The Sacramento Kings are a team looking to reverse their fortunes in 2013-14 after posting a 28-54 record in 2012-13. After their ownership was transferred to Vivek Ranadive, the Indian-born IT tycoon has been aggressive in shoring up his team, hiring a new head coach, trading for dynamic new players, and generally improving the team's season outlook.
Already, some players have been reaping the benefits of having a stable management team. The Kings' big men, especially man-child DeMarcus Cousins, should learn a thing or two from minority owner Shaquille O'Neal, while Hall of Famer Chris Mullin will be a key piece in the guards' maturation. One player to watch out for is point guard Greivis Vasquez, who was acquired in a recent three-team trade. Vasquez averaged 9 assists per game in 2012-13 and is expected to relish his role as the primary playmaker to a team that acquired major offensive weapons such as Carl Landry and Ben McLemore.
The Lakers are another team in transition. After losing center Dwight Howard to free agency to Houston, they are also in dire need of offense with Kobe Bryant still not setting a timetable for his return from injury. In the absence of Howard, Pau Gasol will be back to his previous All-Star self, while Chris Kaman is in the lineup to provide spot minutes as Gasol's primary backup. Gasol is expected to carry his team while Bryant is still recovering.
In addition, point guard Jordan Farmar has missed the past two pre-season games because of a strained right calf. Farmar is the primary backup to Steve Nash, who struggled in his first season with the Lakers. A key off-season addition, Xavier Henry from New Orleans, was given the license to shoot by coach Mike D'Antoni, scoring 29 points against Golden State in his first pre-season game.
If the previous pre-season games are any indication, the Kings are not quite there yet. Going up Monday against the Golden State Warriors, the Kings lost, 81-94. The Warriors, though, are no pushovers, making the second round of the 2013 playoffs.
Thursday's game in Las Vegas serves as the Lakers' last before they fly off to China, where they will play a couple of exhibition games against the Warriors. The Kings will be home-bound, playing games against the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
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