By now, this up-and-down season has left Kings fans a little fatigued. What the Kings have lacked in consistency, they’ve gained in questions. Unfortunately, many of the questions have gone unanswered and still fester in eerie silence.
What has been consistent, is the explicit lack of effort on the defensive end. For the entire season, the Kings have meandered in the bottom third in the league in defensive efficiency ratings. Currently, they are 26th in the NBA as they allow 105.6 points per 100 possessions.
This has never been truer than when the Kings fell to the bumbling Philadelphia 76ers, giving up 110 points to the visitors. After the game, George Karl addressed this head on.
“I told the team inconsistent intensity, inconsistent focus, inconsistent toughness and mental discipline. Too many times we’ve come out on this court and been the quiet team, or the soft team or the cool team and not the man team,” Karl said.
There is one player in particular, that heeded these words since hearing them.
Seth Curry’s path to the NBA hasn’t been the accolade-ridden one of his brother’s, Stephen. After going undrafted, Curry led the D-League in scoring on two different teams. After leading the Pelicans summer league team in scoring this past summer, the Kings swooped in and signed him.
At the time, he was expected to be the 13th or 14th man on this roster. With Darren Collison and Rajon Rondo solid in place at the point guard position, minutes for the young Curry seemed bleak.
Karl’s words however, would ring loud in his ears: Intensity, focus, toughness, and mental discipline.
Curry knew he could provide what was being asked for, and against the Mavericks, he got a career-high 36 minutes to do just that. His defense isn’t something captured by stats. It goes beyond steals, blocks and even advanced statistics. In order to believe his contribution, you first need to see it.
Below, we see Curry step in to draw charges, dive for loose balls, fight through a gauntlet of screens, give timely help-defense, and above all, provide stifling on-ball pressure.
(Video Credit: NBA.com)
Truthfully, this is effort that we do not see from Rondo and Collison on a regular basis. Even Coach Karl noted Curry’s presence the next day in practice after the victory against the Lakers.
“Seth is a guy that—I didn’t think I’d be saying [this] a month ago—is our best defensive player,” Karl said. “But I give him credit that in the Dallas game he stayed on the court because he was the one guy who could control the ball.”
Curry is simply playing with nothing to lose and leaves nothing on the court when he gets his opportunities. He gives an effort that ideally would be emulated by his teammates. Until they do though, Curry stands out amongst the rest.
Curry With a Grain of Salt
Though Curry’s injection of effort and energy has been warmly welcomed, his performance must be taken with a grain of salt. If you take away the game against the Mavericks, he averages just under 10 minutes per game which would be 12th most on the team. It also means he probably isn’t a big part of opposing teams’ scouting report and game plan, which would primarily focus on those garnering more minutes per game.
After the Mavericks, the Kings played the Lakers where Curry played only 10 minutes. After failing to make a single point, assist, or steal, he registered a -11 +/- rating, which was a team-low other than the -16 of Kosta Koufos. Against the Warriors on Saturday night, he failed to score again – playing just eight minutes.
Furthermore, unlike Rondo and Collison, Curry’s future is very much unknown. He has spent the last two seasons in the D-League and only has 20 NBA games under his belt. The two-year contract he signed this summer has a player option for the second year. This means that Curry could (and likely should) opt-out after this season in order to increase his $1.96 million per season deal.
If he can prove to the Kings and the rest of NBA that he is worth it, Curry can earn himself a major payday and some much-needed job security. In short, even though he is playing like he has nothing to lose, Curry has the most to gain and most to prove amongst any of the Kings’ guards.
Effort is only one part of cementing your NBA membership. Basketball IQ is another. In his limited time, Curry has played admirably on the court and has done a good job playing both the point guard and shooting guard positions. His performances however, have not been perfect.
Much was made of the loss in Dallas. Curry got a lot of minutes primarily due to the absence of incumbent starter, Rondo. Many will point to moments in the second overtime and some in the first where the game was the lost by the Kings.
However, there was a key sequence in the waining moments of regulation where the Kings may not have lost the game, but lost their win.
Below we see the Kings up by a point with 1:48 left in the game before a characteristic jumper by Dirk Nowitzki, put the Mavericks on top again. With plenty of time remaining, the Kings have a series of unfortunate plays.
The first two being a turnover by DeMarcus Cousins, which was followed up by a senseless foul that the Kings are fortunate wasn’t deemed worse. The third one though fell solely on Curry’s shoulders.
After a near turnover from Marco Belinelli, a shot from Cousins fails to hit the rim and is rebounded by Nowitzki in the key. Wesley Matthews is at the top of the key and darts down court. Curry, who is the furthest King back, is slow to notice and slow to react and Nowitzki finds Matthews with a simple outlet pass.
To make matters worse, as Matthews goes for the layup, Curry commits a silly foul. Ideally, Matthews is fouled hard, limiting him from even attempting a shot. Curry however, lightly grabs Mathews’ jersey and the bulky shooting guard makes the layup with ease while getting an additional free throw that he makes.
(Video Credit: NBA.com)
This series put the Kings down four points with only 48 seconds left in regulation. Miraculously, back-to-back 3-pointers from Belinelli were able to force overtime. It was here however, that the Kings gave away the win.
Overtime should have never been apart of the equation. Not all of it, but a large portion of that falls on Curry. Games are won after 48 minutes, but they can be lost on a single play.
Curry has had, and will continue to have, his ups-and-downs. His effort has been nothing short of impressive. He plays with nothing to lose, which at 15-22, should be a mindset the entire roster embodies.
Effort has been a point of question and concern all season long for Karl and the Kings. It’s a question that needs answering and at least as of late, it’s Curry that’s providing just that.