Los Angeles Lakers: Isaiah Thomas

Lakers vs. Kings: What to watch

November, 11, 2012
11/11/12
4:36
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
With so much tension swirling around the Los Angeles Lakers since their poor start, it wasn't shocking to see a lot of energy channeled into a walloping Friday win over Golden State.

This was a team clearly in need of a cathartic release, and Mike Brown's dismissal, whether consciously or not, provided the outlet. Collectively, the roster exhaled.

But with those circumstances no longer providing fresh adrenaline, it will be interesting to see how the Lakers conduct themselves.

The Kings are dealing with their own struggles, but they have enough talented -- if likely mismatched -- players to potentially keep their hosts busy. With a serious test against San Antonio looming on Tuesday, it would be great if the Lakers capitalized on the chance to continue building momentum.

For perspective on Sacto, I conducted an IM exchange with James Ham from the TrueHoop network's Cowbell Kingdom. (It should also be noted our conversation took place before the NBA suspended DeMarcus Cousins two games for a confrontation Friday with Spurs commentator Sean Elliott.) Below is the transcript.

Andy Kamenetzky: Like the Lakers, the Kings have come out of the gate 2-4. What's been your general impression of the team?

James Ham: The Kings are a young team and while they are much improved, they still make a lot of mistakes. Like the Lakers, they have a lot of new rotational pieces and they are still searching for the right mix on the floor. At 2-4, the Kings shouldn't be down on themselves. They very well could be 3-3 or even 4-2. They have been extremely competitive in almost every game so far.

AK: Sacto's defensive numbers have been pretty good, despite coming off a season in which they were among the league's worst in most categories. Byproduct of a sample size, or has this team legitimately improved the lockdown?

JH: They have improved greatly on the defensive and it's only going to get better as they continue to build chemistry, especially on rotations. DeMarcus Cousins is developing into a very high-quality post defender, but he has had issues with foul trouble. The addition of James Johnson was huge, but the biggest difference so far this season has been the effort of Tyreke Evans. He is developing into an elite perimeter defender in the mold of Andre Iguodala.

AK: The Lakers have trouble hanging onto the ball and aren't the world's greatest team defending in transition. The Kings have done a good job inducing steals this season, but how successful are they at converting turnovers into points?

JH: The Kings should eat the Lakers alive in transition. Both Evans and Marcus Thornton are great finishers on the break. Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks are lightning quick, and Jason Thompson is a very underrated big who can really get up and down the floor. The Kings like to push the tempo. They are much better in transition than they are in the half court. Defense and rebounding sets up the transition, so they need the defense to work to make the offense work in many cases.

Who will be coaching the Lakers tomorrow against the Kings? It sounds like Phil Jackson is ready to come back into the fold.

AK: Save an unexpectedly fast resolution, it will Bernie Bickerstaff ... who, by the way, boasts the greatest winning percentage in franchise history!

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Kobe Bryant needs 38 points in Thursday's regular season finale against the Kings to capture this year's scoring title over Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.

Bryant has said repeatedly over the last few days he doesn't particularly care if he wins. The Lakers are expected to sit at least some of their starters for most, and perhaps all, of tonight's game -- totally meaningless as far as the standings are concerned -- but Mike Brown said Wednesday he'll give each player the option to suit up or not. Meaning if he chooses, Bryant can lace up his Kobe VII's and see what comes of it.


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US Presswire
If Kobe Bryant wants to get the scoring title, he's absolutely entitled to try.


Should he?

With the playoffs starting Sunday, plenty of Lakers fans would prefer Kobe kick up his feet and relax. Having spent seven games in street clothes with tenosynovitis in his left shin and only now getting back into the lineup, why risk injury in a game that doesn't matter? The better safe than sorry logic is pretty clear. Some might even consider playing just to get a scoring title selfish, putting personal glory ahead of the team's best interests.

They'd be wrong. If Bryant decides to sit, or play a quarter or a half, that's fine. I'd love to see him in street clothes, where nothing can go wrong, but if he wants to go as long as it takes to get that 38th point, more power to him. No player in the NBA works harder on his game or his body, both requiring more will with each passing year, or tries harder to win. At 33 years old, with 16 seasons under his belt and the equivalent of about 2.5 more in playoff games, to lead the NBA in scoring would be a remarkable accomplishment, particularly given Kobe's position on the floor.

I believe Bryant when he says it's not very important and resting would certainly prove his point, but if he changes his mind nobody should hold it against him. There is room in team sports for individual honors and accomplishment, particularly for players who have put in the hours Kobe has. It's not the ultimate prize, but still a pretty good one.

As for the rest of the game ... well, there's just not that much to watch. There could be significant burn available for Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris, and eyes will be on Devin Ebanks, suddenly thrust into a potentially prominent role this postseason. Plus, Lakers fans (at least those who haven't been hanging at D-Fenders games) will get their first look at Christian Eyenga, acquired in the Ramon Sessions deal on deadline day. With Metta World Peace suspended and Matt Barnes out with an ankle injury, the Lakers are thin at small forward. If you ran out and bought an "88" jersey right after the trade, Thursday is your day.

Jordan Hill gets a chance to follow up on his outstanding game Sunday against the Thunder, as well.

That's about it.

As for the other team, our man Jonathan Santiago at TrueHoop's Cowbell Kingdom (Tweet him here, Tweet them there) was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, looking back at another lottery run in Sacramento ...

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Lakers vs. Kings: What to watch with Cowbell Kingdom

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
10:49
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Some teams are greater than the sum of their parts.

Other teams are the Sacramento Kings.


Rocky Widner/Getty Images
DeMarcus Cousins can jump over Blake Griffin, who can jump over a sedan!


They're littered with intriguing, exciting, and athletic components. DeMarcus Cousins oozes potential. Tyreke Evans is as tough to keep out of the lane and off the line as anyone. Isaiah Thomas has shined since entering the starting lineup. Marcus Thornton can score in bunches. Jason Thompson has plenty of athleticism for a near seven footer. Unfortunately, each has his own flaws (Cousins is immature, Evans a marginal shooter, Thornton inefficient and still somewhat one-dimensional, Thomas inexperienced, Thompson short on high-end skills) and put together the package lacks cohesion offensively and any coherence at the other end.

After losing Thursday night to the LAC, Sacramento is 12-23, dead last in the Pacific, exactly where the Kings have finished in four of the last five seasons. Still, all that talent makes them a dangerous opponent -- Sacramento is one of the league's most potent teams in transition -- particularly with Miami coming in Sunday. Can you say trap game?

To get a little more insight into Keith Smart's gang, we hit up Jonathan Santiago, one of the esteemed princes lording over TrueHoop's Cowbell Kingdom, with some questions . . .

1. How has adding Isaiah Thomas to the starting lineup impacted the Kings?

Santiago: The Kings have picked up their pace. In five of the six games Thomas has started, Sacramento has scored 100 or more points. For a team loaded with offensive talent, crossing the century mark has been an issue this season for the Kings. Unlike rookie counterpart Jimmer Fredette and now starting small forward Tyreke Evans, Thomas has always been a point guard and that's led to a seamless transition to the pros.

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 4.9 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2