Why the Sacramento Kings keep searching for a floor general, no one knows. Isaiah Thomas showed again he possesses the mettle to be an NBA starter.
Thomas came out on the wrong side of the Kings’ preseason opener 94-81 to the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, but playing a team-high 30 minutes the point guard shot 6-of-11 for 15 points with 6 assists and 3 rebounds. The third-year pro lost six turnovers, though he helped force Stephen Curry into five of his own.
Thomas, who models himself after the similarly-statured Damon Stoudamire, has been fighting for recognition since day one in the association. Few expected the 60th pick in 2011 to supplant Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette and Aaron Brooks as the Kings’ starting point guard. Sacramento acquired Greivis Vasquez in the offseason, but the 2012-13 assists leader sat out the game to nurse a surgically-repaired ankle, which Thomas took advantage.
While Vasquez is respected for his court vision and timely passes, Thomas is the better driver and shooter. Their skills could shine best when on the court together.
Also rookies Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum had encouraging debuts in the Sacramento uniform. McLemore collected 13 points in 24 minutes adding three treys, as McCallum recorded five assists, two steals and a turnover.
The most disappointing performer of the night was DeMarcus Cousins, who shot 2-of-10 and recorded four boards and five turnovers. The center battled foul trouble (he gained four by the second quarter) and appeared flustered by Andrew Bogut’s aggressive coverage.
As a whole, the Warriors’ defense was relentless and spearheaded by the team’s new additions. Andre Iguodala blew up passing lanes and finished with five steals, while Marreese Speights earned three replay-worthy rejections. The Kings were outran and outbullied, producing eight fast-break points to the Warriors’ 22, and 28 points in the paint to Golden State’s 40.
What’s most important for Sacramento head coach Mike Malone now however, is establishing go-to lineups for the regular season, and after Monday’s showing he should be more confident in his options at the one. If a knife was held to his throat, starting Thomas wouldn’t be a bad choice.
Photo Credit: Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports