Grit and grind is dead, you say? Not so, respond the 2017-2018 Sacramento Kings. It wasn't pretty but the win is in the books and this team had already looked better than I thought it would this season. Justin Jackson (C-) -- 17 min, 2 pt, 4 rb, 0 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, 1 tov, 1 pf At this point in his very young NBA career, Justin Jackson isn't being asked to do much in his time on the court. As the fifth option on offense, he's had minimal opportunity to make a play. When he does get the ball, Jackson looks comfortable and he's got a smoothness of movement on the floor. He certainly makes an effort on defense though on the few possessions where he was matched up on Harrison Barnes, the vet got the better of the rook. He did at least pull in a few boards in his time though. Zach Randolph (C) -- 30 min, 13 pt, 6 rb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 0 blk, 1 tov, 1 pf Welcome to Sacramento, Z-Bo! Or should I say 3-Bo, because Randolph's apparently a stretch big now. Now, while Zach Randolph's Kings debut was a bit of a mixed bag, I thought I'd start with the bad and work back from there. The worst thing about Z-Bo's game was probably something largely out of his control, that being the sudden emphasis on throwing the ball into Randolph in the post and letting him grind out ten seconds of the clock before something happened. Now, this is a play structure that pretty much defined most of the classic Memphis Grit'n'Grind style and, considering the coach and personnel on this team, I can understand why this happened against the Mavericks, which doesn't make me like it or anything. While Z-Bo certainly has a pedigree deserving of all the touches he got, he didn't really do all that much with them and aside from a good possession or two in the fourth quarter didn't really yield all that much production. On the positive side, Randolph knows Joerger's schemes on both sides of the court, allowing him to read and react better than you'd expect a 36-year-old big man with little natural athletic ability to be able to. On defense, he held his own and had active hands, though he had trouble staying in front of "power forward" Harrison Barnes. Z-Bo's inability to match-up with this new quicker breed of stretch-fours is something to keep an eye on going forward. Either way, I don't think Z-Bo's debut was anywhere as bad as some people seem to be thinking. Willie Caulie-Stein (B-) -- 26 min, 10 pt, 11 rb, 1 ast, 0 stl, 1 blk, 0 tov, 5 pf Could it be? Has Willie finally started to "get it"? After a preseason that caused portions of the Kings fanbase to give up on him, Willie has pieced together two good, encouraging performances to start the actual season. While Willie still has a tendency to watch the ball as opposed to his man, leaving him open for the easy lob, he's been active and involved on defense, his length and agility key to the team's good defensive start to the season. On offense, Trill has developed a semi-dependable midrange shot, which can be a complete game changer in his development and ceiling as a player. Forcing his defender to guard that shot opens space to drive to the rim for Willie and, as we saw on several possessions in this game, his sheer athleticism is hard to stop on the drive. Even more encouraging, Willie has battled on the boards, nabbing quite a few offensive rebounds and extending possessions for a team that'll never be confused for an efficient offensive squad. More of these performances please. Buddy Hield (C) -- 27 min, 13 pt, 6 rb, 3 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, 1 tov, 1 pf Well that was good. While certainly not as hot and cold as his last performance, Buddy still put up another solid scoring guard performance, whilst also providing more rebounding (seriously, how awful were the Mavs at boxing out?) and a couple of nice assists. Obviously, people are going to be talking about that game saving offensive board but I was more impressed by Buddy continuing to buy in on the defensive end more than anything. I know it was just poor old broken Wes Matthews but Buddy still did his part in smothering the Mavs for most of the night. George Hill (B+) -- 31 min, 21 pt, 5 rb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 0 blk, 5 tov, 1 pf George Hill is probably never going to impress you. No, his talents and production are almost more of a slow burn than anything. Compared to the spectacularly exciting play of De'Aaron Fox, George Hill brings more of a blue collar, workman quality than anything else. But make no mistakes about it, George Hill is very very very good at basketball, not an all-star but on the tier just below it. A nonbeliever may point to the assist-to-turnover ratio and say Hill had a bad night as a point guard but I'd argue that wasn't the case. The turnovers have been a bit of a problem early but George does so much else to minimize the damage that you don't really notice. In crunch time, Hill cranked it up another level, getting us a big play or basket just about whenever we needed it. ---- Garrett Temple (B) -- 28 min, 8 pt, 6 rb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 0 blk, 1 tov, 0 pf Garrett did what Garrett does, that is to say, he made smart plays, played great defense, and served as central glue guy 1B to George Hill's 1A. Joerger's shown a willingness to go small this year, going with Garrett, Hill, and Fox with Vince Carter at the 4 spot for spurts in both games and with all three guards being plus defenders and competent other dudes behind them, the FGG alignment has applied all kinds of pressure to unsuspecting backcourts to start the season. Tonight, as an added bonus, Temple didn't force too many things on offense, instead doing the solid role-player thing of taking open threes and getting the ball to the "stars" in positions where they could make plays. I would expect nothing less. De'Aaron Fox (B) -- 29 min, 9 pt, 6 rb, 10 ast, 1 stl, 0 blk, 2 tov, 3 pf Two games into the De'Aaron Fox experience and the fifth overall pick continues to impress. With Rick Carlislie being an exponentially better defensive coach that Mike "I swear I'm not a ten year old playing 2k for the first time" D'Antoni, Fox wasn't able to get all the way to the rim with ease as much as he was able to against the Rockets (I expect this to continue to be the case as more and more tape on the guy becomes available throughout the year) and opted instead to put his midrange game to use to mixed results. While he made some (probably enough to keep the defense honest), De'Aaron also missed more than his fair share of shots. Much to my surprise, Fox quietly passed for ten assists against the Mavericks, something that I attribute more to his teammates hitting their shots for once as opposed to some flash of playmaking brilliance on the part of De'Aaron. Nevertheless, the fact that he proved himself capable of setting up scoring plays is encouraging in the long run. On defense, De'Aaron looked solid but to be fair he wasn't exactly up against Steph Curry tonight. Onwards onwards, the future is bright. Kosta Koufos (C) -- 21 min, 3 pt, 5 rb, 0 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 tov, 3 pf Kosta is who he is. Unspectacular, suffering from male pattern baldness, tall, a good teammate, a solid bench big man. While I get the frustration with him, remember that Kosta is on the team to shore up the backend of the defense and be a workman on the offensive end. Really, anything that we get from the man beyond putbacks on that end should be considered a pleasurable surprise. Skal Labissiere (C+) -- 12 min, 8 pt, 5 rb, 0 ast, 0 stl, 1 blk, 1 tov, 1 pf Pushed to the bench by Z-Bo's return from mouth surgery, Skal responded with one of the best spurts of action of his young career in the first quarter. After being called for a bajillion travels in the season opener, the Haitian didn't dare give the refs the chance to whistle him again, this time blitzing the Mavericks with a barrage of soft shots from the midrange area. On defense, Skal moved his feet well and even provided some rim protection in that first stint. His second foray into the game was less exciting but he continued to rebound well, which, considering how much of a concern that was in preseason and beyond, is very encouraging. He didn't force things tonight but he wasn't passive and I anticipate him seeing way more time against Denver tonight. Vince Carter (C) -- 17 min, 6 pt, 3 rb, 0 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, o tov, 2 pf Another night, another game where Vince Carter had an offensive performance consisting exclusively of threes. To his credit, Vince can make them at a nice clip. On defense, the Mavs don't exactly have many explosive wings to challenge the 40-year-old's aged legs. As with most of the rest of the roster, he knows his role and is completely willing to fulfill it on the defensive end. Nothing spectacular here but just another solid old man game.