Articles | Game Preview

Kings vs. Rockets Preview: The Gravity of Collapsing Stars

The Sacramento Kings will be without Tyrese Haliburton as they face off yet again against a Houston Rockets still playing each game on eggshells.

Welcome to 2021, which is the same as 2020 except your favorite rookie is injured and all the holidays fall on inopportune days for your work schedule now! If you rushed straight to read my preview and didn't stop to look at the front page, Tyrese Haliburton has been diagnosed with a bone bruise after suffering a nasty fall on a contested dunk attempt in Thursday's loss to the Rockets. He's going to be out at least this game and will be evaluated later in the week. So where does that leave the Kings? Houston's at full strength, with John Wall looking further along in his game than many thought possible after his Achilles tear, and Christian Wood is looking like the steal of the off-season. Are the Kings so reliant on the rookie from Iowa State that those bemoaning the injury are correct in that the Kings chances at a win fall drastically? Probably not, but I doubt I further explain in the body paragraphs! Let's talk Kings basketball.

When: Saturday, January 2nd, 2:00 PM PST

Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

TV: NBCSCA & NBATV -  Mark Jones on the call.

RadioKHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

The Slow Dimming Light From a Time Once Bright: Thursday's game against the Kings marked the very first time this season that James Harden was able to run with the full squad that new Houston GM Rafael Stone had spent all off season bargaining and begging his way into. Obviously, Harden has been ready for a change since right about the time Daryl Morey left and in a league as player friendly as the NBA is, that means he's gone. Maybe not tonight, maybe not next month, but the divorce is happening, the differences are irreconcilable, Tillman Fertitta, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Christian Wood, and the whole city of Houston be damned. The return for Harden will be substantial and any rebuilding done in his absence will be well on its way with the bevvy of draft picks, role players or young stars that the Rockets acquire for him. I have to say that watching these Rockets, even though they're mostly cast as villains or the science experiment gone too far, makes me feel pity or a tinge of sadness for the team and its fans. While Harden can annoy the most even-keeled of fans, his craftiness, versatility on offense and his back of tricks allowed the Rockets to be this sometimes insane amalgamation of parts. They were a science experiment gone right, right up until the minute it always went wrong. They challenged the Warriors in a Western Conference Finals for the ages, but will only get remember for missing 27 straight threes.

I tend to love the freaks and weirdos and while I never had that attachment to the Rockets themselves, the boundaries they pushed were right up my alley. I loved that they gave the extreme a chance and Harden was the key to making it work for as long as it did. But now, it's over. The mad scientists have moved on and he's left in a mess, somewhat of his own making. He lived in a near perfect situation for the last decade, where everything was suited to capitalize on his talents and now, now that's sure to change. Regardless of whether he stays or goes, no team will ever rely so much on him as a singular entity. This isn't to say that he won't be important or the biggest star etc. only that he couldn't bring a championship to Houston by himself, he couldn't with Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook, he won't with John Wall. Houston fans are seeing what is more than likely the last games of Harden in a Rockets uniform and either waiting for the other shoe to drop or hoping for some miracle that changes Harden's soul back into a comfort in his current situation. I feel for Rockets fans. Isn't that rich? The guy who roots for a team that hasn't been relevant since Steve Nash was winning MVP awards feels pity for a team that would arguably still beat this Sacramento team without James Harden playing. But it's true.

Would you still cheer for Harden pulling out a closer-than-expected win if you thought he would be doing it for another team soon? How hollow do those wins feel, knowing the championship window was slammed shut by the same man who opened it? There's plenty of blame to pass around so who gets the brunt of it - Fertitta the cheapskate or Harden the malcontent?

Toss onto the fire two stars on the wrong end of their careers and both trying to prove themselves after devastating injuries in Wall and Cousins and you have a dramatic and melancholic picture. Once stars worthy of grand gestures themselves, these two were brought in as an overture to the continued changes this new regime would make for Harden, to please him by bringing in friends or those who might fit a little better, lessen the load either on or off the court. It won't be enough and whether its this season or next off-season, Harden will be gone and they'll be left as aging trade chips once again, ready to move on to the next team willing to give them a shot. A welcome wagon torn down to scrap, sent somewhere else to rebuild something far less interesting, much more stable.

I rarely rooted for the Houston Rockets, but I will still be disappointed to see the experiment die once and for all.

Fun Fact of the Day, Brought to You By the Sacramento Kings: According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Kings 455 points through the first four games is the most points scored in the first four games in the Sacramento era and the second most in franchise history. The most? 486 points in 1960-61, Oscar Robertson's rookie season.

Prediction

Buddy Hield goes for 7+ threes, DeAaron Fox orders up a 30 piece feast and Cory Joseph continues to do just enough to allow Luke Walton the excuse of playing him heavy minutes.

Kings: 117, Rockets: 105

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ElRonToro
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January 2, 2021 11:06 am

I think Joseph’s minutes fade away when Jeffries returns. Fingers crossed.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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January 2, 2021 11:12 am
Reply to  ElRonToro

I don’t think Jeffries will be back before the trade deadline. A grade 3 sprain is pretty serious.

Last edited 1 year ago by Adamsite
ElRonToro
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January 2, 2021 12:42 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Now I’m crushed! Don’t take away my Joseph won’t be playing soon dream on the second day of 2021! This is the year where good stuff is suppose to happen.

Jman1949
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January 2, 2021 11:09 am

Still in Houston to start twenty one;
Glad that two thousand twenty is done.
This year’s for rebuilding
And some windmill tilting,
But Tyrese being out spoils our fun!

FarmerGuy
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January 2, 2021 11:37 am

Bagley must step up in games like these when a key cog to our offense like Hali is missing. This is where the rubber meets the road for showing his growth. The 1-9 FG from last game will not cut it.

530-rain
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January 2, 2021 2:31 pm
Reply to  FarmerGuy

disappointing that he got none of those defensive rebounds that would have completed a stop. And his fouls are him being out of position. His Bball IQ and awareness is just terrible. Having Team Bagley in his corner to blow his head up is definitely not helping either.

SMF-PDXConnection
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January 2, 2021 11:49 am

What are we going to do without our GROOT?

Greatest

Rookie

Of

Our

Time

KDsBurnerAccount
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January 2, 2021 12:42 pm

Kyle Guy isn’t a rookie, silly!

itsjabby
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January 2, 2021 1:58 pm

James Harden out?

KDsBurnerAccount
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January 2, 2021 2:06 pm
Reply to  itsjabby

It’s okay, we don’t have our Superstar Halli as well.

Jokes aside, Kings have a GREAT chance to start off 2021!

Kosta
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January 2, 2021 2:05 pm

CURSE YOU, LEAGUE PASS/NBATV!!!!
comment image

FarmerGuy
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January 2, 2021 2:09 pm
Reply to  Kosta

I had to buy the nba tv/league pass and the CSN package on sling to ensure I wouldn’t be blacked out from half the games. Again, why are there blackouts when fans cannot go to the home games?

Kosta
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January 2, 2021 2:11 pm
Reply to  FarmerGuy

I feel your pain, FarmerGuy.

FarmerGuy
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January 2, 2021 2:07 pm

Does no James Harden make this a must win game to show this kings team is better than the last couple of years?

KDsBurnerAccount
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January 2, 2021 2:20 pm

Ugh, another Bagley strip…

BuffaloDiaspora
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January 2, 2021 2:22 pm

Yellow, green, blue, red
I declare a game thread

ajon_es
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January 2, 2021 2:22 pm

John Wall finding his 3 point stroke this season.
Bagley with the multiple point blank misses…

530-rain
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January 2, 2021 2:25 pm

Bagley is like 0-3 for contested rebounds. He has terrible hands.

BuffaloDiaspora
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January 2, 2021 2:25 pm

The Kings somehow look completely helpless and also have a lead. Very strange feel thus far

RikSmits
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January 2, 2021 2:32 pm

6 shots in 6 minutes for Bagley. If he keeps that up at these percentages I hope he will play less than 24 minutes.

530-rain
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January 2, 2021 2:33 pm

Holmes with a great man dunk. And Bagley stays sitting and barely clapping while everyone else celebrates. I really can’t stand him.

GFunkClassic
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January 2, 2021 3:27 pm
Reply to  530-rain

And he took 5 gulps of gatorade. While everyone else is good with 3 gulps. The nerve of this guy

RikSmits
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January 2, 2021 2:44 pm

Oh how I missed the DMC reactions to fouls called against him (not).

BuffaloDiaspora
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January 2, 2021 2:47 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

I am fully expecting him to get a technical foul or 2 just to recreate the full Boogie experience for Kings fans

RattleSeattle96
January 2, 2021 2:53 pm

Why does Luke pull Fox every 5 minutes. Hard to build a rhythm.

BuffaloDiaspora
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January 2, 2021 3:05 pm

Does anyone get stripped in the post more often than Bagley? He needs to do something about how he holds the ball or take up rock climbing to strengthen his grip or something

BuffaloDiaspora
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January 2, 2021 3:07 pm

Nice dish by Bagley there though

WizsSox
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January 2, 2021 4:03 pm

It’s flipping infuriating. I feel like he would get 4-5 more pts a game via either foul or finishing.

FarmerGuy
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January 2, 2021 3:10 pm

Seems a little like the refs are calling two different games with the foul calling.

KDsBurnerAccount
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January 2, 2021 3:44 pm

Kings playing uninspired ball right now. Losing to a Rockets team with no Harden and a rusty Wall/Cousins. This is the first game this season that feels ‘boring’. Might have something to do with Halli being hurt

deepshot22
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January 2, 2021 4:16 pm

Wall is anything but rusty.

Kangz_Landing
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January 2, 2021 3:48 pm

See how much of a difference Haliburton makes?

2nd unit without Fox has no creativity whatsoever and there’s been ZERO pick and roll success with Holmes at all.

Kangz_Landing
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January 2, 2021 3:54 pm

Fox needs to TAKE OVER. They have ONE point guard and he’s coming off major surgery. Attack the rim!

satdawg
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January 2, 2021 4:09 pm
Reply to  Kangz_Landing

He ain’t a dog like John wall

MidtownMike
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January 2, 2021 3:56 pm

Zero planned offense in the 3rd… Pure iso garbage. What are we paying offensive coaches for?

jwalker1395
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January 2, 2021 4:03 pm

Now realizing that the greatest benefit of Tyrese Haliburton’s game is that he takes the ball out of Buddy’s hands

deltarich
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January 2, 2021 4:03 pm

For the love of god get CoJo off the court already. Offense is a damn mess

Pistola916
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January 2, 2021 4:03 pm

This game is over, just waiting for Rockets to go up 10pts.

Even if Harden wasn’t on the team, they are still a better team than the Kings. Kings had their chance to get a split on Thursday and blew it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Pistola916
satdawg
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January 2, 2021 4:03 pm

take Cory out goddamnit

Kui
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Kui
January 2, 2021 4:09 pm

No energy and refs

deltarich
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January 2, 2021 4:10 pm

Kings earning this loss. Just ugly basketball this half

ForKingsandCountry
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January 2, 2021 4:12 pm

Tyrese Haliburton is the best player on the team. Some folks might think this is a hot take but I’m not sure it is. The team is so much better with him on the floor it’s night and day. Oh and put Corey Joseph in a rocket ship and launch him into the sun. He is just awful.

TheFrenchChocolate
January 2, 2021 4:12 pm

The fact that a 20 years old rookie is by far the highest IQ player of the team says a lot unfortunately

Kangz_Landing
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January 2, 2021 4:13 pm

Scorer’s table has stalled our fast break/tempo at least 4 times these past 2 games. Also, refs waiting for the shot to go in or not to call shooting fouls for the Rockets.

These games have been garbage in terms of officiating.

Not the only reason or the biggest reason we’re losing but this has been trash.

ajon_es
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January 2, 2021 4:14 pm

Such a different game without Hali. No rhythm, no ball movement. I was getting tricked into thinking a few guys were actually good – Joseph, Bagley etc. but really it was just the young Cyclone elevating all their games. He can’t come back soon enough

deepshot22
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January 2, 2021 4:15 pm

Why hasn’t Parker even seen action so far this year?

ajon_es
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January 2, 2021 4:16 pm

51% FG% in 1st half to 21% FG% in the 2nd half. Yikes.

deltarich
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January 2, 2021 4:17 pm

2 points this quarter LOL

TheFrenchChocolate
January 2, 2021 4:17 pm

I feel bad for Fox, Holmes and Barnes who actually tried to compete.
It should be so frustrating to watch ugly iso ball, no spacing and no pride on defense from most of their teammates

deltarich
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January 2, 2021 4:20 pm

23 points by the Kings this half. Yikes

Kangz_Landing
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January 2, 2021 4:27 pm
Reply to  deltarich

Give credit to the defensive juggernaut Houston Rockets tho.

Shutting down offensive powerhouses Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield. Not letting them playmake at all. Great plan.

Kui
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Kui
January 2, 2021 4:25 pm

Losing Hali is much tougher to us than Harden to Houston.

Pistola916
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January 2, 2021 4:25 pm

I’d take NBA vagabond and G-league legend Christian Wood over Mr. No. 2 overall in a heartbeat

Last edited 1 year ago by Pistola916
GFunkClassic
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January 2, 2021 4:38 pm
Reply to  Pistola916

Seems unwise, although Wood is having a breakout year. Wood is 25. Has had 4 seasons to find his rhythm and strength in the NBA.

Timmy_13
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January 2, 2021 4:25 pm

Christian Wood is who Marvin Bagley should aspire to be.

TheEffortPolice
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January 2, 2021 4:30 pm
Last edited 1 year ago by TheEffortPolice
Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
January 2, 2021 4:35 pm

comment image

Klam
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Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
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Nostradumbass 18
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January 2, 2021 4:37 pm

LaVar Bagley chiming in again…

Kosta
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January 2, 2021 4:44 pm

LOL, what does he want? The offense to run through his son? To build the team around his son? What are the Kings doing that is holding him back so much that he thinks a different team is going to free him?

I agree, though. Trade his ASAP.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kosta
GFunkClassic
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January 2, 2021 4:45 pm
Reply to  Kosta

I think he wants some 4th quarter run in games he’s playing decent in.

Carl
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January 2, 2021 4:59 pm

This tweet has been deleted, but if it’s a trade demand, I think the Kings should accommodate him. Bagley has zero BBIQ or self awareness, and I’m not sure how that changes with his father constantly filling his head with nonsense.

Klam
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January 2, 2021 5:06 pm
Reply to  Carl

It indeed was a trade demand, lol.

Kangz_Landing
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January 2, 2021 4:30 pm

11 assists to 15 turnovers

SelecaoKOJ
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January 2, 2021 4:43 pm

Wall made it clear. He doesn’t want to be compared to Fox. Lol!

Mike120
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January 2, 2021 4:53 pm

Dummy me. I was watching the Oregon-Iowa State game thinking the kings came on at 5:00 PST. To be tied with Houston at the half then hold them to 38 in the second half and lose by 8. Glad I missed it. Then Team Bagley asking for a trade? F them. He has to earn his minutes and he’s not really done anything to deserve starter minutes.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mike120
sonny
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January 2, 2021 4:56 pm

The Kings lack of halfcourt offense is the team’s biggest problem.

This is attributable to the coaching staff’s (poor) halfcourt offensive schemes,
or the consistent bad execution by the players, or the low BBIQ of the players asked to execute those offensive sets. Or worst, the combination of all three.

The Kings thrive solely on fastbreaks, transition and open basketball.
So when fouls, turnovers or any stoppages by either team occur to alter their rhythm or the pace the game, low BBIQ players can’t be productive. There’s usually no off-the-ball movement. No cutting or intentions to make the extra pass . So irritating to watch.

thrive only fast pace basketball. The fastbreaks and transition

sonny
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January 2, 2021 4:57 pm
Reply to  sonny

forgot to delete the last line. Sorry.

GFunkClassic
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January 2, 2021 5:00 pm

Has coach addressed the Bagley 4th quarter strategy in any pressers? I’m just curious what’s going on. Seems like no matter how good or bad he plays, it won’t be in the 4th quarter, and won’t be over 25 minutes a game.

Carl
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January 2, 2021 5:02 pm
Reply to  GFunkClassic

To be fair, Bagley has had about one good half of basketball all season. His stat line is horrific. Passing still terrible, inefficient, bad shot selection.

GFunkClassic
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January 2, 2021 5:06 pm
Reply to  Carl

I don’t think that’s being fair at all. Passing has been much improved. I haven’t seen too many bad shots, actually the opposite, a lot of good looks he should be making but he’s not.

Carl
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January 2, 2021 5:22 pm
Reply to  GFunkClassic

SSSI-approved, Bagley’s shooting perentage is 37.5%, his three point percentage is 31.3% and and he has six assists in six games on 26.2% usage. His usage to assist ratios have been all time bad for high usage players every year of his career, and this year has been terrible as well.

I see Bagley charging into double teams and barreling into the rim hoping for a foul call. His one good half was really good, and then his dad mouthed off and he put in one of the worst games of his career.

I appreciate his effort, and he can be a good rebounder. His shot actually looks good. I think 50% of the problem is in his head. To have a chance to actually improve, Bagley needs to start listening to his coaches and stop playing selfish low-BBIQ basketball.

Just as a point of comparison, Richaun Holmes is not out there to pass the ball. But Holmes is at 15.0% usage and 8.2% assist percentage for the year. Bagley’s usage is 26.2% and his assist percentage is an almost identical 8.6%. Bagley is half as likely to help a teammate as Richaun Holmes, who’s job is to rebound and put up shots close to the rim. It’s embarassingly bad, and hasn’t meaningfully improved in three seasons.

Last edited 1 year ago by Carl

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