The Grizzlies rewarded my 1.5 hour drive to Sacramento with a 102-85 win at Arco Arena.
The trip was almost a disaster: For those looking to tailgate in the Arco Arena parking lot, Beware. The Papa John's closest to Arco (Blue Marker) is not located West of Interstate 5 (Red Marker) as Google Maps would have you believe. On the contrary, Papa John's is located East of 5 as shown by the Green Marker.
View Papa John's Near Arco in a larger map
After a few phone calls, My GF, Jen, and I located PJs, picked up my medium half-sausage (for me), half-pineapple (for Jen), and headed to the Arco Parking Lot.
The first thing I noticed was that, despite their team's terrible performance, the threat of relocation, and the fact that their best player was recently shipped out for loose change, Kings fans have spirit. More fans were decked out in team gear than at Memphis or Oakland home games. I hope the citizens of Seattle feel bad when Kings move to Washington.
I was the only person wearing an Iverson jersey and a stuffed bear hat, and Jen was one of two people wearing a Rudy Gay jersey. I did see one other guy wearing a Vancouver jersey, but he was wearing an unbuttoned Kings shirt over it.
The second thing I noticed was that it's really obvious why the Kings want a new arena. The arena feels half the size of Oracle or the FedEx Forum, and there might be a third the number of luxury boxes. It's gotten so bad at Arco, that this was their half-time show:
On the way inside, a season ticket holder who had been given courtside seats for the game offered to sell me his seats in Row E for $10 each. That was an upgrade over Row W, so this was our view:
Our premium vantage point meant Jen was more engaged than usual. As a result, she chose Gay, Zach Randolph, and Hasheem Thabeet as her favorite players. (On Thabeet: "The way he walks around the court like he doesn't know what he's doing is endearing.") Her least favorites were Hamed Haddadi (He had a rough game.) and Marcus Williams (I think she's biased because he blocked me on Twitter.)
Jen was also an OJ Mayo fan after he dominated four straight possessions in the 4th to seal the game. He scored 10 straight, including 2 three pointers, and made it look easy. Mayo, Z-Bo, Gay, and even Thabeet made it look easy at times. There's nothing I enjoy watching more than Thabeet dunks, blocks, or made free throws. For example:
When you observe Thabeet's game from about 10 yards away, you realize that the limitations of his game really are experience and effort. There were at least three occasions where Beno Udrih pulled up for a 10 foot jump shot in the lane, Thabeet looked close enough to contest, but he either didn't attempt to contest or he didn't affect the shot. I don't know whether it's conditioning, a learning curve, confidence, or being coached to play conservatively. But for Thabeet to be a success, he's going to have to play with more energy than this.
Rudy Gay's athleticism also stands out. His inside game has vastly improved since last season. He gets to the rim, and finishes. Why the Grizzlies rarely run set plays that get Rudy the ball near the basket, I'll never know. He's the most dynamic scorer on the team, and he dribbles up to his neck. Why should dribbling through traffic be his best move? Teach him to move without the ball, and get the ball to him in the post with Z-Bo on the weak side. Is that too much to ask?
This is the first time in 5 years in the Bay Area that I've felt it was worthwhile to drive to Sacramento to see the Grizzlies, and I'm glad I did. If they improve next season, I'll be back. Hopefully my trip across the Bay to Oakland Wednesday will be just as good. Look for a post game report later this week.