More than once last season, the Kings were booed at home for lackluster efforts.
And it hasn’t taken long for fans to become fed up with the same kind of Kings they’ve seen too much of in recent seasons, and the boo-birds have returned to Sleep Train Arena.
Changing ownership, the front office and coaches hasn’t immediately translated to a change in the losing culture. The team is on a five-game losing streak, thanks largely to old habits haunting them.
“We’ve been a team full of excuses,” said center DeMarcus Cousins. “And in the past, we really had an excuse. Now we don’t – it’s on us. Everything is set up for us now. It’s nothing we can complain about from the top to the coaches. Everything is set for us now. We just have to go out there and play. There’s no more excuses.”
Coach Michael Malone has seen enough and promised – following Saturday’s home loss to Portland – he will be changing his lineup for Wednesday’s game against the visiting Brooklyn Nets.
Malone said he isn’t sure if he has enough players who hate losing more than they like winning or worrying about themselves more than the team.
“If you hate to lose, you’re not going to go through the motions at times,” Malone said. “You’re going to leave it all on the floor, and you’re going to play with great energy and great passion.”
That enthusiasm, defensively and in rebounding, is needed considering the Kings have struggled on offense, shooting 42 percent to start the season.
“Now, I haven’t said anything to any one of our guys about making shots, missing shots or making mistakes,” Malone said. “But the effort is the one thing that has to be a constant, and it hasn’t been at times. If you really hate to lose, and if you hate being 1-5, we can’t continue to do the same things over and over, which is getting ourselves into these holes, making a great, valiant comeback and falling short.”
The Kings continue to stress a new mindset, but players are finding it harder to shake old habits.
“We revert back to our old selves,” said guard Isaiah Thomas. “One thing coach is on us about is being a next-play team, whether on offense or defense. We let one play mess us up. It might mess us up in the first quarter, and we’re still worried about it in the third quarter. That’s just how some guys’ mentality (is). ... We’re going to make mistakes; we know that. We’re not going to play a perfect game, but if you play hard, that’s going to make up for your mistakes.”
Cousins said more accountability is needed from the players.
The Kings are still a team quick to point fingers when things go bad.
“Once you accept that you’re not doing your job the right way and then you actually try to correct it, then that’s when we’ll be on the right path,” Cousins said. “And right now guys are still trying to make excuses.”
Two big areas of concern are transition defense and rebounding. Neither requires Malone to draw up a play to execute, which is why they are problems that loom large if they continue.
“It’s about the effort, and the effort’s not there,” Cousins said. “It’s clear it’s not there. They’ve got to get their heads out their butts right now, and we’ve got to come out here and play.”
Malone said he is not panicking six games into the season. But he won’t be content with what he’s seen so far.
“I came into this year fully understanding that this was going to be a process, and it’s going to take a long time to change around a culture that has been mired in the lottery for (seven) years,” Malone said. “I have to remind myself of that and keep on teaching and coaching and trying to do a better job myself.”