On the Kings' bonafide superstar

Plus: The unsung hero of the Pelicans

Welcome to another issue of A Farewell to Takes, our quick trip around the NBA. In one of the best stories of this season, the Sacramento Kings currently sit in 4th place in the Western Conference with three games of separation between them and 5th place Dallas. Domantas Sabonis has been one of the best players in the NBA this season (he is currently #3 in overall Win Shares according to basketball-reference.com) and will be on the Western Conference All-Star team. Both the Denver Nuggets and the Memphis Grizzlies continue to surge and create separation from the rest of the conference in the standings. Denver is on a 6-game win streak and Memphis is on a 9-game win streak. In the East: Boston is back to playing GREAT basketball after a two week slump in December. They currently have a 4-game cushion on the 2nd place Brooklyn Nets and are riding a 6-game win streak. Due to injuries, the Nets, the Bucks, and the Pacers have all played inconsistent basketball over the last couple weeks. Three teams to keep your eye on in the East: the Philadelphia 76ers (just a half game out of 2nd place), the Miami Heat, and the New York Knicks (getting stellar play from Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson).

On last week’s episode of The Old Man and the Three, we chatted with Grizzlies breakout star Desmond Bane. One of the highlights of the conversation was getting insight into the inner workings of what makes the Grizzlies such a special team. Bane provided details on Taylor Jenkins, Dillon Brooks, Tyus Jones, and Ja Morant. You can listen to the episode here or watch the video here.

In this week’s A Farewell to Takes we are giving you:

  • Our Stat of the Week, featuring an unsung hero of the New Orleans Pelicans

  • Tommy on Domantas Sabonis

  • The Best Thing Tommy Ate This Week

  • Our Wine of the Week

As always, thanks for reading and being a part of our community. —JJ

The Stat of the Week is 20.0

The New Orleans Pelicans are struggling with injuries right now: Brandon Ingram has been out since November (hoping for his return in the next week), and Zion Williamson is currently out with a hamstring strain. The Pelicans have a deep team, and a number of players have stepped up in the absence of Ingram and Williamson. One of those players is Naji Marshall. Marshall was undrafted out of Xavier and had a short stint in the G League, but he has played great this season as a regular in the rotation. His play of late has been spectacular. Over the last 5 games, Marshall has averaged 20.0 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.6 steals while shooting 46.6% from the field and 40.9% from three. He’s always been a great energy player and competitive defender, but this season he has made major strides offensively. Assuming they are healthy come playoff time, the Pelicans have a real chance in the Western Conference because of role players like Naji Marshall. —JJ

Memphis Grizzlies Desmond Bane joined show last week to talk about the many personalities in Memphis and the fans who think Memphis is "annoying," which teams in West he's been most surprised by, learning from the Warriors, and much more. Definitely check it out if you haven't already.

YouTube | Wondery+ | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | wherever you listen to your podcasts

Featured Player of the Week: Domantas Sabonis

It's no secret the Sacramento Kings are one of the league's best stories this season. Sitting at 24-18 in 4th in the West, the Kings look not just like a playoff team but a team that can potentially make some noise when they get there. It's also no secret that a large part of this success has been because of big man Domantas Sabonis, a lock for the All-Star team and a guy that will likely be in the conversation for All-NBA in May.

Coming off a 19/16/15 performance this weekend, joining Oscar Robertson in 1968 as the only other King in franchise history to post a 15/15/15 game, I wanted to look at just how good Sabonis has been. His counting stats have been great, sitting currently at 18.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 7 assists per game, leading the league handily in rebounding. He currently sits at 5th in RAPTOR tied with our favorite trade partner, Tyrese Haliburton.

This success isn't surprising. I mean Sabonis was a two time All-Star in Indiana and has always had immense potential going back to his Oklahoma City roots. But his devastating effectiveness this year on both ends of the floor has been a marvel to watch. This Ringer piece by Michael Pina does a nice job breaking down Sabonis's efficency in the post. the Kings are averaging 1.36 points pre possession when Sabonis posts up, 2nd of 136 players in the league. The Kings have the third best half court offense in the league, a noticeable jump from previous years.

But like our friend the Joker in Denver, some of Sabonis's performances are starting to look interesting in a historic context. According to Stat Muse, the last and only player to post a 19/15/16/2/2 stat line was Larry Bird. In December, Sabonis averaged 21.7/14.4/7.2 on 69% shooting, the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to average 20/14/7 on 65% shooting for a month. In December, Sabonis set the Kings franchise record for rebounds in a half with 16, he tied the franchise record for double doubles, a stat he currently leads the league in.

While it's important not to discount De'Aron Fox's late game heroics or the additions of Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk, and possibly most crucially, Mike Brown, the Kings have a bonafide superstar in Sabonis, and it will be interesting to check back in a few months to see how many more records he has broken.

The Kings have won four in a row, have the third best offense in basketball, and sit in striking distance of hosting a playoff series, something many would have found improbable a few months ago, and a lot of this is because of their all-world center. —Tommy

Best Thing Tommy Ate This Week: Spicy Sopressata Sandwich at Caffé Lilia

We have talked a ton about Lilia, Missy Robbins and Sean Feeney's spectacular Williamsburg restaurant. Arguably the best Italian in New York, Lilia opened six years ago, and it feels like they haven't looked back since.

If you're on the wait list to get a table, make sure you check out their far less heralded but pretty damn tasty lunch service. Serving more as a cafe than sit down, Caffé Lilia has been serving pastries, small sandwiches and coffee out of a side window since the days of "take-out only" during the pandemic. All of the sandwiches are good; the bread is spectacular, but it's the Spicy Sopressata sandwich which is the real standout. The ingredients are remarkably simple: spicy sopressata, honey, olive oil, pecorino cheese, and their house-made foccacia bread. I remember the first time I had it, I wondered why I couldn't just make this myself. Because the ingredients, dummy. Like the house-made bread, like I mentioned. But also the restaurant's unique honey and cured meat is a crazy good combination.

The sandwich isn't super heavy compared to some of the more famous NYC Italian shops, but should serve well as a great breakfast or lunch option if you're in the Williamsburg area.

Caffé Lilia | Instagram | 567 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Wine of the Week: Domaine Pichot ‘Champon’ Côte-Rôtie 2013

We had an amazing dinner at Semma last week in NYC. Semma is an Indian restaurant in the West Village that features regional Southern Indian cuisine. There were many items on the menu that were outstanding, but the highlight to me was the Goanese Oxtail with green cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and cilantro. We paired that course with a wonderful Northern Rhone from Domaine Pichot. As a reminder, Syrah is the predominant grape in Northern Rhone, and Côte-Rôtie is my absolute favorite village in Rhone. Like always, not only is this wine a standout, it’s also an incredible value. As the winter months trudge on, grab yourself a bottle of this beautiful Syrah. —JJ

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