Sunday afternoon as I tried to nap I received a call from an aggrieved Sacramento Kings fan who upbraided me because the coach, Dave Joerger, had finally started the young, potential-laden five I’d been demanding for weeks, and look what happened: the Washington Wizards outmanned, outmaneuvered, and outshot the local lads to lead at halftime by thirty-one points.
“The Kings played so poorly they forced me out of the house,” groaned Judge. “I’ve already walked two miles on the levee road and won’t return until the game’s over.”
“Just a second,” I said, lumbering out of bed. “Let me fire up the computer.”
“De’Aaron Fox is getting killed by John Wall,” he said.
I noted that Fox had hit but one of seven, while Wall had been smoking three-pointers.
“Don’t blame it all on Fox,” I said, tabulating that my favorite King had combined with three other starters – Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield, and Willie Cauley-Stein – to convert a ghastly two of nineteen from the field. The elder statesman of the quintet, Bogdan Bogdanovic, an NBA rookie at age twenty-five but a veteran of the EuroLeague, second finest in the world, had taken several shots and misfired only once. He’s the most polished young player on the team.
“Do you still want this lineup?” Judge asked.
“Yes, I do, and so do lots of other Kings fans, but we won’t get it after this butt-kicking.”
“It looks like Coach Joerger’s been right to start two veterans, George Hill and Zach Randolph. The guys you want are too young. Fox’s still only nineteen and Skal’s just twenty-one and looks about twelve. Willie’s got to get more aggressive.”
“I see Fox already has a few rebounds and assists, it’s not only points,” I said, weakly. “And Skal’s six-eleven and shoots and moves very well and is already a pretty good rebounder. I’m not sure it’s in Willie Cauley-Stein to be aggressive every game. Not everyone’s a banger.”
“He’s got to be a banger. These guys aren’t ready for the big boys.”
“Fox played well the Kings’ first five games. Okay, he bombed this time. That’s shouldn’t be a big deal long term. What was the problem on defense? He couldn’t stay in front of John Wall?”
The Judge declined specific analysis, preferring to continue to bait me. I stunned and eventually calmed him by agreeing with his zingers. When your chosen lineup has been almost doubled by intermission, modesty is in order. We were still talking as the game ended.
“The Kings outscored ‘em by four points the second half.”
“The Wizards could’ve beaten the Kings by sixty,” Judge stated.
That’s not necessarily the case as teams shell shocked in the first half often adjust while their assailants usually become less intense. I didn’t make that point. In the morning I returned online and in a brief video saw De’Aaron Fox twice position himself on defense almost back to the foul line, leaving John Wall open for shots beyond the arc. Guard a guy loosely and you’ve just added about twenty points to his shooting percentage.
Cancer and nuclear war and the environment are critical issues. The misfortunes of sports teams are not, but they’re so psychologically insistent they seem vital. Coach Dave Joerger is doubtless stewing over his team’s problems. I’d tell him not to worry his team is one and five. The guys he started and who failed Sunday will each improve month by month, if not every week, and collectively they’ll be much better in the spring than they are now. But I’m not sure the Kings currently have enough talent, even when the young guys blossom, to annually lift themselves into the playoffs.