For the past five seasons the Sacramento Kings have opened up the regular season on the road facing teams that were above .500 the previous year. This year they will again start on a three-game road-trip in late October, but won’t be playing the likes of Dallas, Houston or Orlando.
Instead, the Kings will travel to Minnesota, New Jersey and Cleveland – two of those teams are young, and the other team is in a downward spiral looking to stay afloat in the east after the departure of its superstar.
With only one back-to-back game in November, the Kings will have enough time to become familiar with the new guys and mold as a unit.
Three games in November will be broadcast on national television.
The Lakers game on Nov. 3 will be on ESPN, the game on Nov. 21 will be shown on NBATV and the game against the Clippers on the 25th will be on TNT.
The Kings will start off December at the Staples Center taking on the Lakers and, the following night, playing Dallas.
After a game against the revamped Miami Heat, the Kings will go on a three-game road trip to Houston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
The ensuing five games will be at home, where they will take on teams that had a combined 44 percent win percentage.
The 2010 half of the season will be the easiest part of the 82-game schedule. If the Kings can stay healthy and out of trouble, they should be able to win about 12 or 13 games for that portion of the season.
At first glance, you might think sarcastically, oh great 12 wins, who do I call for season tickets? But if you compare that amount of wins to last year’s seven wins in the first 30 games, the improvement is obvious.
Just because their schedule may be a bit modest the first couple months doesn’t mean winning will come easy. They will still have to play well together and work hard on both ends of the floor.
Because you play the same teams the same amount of times each year, an easier schedule early on means the second half of the schedule will be even tougher.
Not only are 10 of the 16 games in January on the road, six pairings of games will be on back-to-back nights.
February won’t show them a lot of love either, with only two of their games being played against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season.
The last two months of the regular season will be a bit kinder to the Kings.
In March, the Kings will play four straight at home, four on the road, then again four straight in ARCO Arena.
These were months that in recent years had Kings fans looking at the draft lottery, but this year they should hope for something different.
With a young team like the Kings have – the oldest players having eight and six years of experience – young guys like Tyreke Evans, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson will have to improve on their games while new guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert, and Hassan Whiteside will have to prove people wrong.
I don’t expect the Kings to make the playoffs, and neither should you, but a season in which there is no noticeable improvement based on their record and actual play would be a failure.
The Sacramento Kings won 25 games last year, and based on the improvements to their size and post-defense, along with another year of the core group of guys being together, the over/under for wins this year will be set at 34 wins.
Playoffs would be the ideal place for the Kings to be, but when you’re in a conference that had all eight of its playoff teams win 50 or more games, you have to realize your time for the playoffs will come, just not as soon as you’d like.
Picture taken by Brendan Luna.