2,000. Again, it’s all about perspective.
It is in the area of consistency where Evans has to take the lead. Since being drafted last year, Evans has made his presence known. He has been a leader and pivotal concern for coaches throughout the league. Even after his injury, he made his way back to being the force with which others team must reckon.
Add to this the fact that Evans has achieved a statistic that only three other people have ever done in their rookie year, the elusive 20-5-5. He joins Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and Lebron James in this illustrious category. Who can deny that this sets him head-and-shoulders above the other possible nominees.
The day will soon be here that the award recipient will be announced. With his ability to make plays, play aggressively, consistently enhance his team, and his strong statistics, all the things we look for in our freshman players, this year, it’s Tyreke Evans for 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year!
I love puzzles. Crosswords, Scrabble, genealogy, unsolved crimes, and medical mysteries all fascinate me no end. I have added a new quixotic entertainment to my repertoire of boggles: Why does the NBA basketball team, the Sacramento Kings, seem to routinely fall victim to the “Poison Third” quarter of the game?
Not being a statistician, or someone who has followed every game on television, the many games I have seen seem to indicate there is a malady that befalls our beloved Purple and White at minute twenty-five of most games. No matter how well we do in the first and second quarters, by the time we reach the fourth quarter, we are playing catch up.
If we had a third quarter like the other three we play, we couldn’t lose, except to the most outstanding teams in the league. I’m certain of it. When we drop to approximately 19 points in the third quarter, after two quarters of 23 and 24 points each, we have lost a critical five points that could put us over the top. I have every faith in our team and the coaching staff that leads them, but, in the words of Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” “There’s trouble right here in River City!”
I have whittled my theories down to three front runners:
3. Conditioning needs to be increased so that fatigue does not play a role in the beginning of the second half. It may be that the players have expended as much energy as they have available by the end of the second quarter and after the half-time break, they are simply having to build up their momentum during the third quarter to get their proverbial sea legs once again and gaining their second wind.
2. Both the offensive and defensive coaching staff have to build a more vigorous training for combatting the “poison third” pattern, given the number of turnovers and disorganized offense in our own paint that allows the opposition to dominate the post, allowing too many scoring opportunities for the other team. On the defensive end, we are seeing a vast improvement in the number of steals, blocks, and aggressive forced turnovers over the season, but we can do more… much more!
My primary theory, however, is more esoteric in nature. Here it is:
1. There is some form of communication or energy in the lockerroom at half time that is diminishing the energy and focus with the players. Coach Paul Westphal is the most connected coach we’ve had since Coach Rick Adelman. The others that have fallen between these two dynamic coaches have been simply doing a job. One can tell by the response from the players and from their press conferences after the games what direction and intention the players are receiving from their coaches. Mr. Westphal is engaged in promoting excellence and forward-moving process for every player. The players themselves are a dynamic group of young people who are building a thriving and exciting team for the first time in years. With that being said, I believe that someone, not necessarily Coach Westphal, is injecting a counterproductive force within our Kings in the halftime lockerroom. I believe it is unintentional, but it exists nonetheless. This dark cloud is affecting the men on the floor in a very difficult way.
It would be easy to discount this theory because, as a culture, we are workers first. We believe that if we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we can do anything. There is truth to this belief, but when all is said and done, and this “Poison Third” issue is resolved, it will be because the structure of communication will have changed in the lockerroom at half time and we will then see every quarter be a successful one.
Mark my words.