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  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    DeMarcus Cousins needs to work on his field-goal percentage, among other things, if he wants to become an All-Star.

  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Tyreke Evans is shooting a career-best 48 percent, but his jumper remains unreliable, and his scoring average is down to 15.3 points.

  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / Bee file, 2012

    Geoff Petrie says it's unlikely the Kings will make any moves by the trade deadline Thursday. The franchise's unsettled ownership situation is putting deals on hold.

  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Aaron Brooks has not provided the steadiness the team envisioned when the veteran was signed during the offseason. Brooks' playing time also has diminished in recent games.

Wins remain elusive for Kings as problems persist

Published: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 17, 2013 - 4:46 pm

The Kings' season has become a case of lowered expectations.

Remember in September and October, when the players talked about making a playoff run?

That's no longer the case – not even close.

Asked what a realistic goal for the Kings would be after the All-Star break, center DeMarcus Cousins was succinct: "… Win more than 25 games."

At 19-35, the Kings have the second-worst record in the Western Conference. And Phoenix, the team with the worst record, has beaten the Kings twice.

So the Kings find themselves where they've been most of the last six seasons, near the bottom of the standings trying to figure out how they can win consistently.

"Obviously, you wanted to make a big jump," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "You want to make a big jump necessary to have your team playing in the postseason."

The Kings' problems in recent seasons haven't seen much improvement this season. The offense is still inefficient, relying on players who shoot too much but not very well from the field.

Too often, the Kings look like a collection of five players with five different agendas, and players often describe their own play as selfish.

And the defense? It's among the worst in the NBA again.

Smart said many of the team's problems can be traced to who does – and doesn't – touch the ball.

"When we consistently move the ball, it affects our entire play on the offensive side and defensive side," Smart said. "When they move the ball and everyone is involved and playing and no one is loading up on shots, loading up trying to get points, the game becomes easy."

When the Kings aren't selfish, it makes them easier to watch and apparently easier to coach.

"It's a fun game for me to coach because now you can just focus on the strategy of the game instead of focusing on 'I've got to get this guy a shot, I've got to get him a shot, can I get him a shot?' " Smart said. "Now you don't put so much pressure on your overall team."

The Kings also have struggled because the lineup hasn't been consistent. From injuries and suspensions to Smart still trying to find the right mix of players, the Kings haven't developed a predictable rotation.

Smart has struggled to manage the playing time because of a logjam of wing players, and he doesn't believe settling on a certain number of backups will fix the problem because there isn't enough separation between the players.

"For the most part, the top guys have been playing. It's that second tier of guys trying to get consistent minutes," Smart said. "It's tough on them, it's tough on me because I'm looking at the game and saying, 'This guy might fit well against this team, that guy might fit well against that team,' outside of your normal guys that start."

The Kings also need more production and consistency from their key players.

Cousins is putting up good numbers (17.3 points, 10 rebounds per game), but he's turning the ball over too much (a team-high 3.1 times per game).

Tyreke Evans hasn't asserted himself consistently, and Marcus Thornton's playing time and production have dipped with his role coming off the bench.

"Bottom line is Cuz has to play at a (high) level every single night, regardless of how many minutes," Smart said. "Tyreke has to play at a great level every single night. He can't have those nights where he's here and there. Marcus, when he comes of the bench, no matter how many minutes, how many shots, he's got to play at a certain level every single night.

"Isaiah Thomas obviously (has to play well), and Jason (Thompson) has been pretty consistent, and that's how you … grow your basketball team."

Thomas wants to see the Kings break from their stubborn ways. But it's not happening fast enough to suit him.

"Sometimes it feels like we're going our separate ways, and that happens a lot with young teams," Thomas said. "I just want to play the right kind of basketball, play together and have fun. Wins or losses, you can still play hard and have fun. We've got to come together more as a group and be one."

And the good news?

The Kings only have to go 7-21 to reach Cousins' realistic goal.

But if they can't break their bad habits, even that goal might be out of reach.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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