In their struggle to find harmony, NBA teams are subject to many of the same principles as ecosystems. Some are more volatile than others, but all require a considered approach to integrating new components. Spurs fans know this well, having witnessed the easing of a new apex predator into the fold, testing both the system's resilience and an All-Star's adaptability.
The situation in Northern California meanwhile has been in flux for much longer. Coaches and point guards have come and gone amid a change in ownership, and in the middle of it all has been DeMarcus Cousins, a 6'11'' beast with still-unrealized potential.
This past summer saw more instability in Sacramento, with the one-year signing of the mercurial Rajon Rondo and rumblings that head coach George Karl was fielding trade offers for Cousins. The latter left the Kings' franchise player unfavorably making an unfavorable, reptilian association with his newest coach:
— DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) June 23, 2015
Cousins, who's missed four straight with an Achilles sprain, is expected to be back in the lineup tonight. That's good news for the Kings and, really, anyone staying up to watch this game, as Sacramento is simply not a good (or fun to watch) team with him out of the mix.
As Boogie continues to develop his game, a three-point shot has been added to his repertoire. It's unclear as of yet how good of an idea it is -- he went 4 for 5 in his first game but has missed his last five -- but it will be something the Spurs will want to keep an eye on as the big man trails fast breaks. Of course, where Cousins really goes to work is around the basket, where his fancy footwork, soft touch and overwhelming strength have made him one of the toughest in the league to stop.
San Antonio's defense has held up well in its first six games (top five in Def Rtg), but one area where it has struggled is in containing the pick-and-roll ball-handler. The Spurs are bottom five in points scored by the man running the PnR, and though Rajon Rondo isn't a scorer, aggressive play on his part can really open things up for Sacramento.
Kawhi Leonard will get the assignment of stopping Rudy Gay, who can put up 25 on any given night. Leonard's burgeoning offensive game has come to mirror Gay's in some ways, both having the ability to dominate defenders from 16 feet. Whi's already shut down a few of the NBA's best scoring wings, so an off night for Gay could be on the cards.
Rajon Rondo's abominable shooting should allow the Spurs to give Cousins additional attention when he gets the ball down low. Those double-teams could lead to open looks for shooters like Ben McLemore and former Spurs James Anderson (who saw him becoming a starter on multiple NBA teams?) and Marco Belinelli if the Kings are able to move the ball well.
I like the advantage San Antonio has at the power forward spot, although Quincy Acy (if he starts, as he did against Golden State) will do his best to make him catch the ball out of position. It'll also be interesting to see how often the Kings turn to lanky rookie Willy Caulie-Stein to pester Aldridge. Both possess qualities that could rattle LMA, but he was brought to San Antonio to dominate these types of matchups.
The Kings at full strength are a better team than what we've seen so far this year, and their second unit is perhaps underrated, with veterans like Darren Collison (edit: out with a hamstring injury) and Omri Cassipi ready to contribute. This is the type of game a lethargic Spurs team could give away, but I think they'll stay sharp and score with ease against one of the league's more porous defenses.
Matchup to watch: Gay and Leonard will go at each other all night, but the matchup in the paint is also interesting, with Timmy facing Boogie. Duncan will need to rely on guile and experience to slow down Cousins, who will likely be hungry in his return to the court.
|Spurs at Kings|
|November 9, 2015|
|Sleep Train Arena|
|9:00 pm CST|
|Tony Parker||PG||Rajon Rondo|
|Danny Green||SG||James Anderson|
|Kawhi Leonard||SF||Rudy Gay|
|LaMarcus Aldridge||PF||Quincy Acy|
|Tim Duncan||C||DeMarcus Cousins|
The Kings fans' perspective can be found at Sac Town Royalty.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 6.
As always, Tony must dominate Fisher.