George Karl said he would do a lot of guessing and experimenting during his first 10 games as the Kings’ coach.
But that was before Karl lost his starting point guard, Darren Collison, and Sacramento acquired veteran point guard Andre Miller to lead the second unit.
The Kings fell to 3-7 under Karl on Monday night with a 130-105 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. But the coach is not panicking.
Monday’s defeat was a reminder the Kings still commit too many turnovers (16 for 24 Atlanta points) and still do not defend well enough.
The Kings have lost four in a row with each opponent shooting above 50 percent. The Hawks shot 60.2 percent, the highest by a Kings opponent this season.
Atlanta made 20 three-pointers and had 42 assists, both league highs this season, and became the first team to reach 50 wins (Golden State later reached 50).
Nevertheless, Karl reiterated he likes his team and that turning things around will be a process.
“If you’re going to overreact, I think you’re crazy,” Karl said. “The majority of NBA games are 48 minutes long, and nobody plays 48 good minutes. But we’re playing probably only 25, 30 good minutes, as where good teams play 35, 40 good minutes, and our lapses can be devastating.”
Karl has gotten a handle on the Kings’ weaknesses. Besides defense and turnovers, he wants to see better passing.
The Hawks excel at moving the ball quickly for great shots. The Kings too often settle for contested shots.
“I’d like to see us make more playmaking, decision-making type of basketball plays,” Karl said. “In general, I’d like to see us be more consistent defensively and more consistent in finding playmaking skills in the game.
“What we’re trying to develop is – for lack of a better phrase – a San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver Nugget kind of attack, attack, attack (style). Let the ball define the shot and not run a lot of sets. We try to play basketball more in flow with quick decisions, smart decisions, solid decisions. And we’ve been very good at it.”
The team that is exceptionally good, if not the best, at decision making is Atlanta, which took apart Sacramento with precise execution and great shooting.
The Hawks also set season highs by a Kings opponent for total points, points in a half (76 in the first), assists in a quarter (13 in the second) and a half (25 in the first half), and field-goal percentage (60.2).
Kings forward Rudy Gay said the way Hawks play comes from their unselfish nature.
“They move the ball and get each other open,” Gay said. “It’s fun to watch and tough to play against. They have great players, and they play well together.”
Gay said it takes time to develop that chemistry along with the desire to play team ball.
“You’ve got to want it,” Gay said. “They want it, obviously. They have 50 wins already.”
Karl admits it would be easier to sell progress if the Kings were winning. But he’s a believer in the big picture at this stage of the season.
“I think there are a lot of pieces out there I like,” Karl said. “I keep telling the team the process is growing. It’s getting better. It’s developing.”
So even though the Kings aren’t winning, Karl is intent on getting them to “play the right way” even if they tire of that expression.
Regardless of the score, Karl wants the Kings to play focused and intense basketball.
“Right now, it’s developing a play-hard, play-well mentality the majority of the 48 minutes that you play,” Karl said.
If the Kings need an example, they saw one up close Monday.