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Sean Cunningham | Sean Cunningham | Sacramento Kings Reporter, FOX40 Northern California & Kings Radio

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence
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April 17, 2024 6:07 am

Sean Cunningham | Sean Cunningham | Sacramento Kings Reporter, FOX40 Northern California & Kings Radio

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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April 17, 2024 6:07 am

 Sacramento Kings reporter Sean Cunningham joins the show to recap a Kings defeat of the Warriors in the play-in tournament. 

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Visit your neighborhood store to make the switch today. We're pleased to welcome Sean Cunningham from Sacramento covers the team for the radio network as well as for Fox 40 in the Bay Area. Sean, what's the difference between the game tonight and the game seven a year ago in which the Warriors won?

Well, that's a good question. I hadn't really thought of it like that because there are so many differences in terms of these two teams meeting up in this play-in tournament and what that seven game series looked like for Sacramento and even Golden State when you talk about just the young players that kind of emerged in the season, especially on the Warriors side. You see them starting a guy like Trace, Trace Jackson Davis and Brandon Pajemski. And obviously we saw the way a guy like Kavon Looney really disrupted Domonas Sabonis in that seven game series. And Domas had kind of an up and down series.

And once it seemed like Draymond Green stomped on his chest, things were officiated a little bit differently and he was really struggling with physicality. So you fast forward to something like tonight and interesting thing and just so if people hadn't been paying attention to the Kings and Warriors and particularly that matchup since that seven game series, you're talking about you get to the preseason, you play them twice. One of those games is a one point victory or one point game, I should say. And then you get them three times in this or four times in this in this regular season. And three of those four teams are one point decided advantages.

They're one they're decided by one point. So this is something that these teams hang their hat on is just how similar that they are and how dramatic these games are. And they're always coming down to the wire. So obviously Sacramento coming limping into the play in tournament, having lost, you know, like five or six. I think it was at one point and losing some really disappointing games where, you know, some big leads had been kind of washed away by the opposition. And obviously you've got two major, major injuries to Kevin Herder and Malik Monk and somebody like Monk who plays such a vital role with this team for Sacramento and also in this series with the Warriors. You come in that to this play in game and you see a team like the Warriors who had won like 12 or 15, I think it was, really kind of playing their best basketball at a certain point.

So it all kind of culminated. It's like none of that really matters because you're only playing a one game winner take all scenario. So I like Sacramento's chances, but didn't think it would be a blowout. And I honestly didn't think that the Kings would be able to pull it off. The two things we knew about both these teams is they cannot hold on to a lead. And here's Sacramento giving up the lead at one point.

The Warriors come storming back and then the Kings just turned it right on them. They not only pulled down 15 offensive rebounds and a bunch of second chance points, they shot the lights out from beyond the arc, often finding a wide open man who could hit the three and then forcing the 16 turnovers, which is often the Golden State Achilles heel. What did you see in their defense in this game? Well, and that's something I think it was nice to see this game on national TV for people to learn what the strides that Sacramento have made defensively. Really, since the All-Star break, can you talk about guys like Keyon Ellis, a former two-way player, undrafted out of Alabama, former JUCO player.

And then you get a guy like Davion Mitchell, who's obviously a national champion with Baylor. And Keegan Murray, who's really emerged as one of the team's best defenders, as they like to throw his length at Steph Curry and a lot of guards in this league. But really Sacramento's defense has been kind of the story. And it's funny because last year they were this high up-tempo, efficient shooting team that set a record for offensive efficiency. And this year they knew they were going to probably take a little step back in that department. They still want to play fast and be this high-paced offense. But Mike Brown comes in as a defensive coach and says, no, we will be known as a defensive team. We want to play physical.

We want to play fast. And here they are emerging on national TV to show what this team has been capable of over the past few weeks, even in light of these injuries to Kevin Hurter. So I think it was a big feather in the cap for those players to kind of show what they've been working on this season. And it certainly paid off tonight. Sean Cunningham is with us from Sacramento in the wake of the franchise big victory over the Golden State Warriors, who are now done. But the Kings move on. Why did they struggle so much with New Orleans this season?

That is the bugaboo. I mean, it is funny. We talk about it every single, I mean, even when they're not playing the Pelicans, they went 0-5 against them this season. And it just comes down to length and physicality. Those teams have tended to give Sacramento fits over the over the season. The Kings have been a little bit known of a live by the three, die by the three type of team. You only have to look at tonight where, you know, you're going, you know, burying 18 threes.

And obviously, Keegan Murray had eight of them. But the size that that New Orleans plays with in the physicality just seems to really do a number on Sacramento. And you look at, we mentioned Damano Sabonis and what he went through with the Warriors last year, Devon Luni. Well, look at obviously a guy like Zion Williamson, who may not play on Friday, but you have a guy like Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas, who's just an absolute Bond villain.

I mean, he looks like a Bond villain. He's such a physical force. And guys like that really disrupt Sabonis. So it's it's something that they've that they know that they have to overcome.

It came kind of played out a little bit in the play in the in-season tournament earlier this year. And then again, they get guys like Herb Jones and Trey Murphy, the third and CJ McCollum just raining threes. And fortunately for Sacramento, they just played the Pelicans last week. And I think having a little bit of familiarity from a week's worth of preparation, carrying that over into Friday, I think they feel confident. I think this win over the Warriors, that was one hurdle to get over.

They were hoping, as Davion Mitchell told me after the game, they want this get back. They're glad that it's not the Lakers who is a team that they've had ownership over in this in this past year. But yeah, they're looking forward to at least eliminating the the Pelicans with it was an upset win on Friday in New Orleans and getting their first win over New Orleans this season.

Yeah. How much does that mean in terms of their development as a franchise and in terms of them getting to where the Warriors have been, being a championship contender, that they're not just winning, but they're beating teams that have had a fair amount of success against them? Yeah, I mean, it's funny because typically those are the teams that they actually play well against are those teams that kind of they have, quote unquote, no business beating. You know, they they kind of rise to the level of their opposition. It's really especially this season has been those lower tier teams where all of a sudden they play to the level of the competition and that team kind of beat them. And I think the one one of the things that really bothers this team is when they're when the opposition is without their superstars. So if Zion Williamson, for whatever reason, with the hamstring injury, doesn't play on Friday, that almost is a perfect recipe for New Orleans to actually take care of business against Sacramento. But to your question, like, yeah, these these are guys that that are trying to show that they belong.

You know, there's always this small market complex in Sacramento with the Kings. And, you know, they they they harp on these awards and recognition that maybe the national media tends to overlook at times. And, you know, you're looking at a guy like Malik Monk.

He's hurt right now. But probably weeks ago, he was probably the runaway sixth man of the year. And now he's getting some opposition from guys like Nas Reed and Herb, excuse me, Norm Powell. So the thought that Malik Monk wins sixth man of the year, even something as tertiary, is that Kings fans and even this organization really take that to heart. So when you're going up against the teams that have that level of success, kind of quieting the narrative and being able to disrupt the apple cart a little bit is something that they take very, very personally.

It's a nice mix with this team of guys who, as you point out, have the offensive side, the defensive side, or guys that go two ways, guys that come from all different places and have different backgrounds. And then the leadership of Mike Brown. I think the last time you and I spoke, we talked about the impact of Mike having come from a place where they played championship basketball. So how close do you think they are to being able to compete with the best in the West?

Yeah, I still think they're pretty far off. I mean, this is, I think, you know, obviously had the season come to an end tonight, it would have been tremendously disappointing. I think these fans here in this town and, you know, the narrative might be, you know, the Kings beating the Warriors ending their season, albeit nice, wasn't necessarily a series.

It's just the one game. So keeping that in perspective of being in the ninth seed, and if they can get their way into the playoffs, would be nice even with these injuries, because they've shown for the greater part of this season that they were right around a fifth or sixth seed. So to see them dip and kind of limp into this playing tournament was certainly a disappointment. I'm curious to see how they'll define success this season and whether or not it will be a failure.

And we all know that, look, success isn't a linear line. You finished third in the West last year doesn't mean that you improve upon that number. You can finish worse and maybe be situated to make even a more substantial playoff run. But for this team, I think they know that they've got a lot of their guys locked up long term.

They wanted to see what this what this team looks like in a playoff series. And if they fall short of that, I think ultimately that'll be a disappointment. So I do think that this team is still very far from being able to contend.

But I'll say this, Amy. Even if they're able to get in, I know, you know, we've certainly seen teams like the Lakers last year and the Heat last year go to the Western Conference Finals and even the NBA Finals coming from the play in tournament. Right. If Sacramento, even with their injuries, gets to a playoff, a seven game playoff series, especially against a team like OKC, who they've had a significant amount of success against really over the past two years, but really this year as well. I like I really think there'll be a tough out in a playoff series against really any team, including the likes of the Denver Nuggets, who they've had the success against this year. So I think they're still far off from contending, but they'll be a tough out. Still, though, the smiles on their faces toward the end of this game and postgame. I mean, they were huge. This team was elated. Yeah, they they really I think it's it's funny.

It depends on who you talk to. Right. Because, you know, I mentioned I talked to Davey on Mitchell. He had talked about just days ago how this is payback is payback or any get him back for for the game seven loss here on the home floor where Steph Curry had that vintage point performance. And, you know, the Warriors still showed that they they still had something in the tank. And and their little brothers here in Sacramento aren't really quite yet to take over.

Malik Monk, who is still a very vocal piece on this team, despite maybe being two weeks from returning from an MCL sprain, if they can advance that far. Still talked about how. No, I'm telling them they need payback. They have payback. And then you get to talk about, you know, DeMona Sabonis and Darren Fox, who were a little bit more political and just saying, no, it's a huge accomplishment, but we have lost your goals in mind. So they are a little bit more political. But you can tell, like you mentioned, those smiles on the faces of those players to especially get over some of the hump, some of the adversity that they faced when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, because last season they were among the worst in the league. I think they were twenty eighth overall, if I'm not mistaken.

So this feels like really being able to overcome some of that adversity, show that you're evolving and improving. And Mike Brown is the one who's waving that kind of rallying cry, if you will. So, Sean, you had a chance to see this game and the end of potentially the Warriors core three. We don't know that for sure, but Klay Thompson's an unrestricted free agent. We know Chris Paul is due thirty million dollars if he's on the roster at some point in June.

That's not likely to happen. So we're at least going to see changes again for the Warriors. Klay, though, is the big piece, has a really tough night, goes 0 for 10, including 0 for 6 from beyond the arc. What did you see with him toward the end of this game?

Yeah, I even tweeted a video because it was striking to see, first of all, yeah, 0 points. I mean, I didn't think even Klay Thompson, who's on the other side of his peak, if you will, to see that type of performance was really, really jarring. And then to see him kind of as he's heading towards the tunnel, he just kind of stops by the bench. You get to see him kind of take it all in for a moment, realizing the significance of the moment that this could be his last time with this team in a Warriors jersey. And it didn't go the way he wanted, obviously. But, yeah, does he go chase the bag?

Does he go try and find one final payday? I was talking to, you know, some people who cover the Warriors a little bit closely, a little closer tonight. How could they keep it all together?

How could it work? I mean, look, Joe Lacob is paying a ton in luxury tax. He was sitting courtside tonight. He looked absolutely miserable. And that was it wasn't even halftime yet. So I can't imagine how he was feeling after that game.

But you're right. It feels like the end, although I would even argue that last year kind of felt like the end with Bob Myers leaving. But they know that they've re-upped Steve Kerr. You mentioned some of the hurdles they'd have to overcome. I think there's a belief that, you know, Klay Thompson might be able to settle for a two year thirty million or excuse me, a two year sixty million dollar deal with the Warriors. What the luxury tax looks like, whether Chris Paul is still on the team remains to be seen.

But that might be one way to keep them. But if you're Klay Thompson, do you just think enough is enough and go and try to find your one last payday? I guess we'll find out. Definitely check out the video that Sean just referenced on his Twitter.

In fact, we'll retweet it from our show account. But he's on Twitter at Sean S E A N Cunningham. And yeah, it's pretty significant the way that Klay stops before he leaves the court. He he's got a towel on his shoulders. He's already said his goodbyes.

He looks around the arena and he's got a look on his face like, man, I wonder what if or I better take this all in. So great description from Sean. We appreciate that. And we'll share that for sure. From Fox 40 Sports and Sean, it's good to talk to you.

I know the Kings are not done. You'll have more work to do. Thanks so much for sharing your insight for a couple of minutes. Oh, any time. We're a fan of you out here, Amy. Love the show. Thanks for having me on.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-17 09:14:15 / 2024-04-17 09:22:18 / 8

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