Kings

What Kings have to do to erase early struggles, make NBA playoffs push

What Kings have to do to erase early struggles, make NBA playoffs push

The post mortem on the 2019-20 Kings season isn’t ready to be written just yet, but it's getting late for Luke Walton's team. After a promising season last year, the Kings come out of the All-Star break at 21-33, seven games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Injuries, bad beats, two-minute report failings and playing down to competition have turned the first two-thirds of the season into a woulda, coulda, shoulda kind of year. With 28 games remaining, do the Kings still have a chance to turn the season around?

The short answer is yes, the Kings still have an opportunity to end their 13-season postseason drought. The long answer is more complex.

The Kings open their post-All-Star break schedule at home with a matchup against the Grizzlies. If they can find a way to beat an up-and-coming Memphis team, they would give themselves a glimmer of hope for the remainder of the season.

A loss would put them eight games off the pace, with a 1-2 record against Memphis. Game over.

If the Kings can get past the Grizz, they have a small window to make up ground. They travel to Los Angeles for a game against the Clippers on Friday. The last time the Kings were in Staples Center, they lit the Clippers up for a franchise-record 21 3-pointers in a 124-103 win.

After the trip to LA, the Kings continue their four-game road trip with stops in San Francisco to play the Warriors, Oklahoma City and Memphis. Sacramento is 2-0 against the Warriors and 1-1 versus both the Thunder and Grizzlies on the season.

Following the four-game road trip, the Kings return home to host the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers. At the end of this eight-game stretch, the Kings either will still be breathing or their season will be over.

A 5-3 record over this grouping of games really is the worst the Kings can afford. A 4-4 stint or even a 3-5 record would be a huge blow in one of the last remaining soft spots in the schedule.

Even if the Kings make it through this stretch with a 5-3 record or better, they have a long road in front of them. They play 11 of their final 20 games at home, with eight of those games coming against clubs with a .500 or better record. Ten of those remaining games are against teams currently in the postseason picture.

The schedule is one issue, but in order for Sacramento to make up ground, they also have to pass over additional teams in the standings. The Kings trail the Phoenix Suns by a half-game, the New Orleans Pelicans by a game-and-a-half, the San Antonio Spurs by two games and the Portland Trail Blazers by three games.

In short, the Kings would need to jump over five teams in the standings over the final 28 games to make the playoffs.

The remaining strength of schedule, according to Tankathon.com, favors both the Blazers and the Pelicans in this situation.
Remaining strength of schedule (win percentage of remaining opponents):

Grizzlies            .554
Suns                  .522
Spurs                .488
Kings                 .487
Trail Blazers     .467
Pelicans            .449

Strength of schedule only is one of the issues facing the up and coming Grizzlies. Having one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, Memphis has very few players who have been in this situation before. Jonas Valanciunas has 43 career playoff games under his belt. Kyle Anderson played in 30 postseason games with the Spurs and newly acquired Gorgui Dieng has played in five. Tyus Jones (4) and Grayson Allen (2) round out the team’s total playoff experience.

If the Grizzlies fall, which is entirely possible, that still leaves a bevy of teams standing between the Kings and an elusive postseason berth.

The Blazers made it to the Western Conference finals last season, but they’ve struggled to stay healthy and build momentum all season after a series of roster moves. The Spurs are riding a 22-year postseason streak and they always seem to flourish in the window directly following the All-Star break.

The Pelicans just started integrating top pick Zion Williamson into their rotation and they are 5-5 since his arrival. Phoenix is just 3-7 over its last 10 games and their strength of schedule is difficult.

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Despite losing their final two games heading into the All-Star break, the Kings are 6-4 over their previous 10 games. They’re playing better basketball, keyed by the insertion of Bogdan Bogdanovic in the starting lineup, Buddy Hield finding a rhythm off the bench and the arrival of veteran Kent Bazemore.

The odds are not on the Kings' side, but if they can get healthy, integrate Jabari Parker into the rotation and get on a roll, there still is time to at least make this race interesting. It starts Thursday against the Grizzlies. If they can’t get that one, then none of this matters.

Kings PA announcer Scott Moak shares his side of Kevin Durant incident

Kings PA announcer Scott Moak shares his side of Kevin Durant incident

Before the current global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, "Infection Control" had a completely different meaning in NBA.

Back on Jan. 5, 2019, when Kevin Durant was a member of the Warriors, the term was a topic of debate during a game against the Kings at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

Durant sustained a cut on his left forearm, and as a team doctor was bandaging him up, Kings' in-arena PA announcer Scott Moak could be heard announcing "Timeout for infection control."

The look on Durant's face when he heard that was "What did he just say?" He immediately went over and talked to Moak.

Durant was asked about the incident after the game and said he had never heard the term "Infection control" before and stated that he had a good relationship with Moak.

On the latest episode of the Purple Talk podcast, Moak was asked about the encounter with Durant.

"So I, I don't know, for 10 years, would announce it that exact way, 'Timeout for infectious control,' and [the Kings' audio engineer] would play "Keep Bleeding" by Leona Lewis ... you know, he would have all these fun songs that he would play that would correspond with that moment," Moak told NBC Sports California's James Ham. "So, we did that, I said that and yeah, I looked over and I saw Kevin Durant give me the side-eye and walked over and asked me, 'What did you say?' and I told him and I said, 'Why? You don't like that?' And he goes, 'No, I don't like it.' And I was like, 'I don't control these things. I don't get to choose.' And he kind of laughed at that and walked back on the floor."

A few plays later, Moak had to use the term again, and that got a different reaction out of Durant.

"Ironically ... it wasn't but a couple plays, sequences later that De'Aaron [Fox] gets popped in the side of the face," Moak said. "He has blood either from him or someone else on his face. Same exact thing happened and I said the same exact thing. Kevin Durant was on the bench at the time. They had taken him out. He stands up and he gives me the point, like 'Yeah, buddy, alright, I see you. You do it both ways.' He thought I was ribbing him or something and I, of course, wasn't, but yes then it goes to where he says, 'Me and that guy have a great relationship,' which I got a lot of great comments about. I didn't realize I had a great relationship with Kevin Durant, but look, I will take it. I will take a great relationship with Kevin Durant and I hope he's doing better today and hope he's getting better obviously from a playability perspective.

Durant, of course, is no longer a member of the Warriors. He's in Brooklyn rehabbing from a surgically repaired right Achilles tendon.

[RELATED: Moak's thoughts on fanless NBA games]

On March 17, Durant revealed to The Athletic that he was one of four Nets players to test positive for the coronavirus, which is plaguing the world.

Moak also noted that he expects the NBA to change the name of the timeout in light of the recent pandemic.

Kings PA announcer Scott Moak gives thoughts on NBA games without fans

Kings PA announcer Scott Moak gives thoughts on NBA games without fans

The NBA is special in one respect compared to other sports. Due to the nature of the free-flowing action, momentum can change at any time. 

A big play in the NFL happens and then there is a break in the action. A pitcher can give up a home run and by the time the trot is over and a new batter is in the box, the crowd has sat back down and gotten back to their beer and nachos.

The NBA doesn’t have that luxury. The ball goes through the hoop and then it’s headed in the other direction with an eight-second clock to pass halfcourt and a 24-second shot clock driving the action. 

There are moments when the game takes short pauses, but there also are moments when a team hits a 3-pointer, gets a steal moments later for a breakaway dunk and then tops off an 8-0 run with another triple.

Once a team hits a burst like this and the crowd is into the action, the momentum of a game can shift and an 8-0 run can become a turning point in a game. 

Driving this action is a the public address announcer and the Kings have one of the best in the league in Scott Moak.

During the latest episode of the Purple Talk podcast, Moak was asked what it would be like to call a game with no fans in the building -- an option that has been floated due to the coronavirus pandemic -- and whether he would even be needed to help keep the game on track.

“I can make the case both ways, that if they do a fanless game, I guess making players aware of fouls and things,” Moak said of whether he would be needed. “It’s super weird to think ... and I don’t think I would go full-bore, ‘and now, let’s meet the starting five …,’ I think they’d go straight into the tip.”

Since taking over the job in 2002, Moak has been on the mic for plenty of incredible moments. He worked playoff games from 2002-2006, Tyreke Evans’ halfcourt buzzer-beater at Arco Arena and even a game where DeMarcus Cousins was thrown out and then summoned back from the locker room to score his 55th point of the night in a Kings win.

How would he handle sitting courtside alone without the power of 17,608 fans at his beck and call? 

“I would probably turn into more of a narrator/informer meets NPR,” Moak said. “I think I would have to go to more of my NPR voice than my announcer voice.”

This is a reality that the league may have to face if they hope to get the season back on track. The Warriors already had intended to play a game against the Brooklyn Nets without fans in the Chase Center before the league was paused due to the coronavirus outbreak, so the possibility is real.

Like most announcers, Moak started his career in much smaller venues. While it would be a difficult transition, he can draw from his former experiences to get through the change if it becomes necessary.

“I was announcing American River College women’s basketball in Beaver Stadium or whatever they called it, with 12 parents, a couple of trainers and the teams,” Moak recalled. “So I think I’ll kind of channel those experiences.”

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We have no idea when the NBA will return and what it will look like when it does, but the stoppage could change the way we experience a game, at least in the short-term. 

People like Moak are part of the fabric of the game who often go unnoticed. They add to the experience and, like everyone else, he can’t wait to get back to simpler times and the game he loves.