Spurs v. Kings Gameday Q&A: Zach Harper

With the Spurs-Kings game coming up tonight, who better to ask than our 8th Seed and Bloguin brother Zach Harper.  Zach blogs at Cowbell Kingdom and at Talk Hoops. There’s no questioning his knowledge of the Kings as you’ll see with the following six questions I posed to him for tonight’s game.
1. A lot of NBA fans, analysts and coaches have said that anyone tasked with guarding Tyreke Evans because of his size and strength. Tonight Tony Parker will draw Evans. Does Parker have a chance against Evans and vice versa, will Evans be able to slow down Parker?
Evans is a different beast altogether. I’ve honestly never seen someone with his size and ability at the point guard position. He’s just quick enough to get even with his defender when he’s driving. And once he gets ever with his defender, he’s far too big and strong for the defender to fully recover. So the result ends up being a lay-up or foul. Although Parker is pretty quick, he simply won’t be able to handle Evans going to the basket. Looking at the first two games, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook couldn’t stop him from getting to the basket more than 20 times in two games combined. So Tony Parker really has no chance. What the Spurs will need to do is completely play off of Desmond Mason initially and pack the paint with a pseudo-zone.
As for Parker on offense, Evans will have a tough time slowing him down. He couldn’t keep Chris Paul from scoring last night but he DID take away his playmaking ability, which was more impressive to me. Parker isn’t quite the playmaker as Paul is so Evans will have to concentrate on taking away the scoring and turning him into the playmaker role in order to get him out of his comfort zone. Evans isn’t a lock down defender by any means. He makes a lot of mistakes out there. But he still has managed to be a terror on offense (just needs to finish, which he will) and to be disruptive on defense. It’s going to be a fantastic match-up.
2. The coach’s office in ARCO Arena must have a secret revolving door that your last two coaches have found. What are your thoughts on Paul Westphal and will he be the one that sticks?
The difference between the collective brain trust between Theus, Musselman, and Natt and what Paul Westphal brings to the table, is you can just tell that Paul Westphal has done this before. He’s been successful as a player AND a coach. None of the other guys were able to say that. So when he talks, he commands genuine respect from his players because he’s been there on both sides. He understands how to shape his agenda around the players as opposed to forcing them to do things they weren’t good at while trying to sell them copies of some crappy high school basketball Saturday morning sitcom.
3. You’ve got to be happy with your rookies. Both Evans and Casspi had good debuts. You have said several times that Evans is the hands down rookie of the year. After seeing both DeJuan Blair in Evans now, do you think Blair might have a chance at stealing it away from Evans…or even Blake Griffin?
I don’t think Blair is going to get the consistent minutes to take the Rookie of the Year trophy. If he was a starter, he’d probably win it because he just finds a way to produce numbers. I still don’t see Blake Griffin winning it either. He’s going to put up decent numbers but is probably the third option at best on a Clippers team that we’ve found out after three games isn’t very good. So to me, it’s still Evans’ to lose. Although after seeing Brandon Jennings nearly put up a triple double in his debut, I may have to rethink ‘Reke’s likelihood of taking home the hardware.
4. The Kings have not ben able to put it together since after Adelman, Artest and even Bonzi Wells left. What is the missing piece that can get the Kings back into the playoffs or even over .500? Is it a lack of leadership or just not having the right players?
The missing piece to getting back to the playoffs is simply talent. This team doesn’t have a ton of talent. They have plenty of guys with potential but there hasn’t been a whole lot of realizing that potential. The frontcourt is the biggest weakness right now because Spencer Hawes is so inconsistent, Jason Thompson is always in foul trouble and still learning, and there isn’t any depth. They can’t stop other teams from scoring inside. They honestly just need to acquire more players to fill out the roster, hope for three of their building blocks to become really good, and mix in some veterans. But it’s going to be a couple of years before this thing gets fixed.
5. I commented about the rookies earlier. There seems to be a wealth of young up-and-coming players in Sacramento including Evans, Casspi, Greene, Thompson and Hawes to complement Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia. Do you see this time at a stage that Portland was at a few years ago and Oklahoma City was at last year with having that young talent that could make the Kings a contender in the future?
The problem with their young guys is they aren’t just young assets that you know are locks to become good players. I’m still not sold on Hawes, don’t really know how effective Garcia is to helping them win, and who knows if Donté Greene will even be in the league in five years? I’d say they’re more like OKC than Portland but even then, they’re not really there. Perhaps, they’re more like Memphis with the young pieces and no clear idea of how to get those young pieces to the next level. There are plenty of theories and they’ll be tested out soon, but right now, the Kings really are still trying to figure out what they have.
6. What’s your prediction for tonight’s game?
Kings expended a ton of energy trying to gut out a win against the Hornets last night. Throw in the fact that the Spurs just got manhandled by the Bulls and the Kings are a bad road team to begin with and I’d be shocked if the Kings kept it within double digits. Of course, I thought the same thing last night with New Orleans. It all depends on Tyreke Evans. If the Spurs slow him down without letting Kevin Martin get off because of it, this will be a blowout. But if ‘Reke can cause some havoc for the Spurs, this could be another close one at the wire. I’ll say Spurs by 11 though.
We want to thank Zach for giving us a closer look at the Kings. If you want to read more from him, be sure to visit Cowbell Kingdom and Talk Hoops.
What are your thoughts on tonight’s game? Do you have a prediction? Feel free to leave a comment and give us your take.