Archive for the ‘Sacramento Kings’ Category

Kyle Lowry blowing by Steve Nash is something we hope to see at the ACC on January 20

In one of the more anticipated days of the summer for basketball junkies, the NBA announced its’ 2012-2013 schedule on Thursday, and as usual, there are some games that obviously stand out from the rest.

While I doubt the Raptors are featured in many, if any, of those games for the casual NBA fan, we’re here to cater to Raptors fans. And with that, here are the games we think you should circle on the calendar:

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James Johnson

Don’t ask why I was awake at four in the morning, but that was when Marc Stein tweeted and then posted to ESPN.com about James Johnson getting sent to Sacramento for a future second round pick. The trade clears $2.8 million off the Raptors’ 2012-13 payroll, so this could be a precursor to another move — either that, or the Raptors simply wanted to do whatever it took to ensure Johnson wasn’t on their roster next season.

There was some kind of altercation between Johnson and Raptors coach Dwane Casey in April that resulted in him being benched for a couple of games. We never really got specific details about what occurred that led to this pseudo-suspension, and neither party has been forthcoming about those details. After Johnson missed the second game, Casey mysteriously said, “We chose as a staff not to play him. We’re going to build the program the right way, we’re going to do things the right way, and we’ll go from there.” It turns out “going from there” entails dumping him for essentially no return.

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The races at the top of the conferences and battles for playoff positioning haven’t left us with much to get excited about on the final day of the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 NBA regular season.

But for fans in New Orleans, Sacramento, Cleveland, New Jersey Brooklyn, Golden State and Toronto, what happens on the final day of the regular season could shape the future of each franchise.

Heading into Thursday’s slate of 13 games, the Bobcats and their potentially worst record of all time have locked up the NBA’s 30th seed, and a 25 per cent chance of winning the Draft Anthony Davis lottery. The Wizards, meanwhile, are locked into the 29th spot, and a 19.9 per cent chance of winning the Unibrow sweepstakes.

Where it gets interesting is that the Hornets, Kings, Cavaliers, Raptors and Nets are separated by just one total game between third-worst and seventh-worst in the league standings. In terms of lottery percentages, that’s the difference between a 15.6 per cent chance and a 4.3 per cent chance.

The Raps, Nets and Warriors are separated by just one game between sixth-worst and eighth-worst, which would be the difference between a 6.3 per cent chance of winning the lottery and a 2.8 per cent chance.

From a Toronto perspective, the Raptors and Nets head into their season finale matchup tied at 22-43. Whichever team wins that game will either finish seventh-worst or in a tie with the Warriors for seventh and eighth-worst. The losing team, on the other hand, would still have an outside chance at a four-way tie for the league’s third-worst record.

If you’re wondering, in the event of a tie in the “lottery standings,” the tied teams would share the total number of combinations that the positions take up. So, for example, if the third-worst team gets 156 combinations, the fourth-worst gets 119 combinations, the fifth-worst gets 88 and the sixth-worst gets 63 combinations, that’s 426 total combos to be shared among four teams (106.5 each).

However, according to the NBA Draft Lottery’s wiki page, “Should the average number not be an integer, a coin flip is then used to determine which team or teams receive the extra combination(s). The result of the coin flip is also used to determine who receives the earlier pick in the event that neither of the tied teams wins one of the first three picks via the lottery.

Based on how confusing some of this can become, the fact that certain slottings may come down to a coin flip, and the fact that we don’t really know which combination will come up on lottery night, I’m not going to come out and start talking about how this is a “must-lose” game for the Raptors (or Nets).

Example, imagine the Raptors win tonight, finish with the seventh-worst record, but then end up with some lottery luck and snag a top-three pick. Well anything outside of a top-three pick means New Jersey’s pick goes to Portland (because of the Gerald Wallace deadline day trade), so the Nets would then be left to think about how a win in game no. 82 actually would have saved their pick.

The point being that while I obviously want the Raptors to finish with the best possible chance at winning the lottery, or at the very least moving up, I’m just as worried about being careful what I wish for when at the end of the day, we’re dealing with a lottery.

Here’s how the schedule looks for the teams Raptors fans should be keeping an eye on tonight:

Nets @ Raptors (22 wins each) 7 p.m.

Hornets: 21 wins, @ Houston 8 p.m.

Kings: 21 wins, hosting the Lakers 10:30 p.m.

Cavs: 21 wins, @ Chicago 8:00 p.m.

Warriors: 23 wins, hosting the Spurs 10:30 p.m.

And here’s the breakdown of the lottery percentages for the positions the Raptors can finish in:

3rd-worst: 156 combinations, 15.6% chance

4th-worst: 119 combinations, 11.9% chance

5th-worst: 88 combinations, 8.8% chance

6th-worst: 63 combinations, 6.3% chance

7th-worst: 43 combinations, 4.3% chance

8th-worst: 28 combinations, 2.8% chance

Best case scenario, if the Raptors lose to the Nets and get wins from New Orleans, Sacramento and Cleveland, they’ll end up with a 10.65 % chance to win the lottery.

Worst case scenario, if the Raps win and the Warriors lose to the Spurs, they’ll end up with a 3.55 % chance.

I heard History Television may televise these games tonight instead of running an episode of Greatest Tank Battles.

Game No. 11: Kings 98, Raptors 91

Another ugly one for a small crowd at the Air Canada Centre to “enjoy” on Wednesday night, as the Raptors lost at home to the Kings for the first time since 2004.

Both teams were slow and sluggish early and made a run or two in the middle of the game, but the difference was that the Raptors never had a response for Sacramento’s burst in the fourth quarter. Say what you will about Toronto missing Andrea Bargnani down the stretch (strained left calf, left the game in third quarter), but the Kings were missing their leading scorer (Marcus Thornton) for the entire game.

Random note: This is the first time in four back-to-back-to-backs in franchise history that the Raptors finished with a losing record (1-2) and also the first time they lost the back end of a three games in three nights stretch. In the 50-game 1999 season, the Raps swept one back-to-back-to-back and went 2-1 in the other two.

Here are six thoughts on a brutal contest:

1- You want lockout basketball? You got lockout basketball. The Kings were playing on the back-end of a back-to-back after getting blown out on Tuesday night in Philadelphia. The Raptors were on the back-end of a back-to-back-to-back after being easily handled by the previously winless Wizards in Washington. Did it ever show for both teams? Toronto and Sacramento combined to shoot 64-of-161 (39.8 per cent) from the field and 13-of-44 from three while committing 30 turnovers and recording just 33 assists. It was a matchup of two tired young teams already low on quality, and neither team did much entertaining.

2- Andrea Bargnani continues to prove that he has improved and evolved. The bad news is obviously that Bargnani was forced to leave the game in the second half with what the team is calling a strained left calf and the fact that he was shooting just two-of-13 up to that point, but there were bright spots in Andrea’s game on Wednesday. Bargnani was putting in work on the defensive side of the floor, was driving the net and getting to the line on the offensive side, and most importantly, grabbed 10 rebounds in 26 minutes for his second double-double of the season. We’re now 11 games and over two weeks into the season, and instead of seeing his play slowly drop off, Bargnani actually seems to be elevating his game each day. Hopefully his calf strain isn’t serious enough to derail what is looking like a potential All Star campaign.

3- After nearly a year out of the lineup recovering from microfracture surgery, Linas Kleiza surprised all of us by suiting up and playing against the Kings. Kleiza was reportedly never healthy last season for the Raptors, which might be the reason he never really left his mark on the team and often looked like an inconsistent chucker. I loved the fact that Kleiza’s first NBA touch in over 50 weeks was a strong drive to the basket and the fact the he looked fearless throughout. It’s just one game, but Kleiza didn’t look tentative or worse for wear in his 14 minutes of inspiring action. It’s no surprise that one of the only bursts of life the Raptors showed in this game came when Kleiza first checked in, helping the Raps to a 14-2 run.

Rasual Butler couldn’t hit a soccer net right now and Gary Forbes has failed to impress in the limited minutes he has seen so far, so this is a golden opportunity for Kleiza to earn his starting spot back and for the Raptors to start a Linas Kleiza/James Johnson platoon at small forward.

4- From the good vibes of Kleiza’s return to the miserable vibes surrounding DeMar DeRozan. I wrote earlier this week that DeRozan’s performance against the Nets and 76ers last weekend was one of the worst two-game stretches of his young career. Well he followed those games up with a combined seven-of-27 performance against the Timberwolves and Wizards. On Wednesday night against the Kings, DeRozan finished with 13 points on five-of-nine shooting, but it was much, much worse than those numbers suggest. DeMar was sluggish for most of the game, had no movement at all on offence, no fight on defence and carried a very defeated body language around. After averaging 18.5 points on nearly 50 per cent shooting and showing off a dramatically improved three-point shot through his first six games, DeRozan has regressed to 8.8 points on 30 per cent shooting in his last five games, while going zero-for-seven from deep during that stretch.

DeRozan is lacking confidence and looks weak. He has to find a way to fight through this and get back to playing the way he is capable of, or what looked to be an innocent slump over one weekend could become a season-long nightmare.

5- After being one of the weak links in the team’s recent struggles, the Raptors’ bench finally came through with a worthwhile performance, outscoring the Kings’ bench 43-26. Most of that had to do with Leandro Barbosa’s 24 points off the pine, but Kleiza, James Johnson and Ed Davis all gave the Raptors something. Speaking of Ed Davis, I would have liked to see a lot more of him in this one, as the young big man finished with six points and six boards in just 12 minutes.

6- A quick note on the Kings. I know they’re the youngest team in the NBA, but I really think they should be better than they are. Young or not, they have a ton of talent in guys like Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton, J.J. Hickson and others. If Keith Smart can get this team playing the right way, playing team basketball and getting Cousins’ head on straight, I honestly think they can surprise some folks in the Western Conference. They’re probably not ready to compete for a playoff spot just yet, but I don’t think they should be one of the worst teams in the NBA either.

Raptors Player of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 29 Min, 24 Pts, 11-18 FG, 2-5 3PT, 1 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO

Kings Player of the Game: DeMarcus Cousins – 39 Min, 21 Pts, 6-11 FG, 9-11 FT, 19 Reb, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 5 TO (Cousins also came through with the quote of the night: “I’m out there just grabbing balls.” Amazing)

So here’s something scary to think about when you go to bed tonight: The Raptors next nine games are against the Pacers, Bulls, Hawks, Celtics, Blazers, Clippers, Suns, Jazz and Nuggets, with the last four coming as part of a Western road trip.

“Tank-Nation” has to be rejoicing right now.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Rasual Butler, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
Sacramento: Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons, J.J. Hickson, DeMarcus Cousins

Injury report

Toronto: Jerryd Bayless and Linas Kleiza are day-to-day.

Sacramento: Marcus Thornton will be a gametime decision whe Chuck Hayes is expected to miss another 3-4 weeks.

The cavalcade of court calamities continues! Tonight, the 3-7 Kings visit the Air Canada Centre where the Raptors will be playing their third game in three nights. Surprisingly, seven other teams have played back-to-back-to-backs before tonight and the T-Wolves were the first to lose that third game when they fell to the Bulls last night. So… I’m saying there’s a chance.

The Kings are 0-4 on the road this season with an average losing margin of 23 points in those games. You’d think that would make the Raptors heavy favorites tonight, but here’s my counterpoint: last night’s loss to the Wizards. I know, you were trying to block that out, weren’t you?

DeMarcus Cousins and Jimmer Fredette rank in my “top 10 “NB players I enjoy watching as long as they’re not on the team I’m rooting for”. Also, the Kings will probably start three players who are shooting less than 40 percent from the field — Fredette, Salmons and Hickson. If Thornton doesn’t play and the Raptors still lose this game, members of “Tank Nation” can probably stop worrying about the Raptors overachieving their way out of the top half of the top half of the 2012 lottery draft picks.

Random thoughts…

  • Grantland forced some poor guy to watch last night’s wretched Raptors-Wizards game and write about it. The best part: “Before the second quarter began, the Toronto broadcast team discussed a graphic depicting the Raptors’ injury problems. Jerryd Bayless would return in a week, Aaron Gray was two weeks out, and Linas Kleiza would see action in the ‘near future.’ In other words, help is not on the way.”
  • Um, I guess it’s too early to bury Kobe Bryant. He scored 48 points against the Suns last night and did this.
  • I already posted this on Twitter so you might have seen it already, but this mashup of “My Little Pony” and Wu-Tang Clan is spectacular. I won’t embed it here because it surpasses the number of n-words I’m comfortable with for an embedded video on this site, but I will link it because it’s pretty, pretty, pretty good.