Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

December 26, 2011
Kings-Lakers: Five things to watch

The Kings' season tips off in a few hours. Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

1. Can the Kings take advantage of Andrew Bynum's absence?
The Lakers center will be serving the second game of his four-game suspension for clotheslining J.J. Barea in the playoffs last year. Pau Gasol slides over to center, alongside Josh McRoberts, making for a less imposing frontcourt than when the 7-foot Bynum is on the floor. It's an opportunity for the Kings to attack the rim, and for DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings' frontcourt to be active on the glass. Cousins needs to make good decisions with the ball and stay out of foul trouble against Gasol.

2. Can John Salmons keep Kobe Bryant in check?
Bryant showed little effect from the torn ligament in his right wrist in the Lakers' opener against the Chicago Bulls. Nobody expected Kobe to sit out, but he even eschewed significant protection on the wrist while scoring 28 points on 12-of-23 shooting and adding six assists. The Kings' re-acquisition of Salmons was partly a defensive upgrade and he'll be tested out of the gate. Salmons will likely spend much of the game on Bryant.

3. The Kings must take better care of the ball.
In two preseason games, the Kings had 47 turnovers. That number needs to come down, and fast. Yes, the early struggles are due in part to the abbreviated training camp, players still getting comfortable in the offense and with each other, etc. But the Kings won't win many games this season giving up possession 23 times. Players cited carelessness in ballhandling after their second preseason game.

4. Will Jimmer Fredette have an impact in his debut?
The rookie Fredette figures to get significant minutes as the first guard off the bench behind Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton. He was 11-for-20 from the field in two preseason games (and 6-for-9 from beyond the arc). Fans will clamor for him to hoist up a shot every time he touches the ball; the Kings will count on him to help spread out the Lakers defense and may call on him to facilitate the offense at times.

5. Opening-night jitters.
As has been well-documented, it looked as though this game might not happen. The Kings were going to move south. The cowbells were destined to go silent. But the team's 2011-12 season opens tonight at Power Balance Pavilion, and the significance of this is not lost on players who were here for last season's emotional finale against the Lakers. The team has advertised a "black-out" to mirror its new black jerseys and emotions will likely again be riding high. It will be imperative for a young team to play composed against the experienced Lakers.

-- Matt Kawahara

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