NBA Notes: Overlooking the Sacramento Kings?
The Sacramento Kings have been in the news a lot this summer, but for all the wrong reasons. There has been talking of the team leaving town and arena plans put on the table, but none of the kind of positive press fans of the team would like to see.
That stops now.
The arena issue may have been a distraction, but the simple fact is that Kings fans would hate to go through the same thing that former Seattle SuperSonics fans are now enduring – they’re watching their former team flourish in a new market. The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the best young teams in the NBA, and every time Kevin Durant wins another honor or the Thunder advance deeper into the playoffs it twists the knife in the backs of Sonics fans another half turn.
What if the City of Seattle had simply built a new stadium? Sonics fans would be on Cloud Nine watching their team return to the ranks of the Western Conference’s elite. Instead . . .bupkiss.
It’s not a far stretch to look down the road and see fans of the Sacramento Kings being in the same boat two or three years from now. Sure, they’ve been the whipping boys of the NBA for a while and they had the second-worst record in the conference last season, but that’s a trend that is about to make a radical shift. Much like the Sonics-turned-Thunder, the Kings have put their high draft picks to good use and now have a great young core in place. It shouldn’t be long before this team, like the Sonics before them, start a meteoric rise to the top of the West.
It all starts with Tyreke Evans, who might not be Kevin Durant, but is certainly a great young star to build a team around. Not only is a classy player who parents will want their kids to watch and emulate, he is also one of the best young shooting guards in the league. He may have been set back by a miserably bad case of plantar fasciitis last season, but Evans promises to be a 20/5/5 threat every night out when he’s healthy.
The Kings had a unique problem last season, one that any other team in the NBA would love to have. Namely, they had too much front court talent. That won’t be as big a problem next season, as free agent Samuel Dalembert is likely to be elsewhere, and say what you want about DeMarcus Cousins’ volatile personality, the kid has impressive skills. The mere mention of trading him last season brought a ton of interest, and the trade rumors weren’t even based in reality. The Kings know they have a rare talent, they just have to channel his energies properly.
Coming into the mix this season will be rookie Jimmer Fredette, who the Kings hope will be their floor leader of the future, and the team also has some nice veterans in place with Francisco Garcia and now Marquis Daniels, who can help the youngsters find their way. The Kings, by virtue of having so many players under their rookie contracts, also have a great deal of cap space to use before the season starts if they so choose.
It can be easy to overlook the Kings with all of the veteran, playoff-tested teams currently residing in the Western Conference, especially when the news surrounding the team has been fairly negative in nature this summer. Make no mistake about it, though; the Sacramento Kings are a rising force in the West, and while 2012 is probably a little bit early for them, the future not too far beyond that is very bright indeed.
Barea Likely to Return to Dallas
Every championship team has its share of X-factors. The stars put up the flashy stats and get most of the attention, but no team can win a championship solely on the strength of its stars. Michael Jordan needed John Paxson, Hakeem Olajuwon needed Mario Elie, and in the same way, Dirk Nowitzki needed JJ Barea to get his first title last June.
For the Mavericks to repeat as champions, they’re going to need to address three significant free agents: Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, and Barea. For his part, Barea firmly believes he will be back in Dallas to defend his title next season.
“If you want to go by percentages, I think 75 percent I’ll be back in Dallas and 25 percent something else happens,” Barea told Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas. “My first option is going to be Dallas.”
Simply put, Barea is all but unguardable in head coach Rick Carlisle’s system. His job is to come off the bench and create mayhem, running all over the floor dropping threes or penetrating and breaking up the opposition’s defensive schemes. He gained a great deal of national attention during his run with the Mavs, but one wonders how effective he would be in another system that didn’t fit his skill set as well. It would take a team with a great deal of faith in his ability to adapt, as well as a lot of money to lure Barea away from the Mavs.
“I’d probably have to be blown away by a deal to go somewhere else,” Barea said. “The team we have in Dallas, if we keep it together, I don’t mind coming off the bench and starting sometimes and doing what we have to do to win. The team we had last year was incredible. If I go somewhere else, if I’m going to start, that’s not really going to be part of the decision-making.”
For now, Barea is just waiting, like so many others, to see where the labor negotiations go between the NBA and its players.
“I’m going to be patient and I hope that the NBA gets back on track,” Barea said. “I need a little bit of rest. I feel a little bit mentally and physically tired from the tournament. I will have the option (of playing in Spain), but I don’t know if that’s something I want to do yet.”
The best option for Barea, once the 2011-12 season finally gets underway, is to be back in Dallas helping his Mavericks defend their championship. They couldn’t have won without him last year, a fact of which Mavs owner Mark Cuban is acutely aware.
Hill Feeling The HEAT?
Grant Hill is in a tough situation. He and his family are very happy in Phoenix, and he wouldn’t mind retiring as a member of the Phoenix Suns. The losing isn’t even the end of the world, as far as Hill is concerned, and he can envision himself being happy mentoring young players as the Suns enter a rebuilding process.
There’s also a side of Hill that just can’t stand the thought of never again competing for a championship. He’s had a long and arduous career, and had to fight hard to get back to the kind of shape he’s in now. It would be a shame to put in all that work and never even get a shot at the ultimate prize.
Enter the Miami HEAT, who are looking for economical ways to add depth and veteran leadership to a team that was arguably one piece away from winning a title last season. HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy reported earlier today that the HEAT are interested in Hill, and it appears the interest is mutual. Hill wouldn’t leave Phoenix for just any team, but for a team that could very well give him the title shot he covets, he would consider the upheaval that comes with moving your family across the country.
Assuming the next collective bargaining agreement looks at least somewhat like the old one, Hill could sign with Miami for all or part of one of their exceptions, but if the new CBA does away with exceptions it would be pretty hard for Miami to sign anyone of Hill’s ability. His versatility makes him a very attractive piece for any team that’s looking to move a significant step closer to a championship, and if he puts his name out there he will have plenty of offers.
That said, if the HEAT are interested and can come up with the money, they may hold Hill’s best shot at getting a title before he hangs them up.
HOOPSWORLD Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy (Bill Ingram), @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @TommyBeer, @YannisHW and now Susan Bible (@SusanBible).
NBA Chats: There are two NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s senior writer Eric Pincus at 4pm EST. Eric’s chats are a hot ticket so getting in early is always wise. I will be hosting my weekly hoops chat tonight at 8pm EST. Submit your questions here. Anything basketball related is up for discussion. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats/ and if you are looking for Previous Chats, find them here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats/