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5 Takeaways from Kings vs Trail Blazers

Sacramento lost their home opener on the margins.
By | 48 Comments | Oct 20, 2022

October 19, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) shoots the basketball against Portland Trail Blazers forward Drew Eubanks (24) during the third quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings debuted their 2022-23 NBA regular season at home against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night with a tough loss due to the ‘little things’.

Sacramento shot the ball well (and a whole lot) from beyond the arc, contained Damian Lillard best they could, and got a stellar performance from De’Aaron Fox, but it wasn’t enough.

As for injuries/unavailability, Kings’ rookie Keegan Murray was removed from health and safety protocol that morning which did not allow him to be properly conditioned and ready to go. The two-ways of Keon Ellis and Neemias Queta were inactive as well.

On Portland’s side, Gary Payton II (conditioning), Olivier Saar (wrist), and Trendon Watford (hip) were unavailable.

Let’s dive into the main takeaways from a fun, but ultimately disappointing opening night in Sactown.

1. Rebounding woes

Throughout their four preseason games, the Kings rebounded the ball amazingly on both ends of the floor. In three of their four games, they managed to secure at least 47 rebounds but came out of opening night with just 41 boards compared to Portland’s 44.

That margin may not seem significant, but it’s the offensive boards that really stood out for the wrong reason. The Trail Blazers had 11 offensive rebounds by the final whistle and far too many of those were due to an inexcusable lack of box-outs.

“It’s just communication,” Fox said postgame. “You have to see who’s not on someone or just talk and just find a guy to box out. I mean, they have some elite rebounders… They have guys that crash the glass. Like I said, Josh Hart, Jerami Grant, obviously, (Jusuf) Nurkic, Justise (Winslow) comes in. They’re all rebounders, they’re really good offensive rebounders and we didn’t do a good job at that.”

Winslow brought down three offensive boards. Grant and Nurkic each contributed two. The most baffling is three of Lillard’s four total rebounds were on the offensive end. You can’t allow an opposing 6’2″ guard to kill you there and you definitely can’t allow him to have more total rebounds than Domantas Sabonis.

2. Sacramento’s superior backcourt

Fox had himself a night with a final tally of 33 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds on 12/21 from the field but most importantly 5/9 from beyond the arc. Seeing the Kentucky product knock down triples at a high-rate on substantial volume may have been the most encouraging aspect of opening night. We’ll have to see what carries over into the following showdowns.

His backcourt partner, Kevin Huerter, contributed 23 points of his own on 8/12 from the field and 6/9 from distance. After having a somewhat limited role in a Trae Young dominated offense in Atlanta, it’ll be interesting to see if that sort of point total will become the new normal for Red Velvet.

It’s undeniable that Lillard and Anfernee Simons are the engines of the Trail Blazer’s offense and the Kings successfully slowed those two guys down. They combined for 44 points but it took 40 shots to do so including a combined 4/18 from three.

Those are the guys that you try to take out the game, but Jerami Grant and Josh Hart had great games. And when we’re playing those guys you know that Dame or Anfernee are going to be on the court at all times. You just try to limit what they get. I think we did a good job on playing those two guys. Obviously, they made some deep ones but I wouldn’t say that either one of them won them the game,” Fox said. “I think Josh Hart and Jerami Grant did a lot and then Justice Winslow comes in, gets offensive rebounds, gets second chance points. I think that’s where they won the game. Not their two, star guys.”

3. Sloppiness on offense

One of Mike Brown’s five staples on the offensive end is playing in the “point five”. They want their players making a decision and acting on it within point five seconds of catching the ball. Ball and player movement is a clear priority for this squad and that disappeared far too often in game one.

“What concerns me more than anything else tonight is I thought we held onto the ball too long,” Coach Brown said. “We talked about playing point five basketball and everybody’s trying to go make a play when it hits their hands. We turned the ball over, we fouled, we didn’t execute, we lost the possession game.”

16 turnovers isn’t a number that you like to see, but it’s also not totally egregious and insurmountable. The issue lies in the turnovers being largely unforced and often leading to easy transition buckets for the Blazers on the other end. The one blemish on Fox’s otherwise stellar night was the eight turnovers he committed.

“I don’t think we were great offensively, it’s funny that we had like 27 assists,” Fox said. “I don’t think we were very good offensively today, and I think we got staggered a lot and things like that. But, I think those other key reasons, and then the turnovers, are just reasons that we lost this game today.”

4. Playing physical without fouling

Another one of Mike Brown’s staples on the defensive end is playing physically, but doing it without fouling. That had been a weakness throughout the course of the preseason and continued to hamper their chances against Portland.

We just got to be better. I got to be better. For us, like I said, it’s just finishing possessions,” Huerter said. “They scored too much in the paint. It starts with guards obviously, just containing the ball, being physical at the point of attack, and finishing possessions. I thought there was a lot of broken plays, kind of the shots goes up, bodies flying around, the ball bounces around, it ends up in their hands. They were getting a lot of putbacks, a couple of kickout threes in big moments definitely really hurt us. So, gotta finish possessions.”

KZ Okpala, who started the game, picked up three quick fouls when trying to chase around the crafty Lillard. Domantas Sabonis fouled out late in the game. Fox picked up five personals, Terence Davis had three as well.

On a night when Lillard and Simons are contained somewhat successfully, you can’t gift Jerami Grant 13 free throws. Portland as a team went 26/33 from the charity stripe in comparison to Sacramento’s 13/19 — not great.

5. Domantas Sabonis was quiet

Nobody could have guessed that Damian Lillard and Domantas Sabonis would have ended the night with the same amount of rebounds. And, if someone did, they probably would have assumed that Lillard exceeded expectations there to match Sabonis rather than the Gonzaga big being underwhelming himself.

It’s tough for a big to secure defensive rebounds when the opposing team is penetrating the paint at will and they’re responsible for protecting the rim. It also doesn’t help when so many of the Blazers’ buckets came in transition opportunities. The rebounding issue was team-wide but it’s shocking to see that lack of production from Sabonis and I fully expect that to be an outlier.

He also added 13 points on 5/10 shooting and five assists. I asked Coach Mike Brown about Sabonis’s lack of production following the loss.

“I thought he had his touches. He didn’t score a lot, he took ten shots, he didn’t score a lot but he had five assists. So, he got his touches but I just felt we could have moved the ball, in general, a little bit better, even when he got it,” Brown said. “There were times when he got it and there was a crowd there and he ended up turning it over or our spacing wasn’t good. But, for me, to go back and watch the tape is gonna be something that I’ll be able to speak on a little bit better tomorrow. Because, I know the one time he did get doubled he found De’Aaron in the corner, we hit a three. And, so, we just have — to all of us, including Domas — we just have to believe that that ball is gonna come back to us at some point in time and if we do, everybody is gonna touch it, everybody is gonna feel like they’re apart.”

When De’Aaron Fox was asked about Kevin Huerter’s performance, he went out of his way to highlight how much easier Sabonis makes the game for players like himself and Huerter.

“It really helps that we have someone like Domas. Someone who wants to set screens, wants to get you open, get you the ball in spots that you like, and at the end of the day you just make shots,” Fox said. “And then for us as a team, we just want to touch the paint and if we don’t have a layup get as many kick-out threes as we can.”

The Kings will need to get back to their ball movement in game two against the Los Angeles Clippers this coming Saturday which should lead to a better performance from Domantas Sabonis and an opportunity to get their first win of the season.

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48 Comments
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Convoy
October 20, 2022 3:44 pm

Fox had an ok game. He had 8 turnovers and didn’t have a great final 3 minutes. This team still needs a primary ball handler because in crunch time they whiff.

Brown.says.Good.or.Bad
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October 20, 2022 4:27 pm
Reply to  Convoy

Fox was pretty good

HongKongKingsFan
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October 20, 2022 4:53 pm

He played decent defense this game….

But our 2nd unit need to find ways to score the ball………..

we also need someone able to drive and draw foul……(maybe only TD can do that ?)

Jack
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October 21, 2022 7:10 am

I thought Monk could also do this. I know this might be far out but what about Ellis? He plays defense, shoots the 3 and can drive.

Gregoryl
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October 21, 2022 8:14 am
Reply to  Jack

Monk’s strength appears to be open 3’s. His dribble drives are often chaotic.

Last edited 1 year ago by Gregoryl
Greg
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October 20, 2022 6:38 pm
Reply to  Convoy

I went back and rewatched the final three minutes. This is from the point where it was tied 104-104. Here’s what Fox did:

Fox throws lob to Sabonis, who loses the ball
Fox feeds Sabonis, who kicks out, play ends with TD dunk and tech
Next play Sabonis turns it over with travel
Fox called for charge
Fox three in corner, missed
Fox is the inbound passer for two plays, results in Huerter made 2
Final play Fox passes the ball up the court as time is running down, Monk misses

Rewatching it, Fox wasn’t forcing anything but he also wasn’t passing up opportunities.

Kingsguru21
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October 20, 2022 8:52 pm
Reply to  Greg

If Fox hits that corner 3, the Kings win IMO.
If Murray plays, the Kings win.
If Sabonis has a normal game, the Kings win.

None of those things happened. But Fox isn’t responsible for how poor Sabonis played.

ArcoThunder
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October 21, 2022 12:10 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

“Fox isn’t responsible for how poor Sabonis played.”

He’s not?

Hilarious comments in here man. Hilariously sad. Fox with an excellent game yet he needs to do more, not the other guys that had bad games to their own standards. If either Sabonis or Barnes have an average game the Kings win.

Last edited 1 year ago by ArcoThunder
Jack
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October 21, 2022 7:18 am
Reply to  ArcoThunder

I agree. It’s called teamwork. You have to have confidence on ALL five players on the court not just one. Remember last year when Fox hit Metu in the corner for 3 to win the game.

AnybodyButBagley
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October 21, 2022 12:02 pm
Reply to  ArcoThunder

The whole concept of Fox creating opportunities for Sabonis and Sabonis creating space for Fox depends on Fox passing the ball in the paint.

Jack
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October 21, 2022 7:15 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Or how Barnes played. He is supposed to be the stabilizing force for this team.

eddie41
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October 20, 2022 9:48 pm
Reply to  Greg

there might be a bit of an overreaction. For me, the main issue was the way he complained to the refs immediately before this sequence. I thought it conveyed worry, anxiety, panic … when it was a tie game on opening night with three minutes to go. The two turnovers didn’t help. It’s not a new sentiment. Just a Festivus for the Restofus.

ArcoThunder
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October 21, 2022 12:09 am
Reply to  Greg

The fact that Fox didn’t score 18 consecutive points with 5 rebounds and 4 steals in the final 3 minutes of the game proves he’s a bust and should be traded immediately if the kings ever want to make the playoffs.

Jack
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October 21, 2022 7:22 am
Reply to  ArcoThunder

The guy is human. I always asked my players to be honest and tell me who would take the last shot to win the game. I told them they didn’t have to make it but have the confidence to shoot it. With that most of the time it goes in.

oshima9
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October 21, 2022 12:52 pm
Reply to  ArcoThunder

Fox’s judgment is poor. I’m hoping that Brown will find a way to help Fox improve it.

Jack
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October 21, 2022 7:13 am
Reply to  Greg

You don’t see Huerter’s name mentioned but one time and he scores. He was making 3’s all over the place and he only touches the ball once. I don’t call that teamwork.

Jman1949
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October 21, 2022 7:38 am
Reply to  Jack

The play-by-play on basketball reference shows Huerter took four shots within the last three minutes of the game, so the team found him even if it didn’t involve a pass directly from Fox.

Jack
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October 21, 2022 7:07 am
Reply to  Convoy

In the final 3 minutes I thought we looked just like last year. That was for me one of two things that stood out. In those three minutes we were never in the game. Outscored 11 to 3 and again nobody took it on themselves to remedy what I thought was just like last year. If Fox thinks he is the only one who can solve this then we are in trouble. I thought one of the assets this year was team work not individual scoring. Let us not do what we did last year and stop the curse.

eddie41
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October 21, 2022 10:36 am
Reply to  Convoy

The primary ball handler is already on the roster. Go back to the podcast with Jerry Reynolds somewhere near the beginning of preseason, where he says Davion Mitchell is your point guard. Fox can still be on the court as a shooting guard.

murraytant
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October 20, 2022 5:10 pm

Disappointed and mad. Winnable game. Now have to beat a “good team” to make up for it.

HongKongKingsFan
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October 20, 2022 5:12 pm

I agree wiht point 3………

Where is the motion offense that we saw in pre-season ?

No off-ball movement…….

And I think we should play Alex Len…instead of Holmes…we need some BIG body…….

And Monk is not playing great togethe with Mitchell…
(Monk plays better with Fox)…..

Jack
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October 21, 2022 7:24 am

I would also consider Queta over Len maybe.

BeTheBall
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October 20, 2022 9:42 pm

Hopefully Sabonis pulls a Cousins and puts back on some weight to his “greatest shape of my life” body.

RPO
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RPO
October 20, 2022 10:33 pm

I didn’t see the game so I’ll just accept that all 5 of the issues listed in the article are correct. Those are all signs of an immature team that isn’t ready to compete for playoff contention. Looking just at the box score, the thing that stands out to me is that the defense still sucks. Letting a supposedly mediocre opponent score 115 points means your defense is still nowhere near where it needs to be. I hate to be negative but the team needs to give fans reason to be positive.

RikSmits
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October 20, 2022 11:13 pm

My main takeaways are that we let the Blazers feast in the paint while we were trying to be Warriors-lite by launching more 3 pointers than 2 pointers (44 vs 41).

I understand that rebounding and playing physical without fouling contribute to the paint disparity, but that is only part of the story. It feels to me that we tried to shore up the perimeter defense at the expense of opening up down low. Not a winning formula, IMO, but more imnportantly, an issue that will be difficult to fix with the current roster.

It’s easy to criticize Sabonis’ and Holmes’ rebounding numbers, but I think that it is partly a consequence of team D and team rebounding. When you have to go up to contest a guy penetrating the paint, it’s harder to catch the ensuing rebound. When you are boxing out your man but others swoop in because your teammates don’t, it’s harder to get the rebound.

And when you let your opponent be the aggressor and attack the paint, while you mostly settle for long-range shots, don’t be surprised that there is a free-throw disparity.

Another takeaway is that fans here and on Twitter seem to be putting a lot of expectations on Keegean. I like him a lot and I love his maturity and demeanour, but that is a lot of hope to pile on these young shoulders.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
October 21, 2022 7:21 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Well said.

Jack
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October 21, 2022 7:27 am
Reply to  RikSmits

If you put all your expectations on one rookie then we are definitely in trouble. Just let him play his game and everythng will work out.

oshima9
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October 21, 2022 12:50 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

“And when you let your opponent be the aggressor and attack the paint, while you mostly settle for long-range shots, don’t be surprised that there is a free-throw disparity.”

Expect a lot of complaints from Kayte, Kyle and Mark over the course of the season. I guess I will just have to turn the volume briefly during games.

ArcoThunder
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October 21, 2022 12:35 am

yeah, I’m going to be the guy that says something about the officiating.

Extremely frustrating. Ask yourself this… how many times during that game did you or the announcer ever say or think to yourself “ooooh, the kings got away with one there”? How many times did you see a Blazer complaining about not getting a call or showing any built up frustration with the referee’s? Maybe twice? Kings had several phantom calls go against them. One on Sabonis where he literally didn’t even touch the guy before, during or after the shot attempt has stuck with me. The technical on Davis was bull shit. Fox got hacked several times driving to the basket with no calls. On the other end Fox gets a clean block and is called for a foul. 6 points at minimum were definitely gifted to the Blazers. I can’t recall one point being gifted to the Kings.

Usually I can see throughout a game some bad foul calls going both ways that pretty much even each other out in the big picture. Not this game.

That frustrates me. A lot.

Jack
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October 21, 2022 7:29 am
Reply to  ArcoThunder

Yeah! 33 fouls on us. Doesn’t work out.

andy_sims
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October 21, 2022 9:10 am
Reply to  ArcoThunder

The league needs to make the pool of referees 50% larger, and rotate the clowns out when they perform so miserably.

“You want game pay? Then get your shit together.”

Last edited 1 year ago by andy_sims
AnybodyButBagley
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October 21, 2022 12:05 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Ask players and coaches if they like playing with inexperienced refs in the game.

oshima9
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October 21, 2022 11:04 am
Reply to  ArcoThunder

Bad teams and their announcers complain about the referees. NBA referees do tend to favor the better teams, but the complaints get tiresome. There were many opportunities for the Kings to win against the Blazers, and the players failed to seize them. If the Kings improve, the officiating will as well.

catterj
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October 21, 2022 7:56 am

Good article and good tweets that contains videos. I also love reading the post-game quotes.

  1. Per Second Spectrum tracking, the Kings had 7 box outs, all for defensive rebounding, on which they secured the rebound all 7 times. Seven box outs put them in a 3-way tie for 14th in this young season and would have them at 27th in the league last season. Ya the Kings need to box out more.
  2. Lillard and Simons are probably POR’s best scorers. Lillard’s true shooting percentage was 45.5% and Simon’s was 48.1%. Lillard’s is pretty amazing considering he shot 9/9 from the line (which is a problem though). If the opposing best offensive weapon is a PG or SG, they will have a tough night while Okpala starts. He harasses you until he goes out and then shortly afterward Davion comes in and does the same.
  3. I’m not sure I like the Point 5. I mean, if the team has great chemistry and knows each other’s tendencies really well (like the GSW) then it could work splendidly. But making a decision with 0.5 seconds could be the wrong way to roll with a new coach and a lot of new players.
  4. It’s too bad NBA Stats doesn’t have those little clips they have for a lot of counting stats for the fouls. The refs got some stuff wrong as usual (usual because ref’ing is very hard no doubt) but the Kings were handsy and a little too aggressive this game.
  5. As Brenden said, there were a couple outliers in this game and Sabonis’s 4 rebounds may be his low for the entire season assuming he plays normal minutes. But yeah if he’s the one protecting the rim against a layup, he may not be able to secure the rebound off the miss. Someone else near the basket will have to box out and step up.
Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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October 21, 2022 8:06 am
Reply to  catterj

No. 5 is really an understatement. Sabonis is an elite rebounder and no one else on the Kings really is. You take aways his elite skill by making him the primary rim protector. IMO, Sabonis doesn’t have the size or quickness to do both, like a Gobert or peak Dwight Howard. This is one of the reason the Pacers had him slotted in next to Myles Turner. Let’s hope that Keegan can be that kind of guy on the defensive end of the floor, but man, that sure is a lot to hang on a rookie.

catterj
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October 21, 2022 8:17 am
Reply to  Adamsite

I believe Turner played center on the Pacers though I didn’t watch the Pacers so I could be wrong. By “played center” I mean he guarded the other center who set most of the picks in pick and roll so Turner was the big in PnR defense often. That allowed Turner to defend the rim and Sabonis to come in for the rebound. Again, didn’t watch Pacers so feel free to correct, anyone.

Here’s a possible solution. Execute a pre-switch before opposing PnR with Okpala and Sabonis. That means Sabonis and Okpala switch their man before the screen happens. It wouldn’t be for the reason of your standard pre-switch which is for a good screener defender to then switch onto the ball handler. This would be so Okpala could guard the PnR in drop, at the catch, hedge, blitz or whatever. In drop he’d try to cover the ball handler and the screener.

The question then becomes is Okpala strong enough to cover the screener. He can guard 1-4. Can he guard 1-5? IDK maybe not. But something to consider.

I was hoping the Kings would sign a rim protecting, distance shooting power forward before they drafted Murray. However, those players are in awfully short supply.

Adamsite
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October 21, 2022 9:01 am
Reply to  catterj

I was hoping the Kings would sign a rim protecting, distance shooting power forward before they drafted Murray. However, those players are in awfully short supply.

I think that is who they hope Murray to become. Prior to the draft I had Keegan pegged as a John Collins type player, or someone who can give average a block and close to two 3’s a game. Again, it’s a lot of pressure on a rookie, but Murray has impressed. Murray played quite a bit of 5 in college and showed some defensive chops, in fact far better than Collins did in college.

My hope is Keegan becomes better than Collins and approaches Shawn Marion type weak side help, while remaining a threat from deep on the offensive side of the court. A jack of all trades type of player.

JoeEnzyme
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October 21, 2022 8:07 am

Perhaps Mike and Luke can watch the tape together.

Biscuit
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October 21, 2022 8:33 pm
Reply to  JoeEnzyme

not fair. Brown mentioned watching tape, in passing. It was Walton’s only answer.

catterj
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October 21, 2022 8:44 am

OT: Fantastic article at The Athletic by Amick on Fox – article

Final paragraph:

“I’ve never been the type of person that wants a big market,” Fox said. “(So) if I can go to a small market, and then win, those are the types of things that I feel like are more important to me. It’s being able to bring winning back to the city. That is definitely my goal.”

andy_sims
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October 21, 2022 9:17 am
Reply to  catterj

Very much waiting for some clever person to interpret this to fit their narrative that Fox wants to be traded, is a locker room cancer, is a ceaseless malcontent, and finds Rick’s Dessert Diner “merely adequate.”

Kosta
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October 21, 2022 2:26 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

“Play it again, Sims”

comment image

Thanks for the reminder to visit Rick’s next time I’m back in Sac.

andy_sims
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October 21, 2022 3:31 pm
Reply to  Kosta

I consider such reminders to be a public service.

Ask for an espresso float. If there is a perfect thing in this world, that is it.

Kosta
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October 21, 2022 5:07 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

That sounds perfect, actually. Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

sonny
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October 21, 2022 11:48 am

My takeaways:

1) Take away too many fouls
2) Take away Fox’s turnovers
3] Take away the bad officiating
4) Take away Fox’s late game decision making
5) take away the lack of aggressive rebounding

and we WIN the game

JoeEnzyme
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October 21, 2022 5:07 pm
Reply to  sonny

I agree with all 5. Having said that, if we take away the Kings shortcomings, for the sake of hypotheticals, then we also have to take away the Blazers shortcomings, and then we would be left with NBA Finals Legends. 🙂

Scorliss_In_Sacramento
October 21, 2022 10:44 pm

Fox was fun to watch but 8 turnovers is totally awful in my opinion. Isn’t it? I think this is being overlooked.

He’d have to have something like 60 points on efficient shooting for me to call this a ‘good’ game with 8 turnovers.

andy_sims
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October 22, 2022 1:46 am

Overlooked, indeed! They were only mentioned four other times in this thread!

Shape up, idiots. You’re allowed to be critical of De’Aaron Fox.

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