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  • Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    Kings center DeMarcus Cousins drives to the basket against the Philadelphia shooting guard Tony Wroten on Thursday at Sleep Train Arena.

  • José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Center DeMarcus Cousins says the Kings need “to come out and play at a high level,” no matter who the opponent is.

More Information

  • Thomas looks to improve his defense, make opposing guards uncomfortable
  • Kings try to regroup after rough start to homestand
  • The Bee’s Jason Jones: Ranking the NBA
  • TONIGHT’S GAME

    KINGS (10-22) VS. TRAIL BLAZERS (26-8)

    Time: 7 p.m.

    Where: Sleep Train Arena

    TV/radio: CSNCA, 1140, 950

    THREE KEYS

    1. Ball pressure: Portland’s Damian Lillard is one of the NBA’s best young point guards. The Kings’ Isaiah Thomas must be aggressive defensively to make Lillard uncomfortable. If Lillard gets to his spots on the floor unimpeded, he could dominate the game.

    2. Aldridge watch: Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the toughest players to cover in the NBA. At 6-foot-11, he can shoot over most defenders and makes many contested shots. The Kings must try to force Aldridge away from the basket.

    3. Three-point problems: The Blazers lead the NBA in 3-point shooting at 39.9 percent. If the Kings double-team Aldridge or Lillard, they can’t forget shooters such as Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. Rookie C.J. McCollum, another good shooter, is probable tonight. He has been out all season with a fractured left foot.

    PROBABLE STARTERS

    KINGS

    No. PlayerPos.
    22Isaiah ThomasG
    16 Ben McLemoreG
    8Rudy GayF
    34Jason ThompsonF
    15DeMarcus CousinsC

    TRAIL BLAZERS

    No. PlayerPos.
    0Damian LillardG
    2Wesley MatthewsG
    88Nicolas BatumF
    12LaMarcus AldridgeF
    42Robin LopezC

    – Jason Jones

Kings seek answers with players-only meeting

Published: Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 - 11:09 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 - 8:40 am

Motivation shouldn’t be a problem for the Kings tonight.

After all, the Portland Trail Blazers enter the game at Sleep Train Arena with 26-8 record.

The Kings’ tendency to let down against weak teams was addressed in a players-only meeting Sunday, a day after they lost at home to the Charlotte Bobcats. One of the league’s worst offensive teams, the Bobcats put on a shooting clinic at times while ending a five-game losing streak.

“I believe we play with more urgency or fear when we play against (top) teams, so we kind of depend on each other more then,” center DeMarcus Cousins said. “When we play one of the lower-caliber teams, we feel like we can do it by ourselves. Once we balance that out and realize we need each other each night, I feel like then we’ll come out and have consistent games no matter who the team is.”

Cousins and guard Isaiah Thomas called the meeting.

“Some players were hitting their boiling points, and we just needed to clear the air and talk amongst each other and not with the coaches,” Cousins said. “It was actually a real good meeting, and we got a lot out of it.”

Cousins said a lack of trust on offense and defense, in addition to the Kings’ letdowns, was discussed.

It’s puzzling that the Kings have less urgency against losing teams. Their 10-22 record is the second-worstin the Western Conference and fourth-worst in the NBA. Nevertheless, Sacramento sometimes thinks it has an advantage because of its talent.

“To be honest, we’re not that good of a team,” Cousins said. “And the reality is teams come in and look at us like that. We’re going to be underdogs no matter who the team is. We’ve got to come out and play at a high level.”

Combating the Kings’ mindset has been a focus of coach Michael Malone. He said it’s the trait of a bad team and Sacramento has fallen into that belief too many times.

“We’ve talked about it quite a bit,” Malone said. “I can’t explain it. We’re in no position to disrespect anybody that comes into our gym or a gym that we go into on the road. When you’re a young team that’s been in the lottery and you’re 10-22, you have to respect everybody, and we have not done that.”

Thomas said the Kings can solve their problems only by playing “the right way.” That means sharing the ball on offense and playing much better man-to-man and team defense.

“When we play against the good teams, we know we need each other to win, and we do the right things and play the right way,” Thomas said. “When we play teams we think we should beat, guys kind of do their own thing. We play differently, and it’s obvious.”

Thomas explained why the Kings think that way, given their record.

“I don’t think it’s always about the record,” Thomas said. “ ... We feel like we’re a better team than not just say the Charlotte Bobcats but a lot of teams, even though (our) record might not show it. There are some games going in where we’re like, ‘We really should win this game.’ (Tonight is) going to be tough, but we’ve definitely got a chance to win because we can beat any team in the NBA.”

And if the Kings do not come out focused and prepared, they have shown they can lose to anybody. Changing their approach would be a first step toward more wins.

“In the NBA, everybody has talent,” Malone said. “What separates good teams from bad teams is winning habits, trust, character, all those types of teams. My biggest challenge is to keep this team together as we’re struggling.”

Transaction – The Kings waived center Hamady Ndiaye on Monday.

Ndiaye averaged 0.4 points, 1.3 rebounds and 5.3 minutes in 14 games. He made the team out of training camp with a non-guaranteed contract, partly because Carl Landry was lost to a torn hip flexor.

With Landry participating in drills and working toward a return to the lineup, Ndiaye became expendable. Also, contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season today.

The Kings have 13 players, two below the league limit. Landry is not participating in full practice yet, but that could happen in about two weeks.


Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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