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The Kings' surprising start will be put to the test

With so many games, the savvy NBA consumer needs to plot out their week in advance. This week, we'll be watching the Kings, who will surely be for real if they can survive an upcoming brutal slate.

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Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

This is not a list of the best games of the week -- although some of them are -- or a schedule full of weird games only League Pass nerds would ever watch, even though a few of them are represented here as well. This is merely a list of the games we plan to focus on this week.

(All games are local and League Pass broadcasts, unless noted).


The Kings' five-game winning streak came to an end in Oklahoma City on Sunday night, and it was the kind of game that makes people think twice about anointing them as as legitimate playoff contender. OKC is obviously banged up and it was the start of a tough road trip that includes games at Dallas and Memphis, with the Spurs back home on Saturday. A savvy team would have come into OKC understanding this may have been the best chance to get a win. Instead, the Kings were flat in the first half and a late rally fell short.

We'll chalk it up as a learning experience, but this week will be a test to see just how far along Sacramento really is this season.

MONDAY: New Orleans at Cleveland (7 p.m.)

If you were going to choose one player right now to start an NBA franchise, who would you take? LeBron James is still the de-facto answer, but Anthony Davis hasn't just crept into the conversation: he is the conversation. His numbers -- 24.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.4 blocks -- obviously get your attention, but more than that is the notion that he's still finding his way on an NBA court and his game is years away from being fully developed. He's the reason League Pass exists ... which is inexplicably the only place you can watch this game if you don't live in Cleveland or New Orleans.

TUESDAY: San Antonio at Golden State (10:30 p.m., NBA TV)

As the week begins, the Spurs find themselves in last place in their division. There's no reason for panic, of course. It's ridiculously early and Gregg Popovich basically conceded their game against the Rockets when he sat Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

And yet, there are some early warning signs. The bench doesn't look quite as formidable and their uber-efficient offense has been stymied by turnovers and poor shooting. The Warriors, meanwhile, have been the West's best team through the first two weeks. This sets the stage for a classic early-season showdown.

WEDNESDAY: Houston at Minnesota (10 p.m. ESPN)

It seems that many of us -- myself included -- sold the Rockets short coming into this season. Instead of focusing on the failed pursuit of Chris Bosh and subsequent loss of Chandler Parsons, perhaps we should have noted the defensive upgrade Trevor Ariza brought to the wing. He gives the Rockets three plus defenders at key positions and his three-point shooting opens up more room for Dwight Howard, who has been phenomenal thus far. Bosh would have been perfect, but Daryl Morey recovered nicely adding Ariza and picking up Jason Terry on the discard rack.

THURSDAY: Sacramento at Memphis (8 p.m.)

It's amazing what one loss will do to perceptions. Here were the Grizzlies rolling along through a six-game winning streak when they stumbled in Milwaukee, exposing erratic bench play and familiar offensive struggles. Memphis still has that defense, those big men and underrated point guard Mike Conley, but the Grizz have a smaller margin for error than most in the West.

FRIDAY: Miami at Atlanta (7:30 p.m.)

Luol Deng found himself in the middle of one of the league's strangest controversies this summer when a report read by Danny Ferry that referenced the veteran "having some African in him" was made public. It wasn't just offensive, it was bizarre considering Deng is one of the league's most respected players and international ambassadors. That forced the Hawks' GM to take an extended leave of absence and exposed one of the NBA's most volatile ownership groups. While the Hawks continue to float in the East's middle, Deng has fit in nicely with the Heat, where he's posted a .612 True Shooting percentage over the first two weeks.

SATURDAY: Phoenix at Clippers (10:30 p.m.)

Everyone wants to know which team can be the new Phoenix, but what about the old Phoenix? The loss of Channing Frye has affected their spacing and there appear to be control issues to work out among their three point guards. The good news is they are still grinding out wins during this transition phase, but this is the start of a six-game road trip that will serve as an early test.

SUNDAY: Denver at New York (1 p.m.)

It wasn't even two years ago when the Nuggets presented us with an intriguing hypothetical: Can a team with several good players, but no stars, really compete for a championship? They won 57 games in 2013 and thrived in George Karl's up-tempo system, but after yet another first-round playoff loss, the limits of the approach seemed obvious.

After dumping Karl and suffering a string of injuries, the Nuggets have gone from enjoyable to depressing. There is talent here, including Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried, but the roster is clogged up for not only this year, but next year as well. It's getting close to decision time for GM Tim Connelly, but does anyone want what they have?


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