Fresh off Monday's fourth-quarter collapse at Minnesota and days removed from the debacle in Dallas, low-lighted by a franchise-record low 23 first-half points, morale is not an issue within the Kings practice facility.
So says coach Keith Smart, who typically bounded over to greet the media with cheer in his voice.
The Kings are 4-10 this season, 2-5 under Smart since he took over as coach, and though he looks positively pained during much of the Kings' recent 1-5 road run, he remains supremely confident.
"I never come to practice down," Smart said following Tuesday's lengthy session. "I'm the leader of this team. If I come in moping and dragging, they're dragging as well. I come in upbeat and get them on the floor to work. I have to set the tone. I can't wait for a player or another coach to set it, so the morale will always be high ."
Smart said the rare practice provided him a chance to talk about what ails the Kings ball movement, shooting, getting back on defense. He said tonight's home game the Kings' lone date at Power Balance Pavilion in this current nine-game stretch is critical to see if lessons are learned.
"We have to eliminate a lot of the stuff that is going on and we're going to work our way through this," he said. "There's not a lot of time to practice, so we've got to maximize it. Our focus is getting better every day. If we do, we can turn the corner and be a good team.
"Right now, we're not a good team because we're still growing. We've got the pieces, but the pieces don't know how to work together as a group."
The Kings are the NBA's youngest team and last in assists (14.6 a game) and shooting (39.8 percent, including 25.8 percent for threes).
Smart doesn't want to tell players not to shoot if they're open, saying, "we don't want indecisive shooters. Can't have a guy paralyzed out there."
Though Smart said he is pleased with his team's general game effort, he does want the Kings to become a better running team. That's easier said than done, he said.
"A lot of guys are not in great shape to be a running team," Smart said. "We can run in spurts but not full time. Conditioning-wise, we're not there."
The Kings had a season-high 20 assists at Minnesota, but the wheels fell off in the fourth quarter of a 99-86 loss.
Smart said after that game he would ponder lineup changes. Tuesday, he declined to get specific but did allow player evaluation is constant.
"There's a lot to think about," he said. "I have to be patient. I'm taking over a team that has to grow."
John Salmons said he isn't "frustrated" but isn't going to accept losing, either. "Old habits have to die," he said.
J.J. Hickson said players are absorbing Smart's messages: "We're working on everything. As long as we get better and learn to play with each other, we'll be OK. We know we're also beating ourselves. There's no reason we can't get back on defense and push the ball since we are so young. But being young means a lot of mistakes, too."