Sacramento Kings Returning to Respectability With Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins

Sacramento Kings Returning to Respectability With Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins Sometime around mid-December of last year, a strange development began in Central California: The Sacramento Kings were finally, at long last, mediocre.

After three years of abymsal finishes in the Pacific Division, they had waited a long time for a .500 record, and when they started off 14-16 through 30 games, the future looked bright in Sacramento. Of course, the Kings eventually regressed and finished last again, but with Tyreke Evans and his young supporting cast still growing, they’re on the right track. This year should continue the trend.

2009-10 Record: 25-57 (fifth in Pacific Division, 14th in Western Conference, missed playoffs)

Celtics’ record vs. Kings:
173-11 all time, 2-0 last season

Familiar faces: Paul Westphal (played for Celtics between 1972 and ’75, now coaches Kings)

Key additions: DeMarcus Cousins (draft), Hassan Whiteside (draft), Pooh Jeter (free agent, played in Israel previously), Samuel Dalembert (traded from Sixers), Darnell Jackson (traded from Bucks), Antoine Wright (free agent)

Key losses: Andres Nocioni, Spencer Hawes (both traded to Sixers for Dalembert), Jon Brockman (traded to Bucks for Jackson)

Burning question: Is DeMarcus Cousins the most NBA-ready talent in this rookie class?

If you watched Cousins at all during his one-and-done campaign at the University of Kentucky, you know what he’s capable of. He’s got an NBA-ready body at 19, and he can beat you in any number of ways. He can score from the mid-range, he can take it to the hole, and he can draw contact and get to the free-throw line. If there were ever a 19-year-old kid that could put up 20 and 10 in the NBA, then Cousins is that kid.

The Kings need him to prove it right away. They finished last in the Pacific Division last season despite starting the year with tremendous promise, and they need one more big-time impact player if they’re going to make the leap in this tough Western Conference anytime soon.

Last season, the Kings produced a Rookie of the Year, the franchise’s first since Phil Ford won one with the Kansas City Kings in 1979. Tyreke Evans put up over 20 points, five rebounds and five assists last season in his first year out of Memphis, putting him in an elite class of rookies alongside LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson. But the Kings need to keep building.

What they really need is another Rookie of the Year.

Don’t sleep on Cousins — he’s got what it takes to be that guy. And if he is, then the Kings might have what it takes to be relevant again.

2010-11 outlook: They’re getting there. Slowly but surely, the Kings are climbing back to respectability. Don’t expect any deep playoff runs anytime soon — but with the young nucleus of Evans and Cousins, the Kings are putting the building blocks together. They won 25 games last year — a big stride forward to 30 or 35 could be in the cards. These youngsters need a couple of years to grow into real contenders.

Did you know? Westphal is one of three current NBA head coaches who suited up for the Celtics in their playing days. The Warriors’ Don Nelson spent 11 seasons in Celtic green, and Rick Carlisle was a member of the 1986 C’s championship team.