KINGS 122, OKLAHOMA CITY 118 (OT)
Hard to believe, but that noon tussle between the Kings and the Oklahoma City Thunder was one of the more entertaining outings of the season. I dunno. Maybe the Kings function better in the a.m.? There wasn't much defense played by either team, which is consistent with the fact that both teams rank near the bottom in stats and standings. But there is something to be said about watching talented youngsters (Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson) race up and down the court, learning as they go. Durant is spectacular, of course, but watching Westbrook penetrate, find people and make plays reinforced my belief that the Kings' most glaring deficiency is at point guard. They desperately need an athletic playmaker, and one with the quickness and desire to defend the ball. Until Geoff Petrie obtains one via trade, free agency, the draft, their major issues will not be resolved. The fact that Kevin Martin is a prolific scorer but uninspired defender - even though he should be able to collect at least a few rebounds and play the passing lanes - compounds matters. Beno Udrih would be best utilized as a backup point guard (see his Spurs days) or as a combo third guard, and for whatever reason, rookie Bobby Brown isn't providing a change of pace, lift off the bench. And he certainly shows no inclination toward pressuring his man and disrupting an opponent's offense. One other observation about Westbrook: his footwork is exceptional.
Other postgame thoughts:
* With Udrih out with a calf injury, Francisco Garcia played a lot at the point, and he responded with one of his most poised all-around efforts: 17 points, five rebounds, seven assists - and of greatest significance - only one turnover.
* The Kings were outrebounded 51-43, but Spencer Hawes seemed to respond to Kenny Natt's repeated pleas to "rebound, Spencer!"
* Further evidence of the Kings' inability to stop the ball, especially on the perimeter: Westbrook converted 20 of his 22 free throws, the most by an opponent in the Sacramento era. And the hits just keep on coming ...
* I am already impressed with one thing about the Thunder's Scotty Brooks as one of the interim coaches hired for the duration of the season. A few days after replacing his friend, P.J. Carlesimo, Brooks, a first-time head coach, made calls around the league, asking about experienced assistants. He ultimately hired Ron Adams, the longtime NBA assistant and former head coach at Fresno State.
* Shelden Williams went to Duke, so he has to be a smart guy. So I am still wondering why he hasn't figured out that he could enjoy a long, lucrative career as a bruiser. Though undersized as a power forward/center, he has a wide, muscular body. When he concentrates on rebounding and providing an interior presence instead of scoring and holding onto the ball, he is an effective role player.
* Was it only an eight-game losing streak? Geez, it seemed longer.
* OK, a final vent: We used to accuse the "old" Kings of complaining too much about the officiating, but this bunch is relentless. The veterans continue to set a lousy example for Hawes and Thompson, both of whom have too much to say about calls and non-calls. Enough already.