To preview the Dallas Mavericks game against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, we've brought in SB Nation's very own Tom Ziller, one of the giants of the NBA blogosphere who doubles as a die-hard Sacramento fan over at Sactown Royalty, for a Q&A.
1) First off, congrats on keeping the Kings in town.As a Sacramento NBA fan, you've got a real closeview of the dark underbelly of the American sports model in the last 2 years. What's it look like down there?
You know, the current sports model is broken. We're seeing it in the Bay Area with the Niners, Raiders and A's, too. The city of Sacramento got a good deal here, principally because the entire plan was generated by the city in a partnership with one particular developer. The city also had a pretty solid benchmark: they needed to the deal to be comparable for the NBA team to the Anaheim deal that the team had on the table last spring. But it obviously wasn't this straightforward in Sacramento in 2006, or in Seattle. Unfortunately, the model isn't going to change because it works so well. It'll take a spate of awful Sonics-like relocations to get any of the league's to change. Even MLS can get stadiums built for them now by threatening to leave! (Or, in the case of the San Jose Earthquakes, by actually leaving.)
2) Back to basketball, the Kings had a real "inmates running the asylum" feel over the last few years. How has Keith Smart done as coach and you do think he's a long-term answer?
I don't think anyone knows whether Smart is a long-term answer -- there's a certain honeymoon period in the player-coach and coach-fan relationship that won't end before the year's up. But after Paul Westphal? What a huge difference, particularly in unleashing DeMarcus Cousins and in trying something different with Tyreke Evans. One other thing that I love about Smart is that he's abandoned Westphal's fetish for always having a veteran in the starting five. Westphal gave us Desmond Mason and Ime Udoka and Antoine Wright and John Salmons as starters. The oldest player in Smart's starting five is 25-year-old Jason Thompson.
3) DeMarcus Cousins has put up some pretty impressive stats since Smart took over. How is his developmental process going and what do you think his ceiling is?
Cousins has been unreal. It's hard to put a ceiling on a kid so young (21), so productive (top-5 in double-doubles) and with so much refinement to add. I think he can be the league's best offensive center in a few years, and I don't think he'll at all be a drain on defense. (He leads the league in charges drawn.) I'm almost positive he'll be an All-Star by his fifth season at the latest.
4) Tyreke Evans, conversely, hasn't been able to match his rookie season in the two years since. He'll be an RFA
after next season; what's his future in Sacramento?
Evans' future here is still to be determined -- the real need for the club is a true small forward who isn't horrible, which would move Evans to a more natural SG spot. How good can he be there? That's a complete mystery. While the Kings love to make critical decisions early instead of letting things unfold, I think they'll let Evans' early extension slide this summer and wait until 2013 to make a decision on how much to pay to keep him.
5) What's been going on with the Jimmer? I like Isaiah Thomas, but a late second-round pick jumping a lottery pick in the rotation can't be a great sign.
Jimmer has been pretty good in the last few games, albeit off the bench behind Isaiah. He's passing well, he's shooting well -- the problem for Jimmer has been that Sacramento doesn't have many good passers (and arguably no great passers), and we know it's a learning curve for scorers to understand NBA speed and size. Even Kevin Durant had to adjust to the special physical circumstances of the NBA, and he's Kevin fricking Durant! Jimmer is getting there, and I think he'll have a nice offensive leap next season. Defensively, he's just as much of a problem as everyone said he'd be. That's probably going to keep him in a bench role going forward.