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Kings vs Trail Blazers Preview: The Hope and Helplessness of Love

The regular season has arrived. Lord help us all.
By | 56 Comments | Oct 19, 2022

The mornings in Sacramento have grown colder, the takes of the dedicated few of us that remain have grown warmer, and the hype for our Sacramento Kings has reached a boiling point for the second straight season. It’s the basketball equivalent of the whistle from a kettle meant for fall’s first cup of hot tea, hearing hope fly from the lips and thumbs of Sacramento Kings fans – the regular season is upon us and all that remains is to imbibe, and pray we don’t get burnt.

Management has spent the summer attempting to rectify last season’s overconfidence and those subsequent hires have made quick work of putting their culture of accountability, their expectations for winning into the hearts and minds of players and payers alike. Here at the start of an inevitable heartbreak, we hope yet again. 82 games between a dwindling yet fierce fandom and the end of a near two decades of failed predictions and those acute April chest pains that accompany unpaid keep-laughing-you’ll-see’s.

Are you ready?

No, take a second. Take another.

Go back a line, go back over the last sixteen years and take a few breaths.

Are you ready?

Good. I knew you were. Let’s go.

When: Wednesday, October 19th, 7:00 PM PST

Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA

TV: NBCSCA – Kyle Draper (play-by-play)

RadioSactown Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

A Renewing of Vows: Completely closing the book on last season’s catastrophe of a season would require a handle crank and more brute strength than any three Sacramentans have. The initial overconfidence, the hot start, the immediate fall, the Puke Walton game, Haliburton trade, Fox injury… that season was a breaking point for more than a few people. If you might excuse a bit of unintended self-promotion-for-a-grander-point, The Kings Herald raised $12,500 in the final 30 games of the season for local charities just based on how fed up fans were. Everything good about this season will come from a direct comparison to last year’s and if the Kings find themselves in that old familiar place again this time around? These last two years might be seen as the death rattle of a one proud fanbase.

I had a playful inkling to just copy and paste last season’s opener preview into this one. After all, the hype is similar, the wild-eyed, nearly frenetic tension of the consequences of another failure still hits, hell, Sacramento is even playing the same team to start this whole thing off. It takes 15 backspaces and 13 keystrokes to delete Davion Mitchell’s name and add Keegan Murray’s name to the hopeful Rookie of the Year and it would be cathartic as hell to remove the likes of Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield and Luke Walton from the text and add in names like KZ Okpala, Kevin Huerter and Mike Brown. Both groups have earned that treatment. In the end though, I’ve got roughly 82 of these to write and if I start short-cutting you all now, I won’t make it past the first three game losing streak of the season. The pull on the leash from that ever attentive, bit-chompin’, blinking black cursor at the top of my screen can feel sluggish on day’s like today – knowing that this is the first of eighty-two premeditated robberies of my only life’s precious time. After eight seasons of this, half the current losing streak of the Kings, taking up the yolk of public fandom again, attempting to make a team marked by unremarkability just a little more watchable, can make one pace an extra minute or two before sitting down and say what needs to be said.

The Kings have playoff aspirations and a team, from top to bottom, coach to two-way contracts, just good enough to potentially reach those goals. Monte McNair, Wes Wilcox and company have remade the team in the image of one that can weather the storms of playing in the Western Conference. They’re deep by Sacramento standards, talent-ladened, hungry. Unlike previous seasons, management and the coaching staff aren’t just saying the right things, they’re acting on those sound-bites and showing some early returns. Our Kings are playing defense, our Kings are supporting each other… I’d mention the Kings going undefeated in preseason but they did that last year and look where that ended up.

McNair has gone against the conventional grain twice this summer and it might just pay off huge for this team. In selecting a multi-time retread in Mike Brown, the fear was Brown was the safest choice, who wasn’t as risky as the home-run swing young guys, but not necessarily on his last leg like a few interested legacy coaches. Brown was nowhere near the top of my list. He has been an incredible surprise during this off-season, bringing the energy of the franchise up nearly by himself. Screaming when others scream, sprinting to lead by example, being tough without being an ass, being kind without babying, Brown is set to helm a team that has bought into him, and a fanbase he’s absolutely begun to win over.

The night Keegan Murray was selected over the presumptive 4th best player in the draft, Jaden Ivey, there was that familiar nervous “hope they know what they’re doing” feeling. Neither young player has added much to the pages of what I hope are both storied careers, but I will contend, I was wrong to be as nervous as I was. Keegan Murray has done nothing but come out and be incredibly impressive in his time as a Kings and while he may not end up being the 4th best player in a redraft 5 years from now, he may truly still end up the best player for the Kings.

The other additions, the Huerter’s, Monk’s, Okpala’s, have all added to the culture and vibe of this team. Hard workers, players with something to prove. Culture takes time to grow but I’ve seen nothing to feel a sense of ease about the players that round out the difference makers of this roster.

None of what we’ve seen transpire in the last few months will matter if the Kings win 30 games again. More than last year, more than anytime since maybe 2003, if the Kings can’t live up to expectations, they’re doomed, maybe irreparably so. Now, I assumed that last year, and here I am like a fool still hacking away at this preview a year later but I truly don’t know how much more the rank and file fans have left to give to a franchise that has left them unfulfilled for so long. Hiring good guys with strong sound-bites can subsist a population during an off-season, but wins are the nutrition of the fandom and they near starvation.

And yet, here we are. Thin in the hips and long in tooth but with arms up, hands wide open at a door that’s remained shut for a decade and a half, ready to eat. Our love for this team dragging us to our breaking point, testing the tensile strength of our mettle, with the belief that relief is always just one more move away. Feast or famine, here we are.

Feast or famine, here we stay.

Home Again: I can talk about the game for a second here. The Kings being at home is a nice touch and starting their season with four of their first five at home might soften the blow of how hard these first five games will be. Keegan Murray doesn’t sound like he’ll be available tonight, but hey, I just praised the team for being deep up there, they’ll have to adjust. It’ll be curious to see how long a guy like KZ Okpala can hold the starting spot after Murray’s return too. A team with playoff aspirations rarely has to rely on a guy who play 10-15 minutes the previous season and yet here the Kings are, hoping KZ can set the tone defensively to start. His storyline will be one of great interest around the league if the Kings can come out of the first 20 or so games above the .500 mark. The Kings smacked the Blazers in preseason and the Blazers haven’t really looked good in any of the games they played. I think they’ll be hovering with the Kings come the end of the season, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if they wound up in the high lotto with Dame finally moved for a ransom somewhere else.

This is long enough already. My apologies, friends.

Prediction

The Kings win 39 games, beat the 9th seed and the 8th seed and take the #1 seed to 6 games in the first round of the playoffs. I shave my head, we all watch Ladybird together sometime in the off-season and the vibes go absolutely bananas by this time next year.

Dame scores 30, it ain’t near enough.

Kings: 124, Blazers:107

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Jman1949
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October 19, 2022 12:33 pm

It’s the Blazers, but this time for real.
No Keegan, but still we could steal.
Our defense has looked good
When we play as we should.
“One and 0” would be a big deal!

Klam
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October 19, 2022 12:48 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

Yeeeeeeeeeeees! Jman pre-game rhymes are back!

sonny
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October 19, 2022 1:36 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

There is a team that’s out of luck
Because of Vivek and Divac

But we’re winning this year
If V. can just stay clear

Else, OMG and WTF!?

RobHessing
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October 19, 2022 1:59 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

The once was a man from Mumbai,
whose Sac. basketball team he did buy.
He’s given us no reason
to show up for post-season,
I just hope for one night we won’t cry.

TerzoM
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October 19, 2022 2:42 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

For so many years
All you m-fuckers
Fucking non-believers
Bunch of internet whiners
Let’s have a great Saboner Home Opener!
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Last edited 1 year ago by TerzoM
UpgradedToQuestionable
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October 19, 2022 4:29 pm
Reply to  TerzoM

To believe with more rhyme than reason
Has been a Kings fan lament every season
for sixteen long years
we’ve smiled through the tears
Here’s to a 17th more teasin’ than pleasin’

Kosta
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October 19, 2022 2:08 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

It’s the first game of the season
and for some fans there’s no pleasin’
But Dame’s going down
because of Coach Brown
And my ugly frickin’ cat face is going to be cheesin’

Carl
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October 19, 2022 2:46 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

There once was a genius named McNair
Whose brains matched his lack of hair
We’ve had lots of talks
Keegan, Domas and Fox
Will finally give us a reason to care!

Last edited 1 year ago by Carl
Jman1949
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October 19, 2022 3:09 pm
Reply to  Carl

Have to say that it’s about time
To see so many Kings fans rhyme.
Now Will’s preview threads,
As this habit spreads,
Will rise to a level sublime!

sonny
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October 19, 2022 8:21 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Some poems rhyme
Some don’t

RobHessing
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October 19, 2022 12:38 pm

We’ll tonight be a dream or a dud?
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(I could really use TerzoM’s help here.)

TerzoM
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October 19, 2022 1:10 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Home Run or Home Ruin?
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I’ll only catch 2nd half – but go Kings!!

MichaelMack
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October 19, 2022 12:38 pm

I really think the hiring of Brown has the chance to significantly alter the course of the franchise. I had known he was liked and respected, but I did not realize his leadership skills were so strong. I am going to be very interested to see what this team looks like twenty games in and rotations have become set and players are comfortable. My expectation is that at the very least they are going to be competitive and fun to watch, and will probably finish the season with 40-43 wins and be a very popular league pass team with multiple games of 20 3’s made.

sonny
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October 19, 2022 1:56 pm
Reply to  MichaelMack

Agree with you Mike.

Brown is the best hire.
I’m sure he’ll pull Fox out if he makes a very dumb defensive lapse. Or when he doesn’t pass the ball on 3 and 1 fastbreak situations and instead force a shot against a defender like what he did late in the 1st qtr of the first preseason game.

Fox is our lead PG and if he doesn’t make a leap this year- fundamentally, that is – then he’ll continue to be the player I want out asap just like how i felt about Buddy Hield years before.

MichaelMack
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October 19, 2022 12:42 pm

I forgot to say, terrific work Will. I can’t wait to see your previews and Mirann’s recaps with a competitive team.

Kosta
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October 19, 2022 12:45 pm

LET’S GO!

I’M GONNA KICK THAT FOOTBALL AND YOUR FACE WITH IT, LUCY!

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RobHessing
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October 19, 2022 12:47 pm
Reply to  Kosta

Let’s hope that Mike is smarter than his brother Charlie.

Klam
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October 19, 2022 12:50 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

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Kingsguru21
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October 19, 2022 1:06 pm
Reply to  Klam

The one from Adult Swim was better.

Marty
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October 19, 2022 12:51 pm

Glad to be reading one of Will’s previews again, truly the best in the business.

Last edited 1 year ago by Marty Marty
Klam
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October 19, 2022 12:52 pm

Season’s officially starting….go Kangz!
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ZillersCat
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October 19, 2022 1:08 pm
Reply to  Klam

After 16 seasons, we got next ..
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Last edited 1 year ago by ZillersCat
RobHessing
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October 19, 2022 1:10 pm
Reply to  ZillersCat

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Klam
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October 19, 2022 1:20 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

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JackassCentral916
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October 19, 2022 12:58 pm

Good to have you back Will. Go Kings.

OG_Aggie
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October 19, 2022 1:01 pm

Great read. I never thought last year was the year. But with every addition being an improvement over the subtraction, I think this might finally be the time. And, aren’t we all glad we don’t have to clench up every time Buddy Hield is in the game? We don’t have to say to ourselves “Moe Harkless is starting?” Watching Luke look lost? Seeing nice guy Alvin Gentry inherit a shitshow and somehow almost making it worse?

I’m pumped for the streak to end. But I’m also pumped that this is a group I can honestly root for. Hell, they even have an Aggie.

Kingsguru21
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October 19, 2022 1:05 pm

A+ preview, Will. I’l save the other half of this for another preview. Possibly Saturday!

Klam
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October 19, 2022 1:06 pm

The Kings win 39 games, beat the 9th seed and the 8th seed and take the #1 seed to 6 games in the first round of the playoffs. I shave my head, we all watch Ladybird together sometime in the off-season and the vibes go absolutely bananas by this time next year.

I will make sure you won’t forget this if the Kings make the postseason, Will!

Kosta
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October 19, 2022 1:39 pm
Reply to  Klam

Right there with you, Klam

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Last edited 1 year ago by Kosta
RowJimmy
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October 19, 2022 1:24 pm

Title say it all “but wins are the nutrition of the fandom and they near starvation.” Bought in making the trip to G1 to yell Defense! from the lower bowl in my Small Market Big Heart t-shirt. Great write up Will. Ditto Marty…Best in the business. Let’s Go Kings!

Adamsite
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October 19, 2022 1:28 pm

Is this the first “must win” game of the season?

In all seriousness, this is one of the games I had tabbed as one of the 4-5 wins out of the first 10 games. It’s a hard start to the season so a win tonight would really set thing off on the right foot. Sadly, a loss tonight could see this team very easily going 0-5 to start the year, which last happened during Walton’s first season.

Klam
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October 19, 2022 1:39 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Yeah, gotta get out and running. Hopefully if they can get a home W tonight it can help kick things off in the right direction for this stretch of hard games.

catterj
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October 19, 2022 1:56 pm
Reply to  Klam

I wouldn’t call it “must win” in your typical sense by which I mean significant consequences (elimination) if not won. Maybe must win for fans to not be tearing their hair out a few games in.

This may be too early but since we’re talking about the first 5 games, what do you think the odds are Kawhi sits against the Kings on Saturday? The Clippers play the Suns on Sunday and the talking heads I listen to say Kawhi won’t play any back to backs anymore. If so, LA might say we can probably beat the Kings without Leonard then play him against PHX to prevail there. That would be good for SAC obviously.

Adamsite
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October 19, 2022 2:04 pm
Reply to  catterj

I’d argue the Clippers, without Kawhi, are still better than the Kings. They are my dark horse favorites to come out of the West this year. They are an impressively deep team. They also finished 12 games ahead for Kings last year with no Kawhi all season, and just 31 games with PG13.

MichaelMack
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October 19, 2022 5:29 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

I really feel like Ty Lue is the secret sauce there. He can really make use of that interesting roster, and their might be trades available if they wanted to package some depth for a top tier talent. I think the Clips and NO are the both equipped if someone unexpectedly shakes loose during the season.

Carl
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October 19, 2022 2:55 pm
Reply to  Klam

Yeah, gotta get out and running. Hopefully if they can get a home W tonight it can help kick things off in the right direction for this stretch of hard games.

You know what helps in a time like this?
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Last edited 1 year ago by Carl
Kosta
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October 19, 2022 3:53 pm
Reply to  Carl

Once I stopped going to the buffet
I got buffER!

RobHessing
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October 19, 2022 2:00 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Let’s just hope that it doesn’t wind up being a must wince game.

catterj
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October 19, 2022 2:00 pm

Couple things I’ll be looking at. Most of these can be verified after the game, but I’ll be watching to see how they feel too.

  1. Does Brown stagger Fox and Sabonis and what is the plus/minus for their various segments apart and together?
  2. How many threes do Fox and Sabonis attempt, what is the 3P%, and how do they look?
  3. If KZ starts, how does that look offensively and defensively?
  4. What does the Kings defense look like? PnR defense – which coverages are used? Help defense – do they do it well?
  5. How many free throws at what percentage?
andy_sims
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October 19, 2022 2:23 pm
Reply to  catterj

I don’t think a one-game sample is going to tell us anything definitive about rotations, how many threes any given player might average over the season, or much of anything else. If Huerter gets hot and hits eight out of fifteen attempts from three, I’m not going to assume that Brown has given him license to fling up fifteen attempts per game.

My hope is to see the players effectively use the defensive scheme that the new coaches have created, and do so consistently. Whether or not that happens tonight isn’t going to tell us anything worth knowing about the next game or the entire season.

catterj
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October 19, 2022 2:41 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

I don’t think a one-game sample is going to tell us anything definitive about rotations, how many threes any given player might average over the season, or much of anything else.

Agreed. I didn’t say we’d learn anything definitive about anything or how players will play or be allowed to play for the entire season.

These are just the things I’m watching in the first game and for the first few most likely though some things will come in and some present today will likely fall off.

MichaelMack
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October 19, 2022 5:33 pm
Reply to  catterj

How do you feel Cutter about Sabonis/Fox being staggered.

I am hoping they play together as much as possible. I think having a bench of Monk and TD, as well as Davion, has plenty of firepower to maintain pace and shooting for 6th-9th men, and Holmes is a plus offensively at the five.

I am really hoping Sabonis and Fox bring out the best in each other and play together.

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October 19, 2022 6:53 pm
Reply to  MichaelMack

Right now, I’d like to see them staggered at least some, so they have a very good playmaker on the floor at all times. I’m not there on Davion being a sufficient playmaker yet. Monk surprised me with how crafty he is, but I don’t see it there either. Brown also appears to want to have the same big at the high post running Splits action or DHOs even with Holmes and Len who are not well suited to it IMO. If one of those two centers are going to be doing that, it’d be great to have Fox in case the Splits or DHOs break down.

I’d also like to see some Fox and Monk time and with Monk generally being a sub, there won’t be much of that unless Fox exits early and comes back in when Sabonis sits (and Monk is playing).

Hippity_Hop_Barbershop
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October 19, 2022 2:09 pm

Lets go Kings!! Turn on the fuckin jets!!

andy_sims
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October 19, 2022 2:14 pm

I don’t recall having anything like high expectations a year ago, based on the fact that Lose Walton was calling the shots. There was just no hope of good things happening under his careful watch.

The preceding sentence has been brought to you by irony.

But I wouldn’t call last season disastrous, just based on the fact that several positive steps were made during the season. Canning Walton. Acquiring Sabonis at no cost to draft capital. Roster maneuvers that made it possible to get Monk and Huerter over the summer. A foundation was being laid down, it’s just that we had to watch a lot of lousy basketball being played on it.

And it got us to Mr. Mike Brown.

The NBA is a tough room, and becoming a climber is flippin’ hard. Not nearly as hard as the organization has made it, but tough, nevertheless. Still, other teams have done it, some of them again and again while we’ve languished.

We sit at a justifiably hopeful point here on opening day. The roster is better. The changes on the coaching staff are such a large improvement that science hasn’t got a number large enough to quantify it. The GM has absolutely crushed the draft selections, and is operating with a plan that makes sense to most of us. We can feel good about it, all the while knowing that a season without any extra games is hardly an impossibility.

It’s a huge step to climb, but the people involved aren’t intimidated by the effort to get there. This season may only result in a bunch of smaller steps being taken, but I feel really good about the likelihood of them being made in the right direction. If the team plays consistently smart team defense, the Kings are going to be in games, win or lose, and no one is going to get a big smile on their face when they see Sacramento on the schedule.

Tonight’s game isn’t going to tell us much in regard to the season, as one data point among eighty-two. It may be difficult to make a clear-headed assessment after ten games, or half-a-season, but we will have indicators to help us understand what the big picture is rounding into.

I remain, as ever, a pessimist at heart, which is great because I get to combine always being right with always being disappointed. I’m most joyous when I’m wrong, because it means something good has happened. But now, at this moment, I am hopeful, because there are actual reasons to feel that way. Almost any result could emerge, for better or worse.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

Want2win
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October 19, 2022 2:34 pm

Am I on the correct site? I’m confused by the optimism and positivity!

Go Kings!!!

BeTheBall
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October 19, 2022 2:45 pm

The firing of the horrendous Luke Walton directly after the game where a fan vomitted a Stand By Me amount of stomach contents all over the basketball court, will come to be known as one of the defining moments in Sacramento Kings history. When my son asked me what happened, I recall bluntly explaining to him “the man has simply had enough”.

andy_sims
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October 19, 2022 3:06 pm
Reply to  BeTheBall

That, he most certainly did.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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October 19, 2022 3:09 pm
Reply to  BeTheBall

If things start going very well for the Kings, we may all look back at that moment and realize it was the turning point for this franchise.

Thank you puke man, thank you.

Kosta
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October 19, 2022 3:58 pm
Reply to  BeTheBall

It’s kind of crazy how one tiny thing can lead to a big change.

Take, for instance, the war of San Fernando Valley that broke out the last few years. Dojo against Dojo.

ALL BECAUSE MIGUEL’S YAYA HAD DiAHRREA

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Last edited 1 year ago by Kosta
jay14bay
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October 19, 2022 3:21 pm

We are spoiled around these parts with all the great KH writers. This is a fantastic piece – and just for a game preview. Well done, Will.

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October 19, 2022 4:26 pm
Reply to  jay14bay

Agreed. When I finished, I found myself immediately saying, “now THAT was a game preview!” Well done, Will.

BabalooMagoo
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October 19, 2022 5:01 pm
Reply to  Nodaclu

Man does know how to write…

Adamsite
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October 19, 2022 5:51 pm

OT: I might never get over loosing Hali, but I sure hope Domas can change my heart.

https://twitter.com/NBA/status/1582895491481849857

andy_sims
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October 22, 2022 1:55 am
Reply to  Adamsite

That shit was gorgeous.

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