Tipoff: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, 9 p.m. EST.
Records: Cavaliers 19-18; Kings 15-21
TV: FOX Sports Ohio, NBATV. Radio: WTAM 1100, 100.7 WMMS, 87.7 FM La Mega, AM 1590 WAKR (Akron)
Cavaliers: C Tristan Thompson; PF Kevin Love; SF Mike Miller; SG J.R. Smith; PG Kyrie Irving.
Kings: C DeMarcus Cousins; PF Jason Thompson; SF Rudy Gay; SG Ben McLemore; PG Darren Collison.
Cavaliers: SF LeBron James (knee/back) out; G Iman Shumpert (shoulder) out; C Anderson Varejao (Achilles) out; SF Shawn Marion (hip) doubtful.
Kings: PG Ramon Sessions (back) out; SF Omri Casspi (knee) out.
1. I’m still not sure why the Kings fired Michael Malone (a former Cavs assistant) and I still have no idea where they are going or what is the plan. But the coaching change sure hasn’t made much of a difference. In fact, while I really like the Kings, they seem to be getting worse.
2. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but at least the Kings seemed to try defensively under Malone. Right now, they’re 27th in the league points allowed — meaning they give up way too many and just try to outscore people. With DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, that’s occasionally doable. But it sure doesn’t seem like any way to make the playoffs in the West.
3. The trouble with the Kings is ownership got involved. It’s very rare for an owner to know more about the NBA than the people hired to do those jobs. The best owners want to win and win a lot. And the best owners know in order to do that, they have to let people coach, manage, etc. — and otherwise shut up and pay the bills.
4. For instance, I’m not even sure who owns the San Antonio Spurs. The Kings’ majority owner is Vivek Ranadive.
5. Now, to Ranadive’s credit, he kept the Kings from moving to Seattle. It seemed like a done deal. Ranadive kept it from happening. That makes him a good owner. Meddling in basketball affairs makes him a bad one.
6. Things were going well under Malone. Cousins was a big fan. Some execs around the league think Cousins, who’s been great lately, will eventually lash out and become a knucklehead again — as Cousins was against the firing of Malone. Cousins liked Malone and Malone was getting through to Cousins.
7. Anyway, things are hardly dire for the Kings and this is not an indictment of current coach Tyrone Corbin. I’ve been a Corbin fan for a long time and he’s merely following orders with his current game plan. And the Kings are fun to watch on most nights. One of my favorite players in the league is the forever-underrated Jason Thompson. But it sure would be nice if this team could take the next step and get back into the playoffs at some point. Maybe they should move East.
8. OK, on to the Cavs. They are still feeling their way around after the flurry of trades last week. I said Cavs fans are going to love J.R. Smith and I think that will especially be the case once LeBron James returns (possibly Thursday at the Lakers). When Smith is motivated and in a winning situation, he can just destroy opponents. I have a feeling that will be the guy who Cavs fans will see.
9. Interesting tidbit about ball movement and LeBron: Back in his Heat days, coach Erik Spoelstra told guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole never to inbound the ball to LeBron. Why? Spoelstra felt LeBron dribbled and tried to take over the offense too much. While LeBron’s assists numbers are always very good, Spoelstra felt that he did his best work on the wing, as opposed to standing at the top of the key, dribbling, and trying to run the offense.
10. That may be something Cavs coach David Blatt may want to consider when James returns. LeBron has said he decides on his own when to play the point or when to let Kyrie Irving handle it. LeBron has been to four straight Finals and the Cavs are 18-11 with him the lineup (and 1-7 without). So no one is questioning James. But if the Cavs are thinking title, well, they may be even better with James creating from the wing. Maybe not, too — it’s just something to think about.