There’s no telling which Kings team will appear Monday in Oklahoma City.
It could be the energetic team that runs and enthusiastically moves the ball. Or it might be the team that looks disinterested.
The Kings, 4-11 on the road, begin a two-game trip against the Thunder, followed by a game Tuesday in Dallas.
“We’re capable of being an elite team, so it’s just a matter of what Kings team shows up,” guard Darren Collison said. “We want the best Kings team to show up every night right now.”
The Kings might have been at their best in beating the Phoenix Suns on Saturday. Their 142 points were the franchise’s most in 23 years, and they shot a season-high 60.9 percent. But the Suns have lost eight consecutive games.
Conversely, the Thunder seems to have found a groove, winning eight of its last 10 games, and is 16-4 at home. And the Mavericks are 10-6 at home and will look to avenge a loss in Sacramento in November.
The only thing I can say we learned is we can’t underestimate any team. No matter how well we’re playing at the time, we can’t get comfortable playing a certain type of way. We have to bring it every night, no matter who it is.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings center
“We have two tough teams and we have to go out there and play really as hard as we can,” forward Rudy Gay said. “It’s good to get some confidence going into them.”
Confidence was an issue entering the Phoenix game. Center DeMarcus Cousins said the team was down after three consecutive losses, including two home games against teams the Kings believed were beatable.
First was a loss last Sunday to the Portland Trail Blazers, who were missing their best player, Damian Lillard. Then came Wednesday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, who displayed hustle and effort despite having the worst record in the NBA. After the Philadelphia game, Kings coach George Karl said his team was served “humble pie.”
The three defeats, which included a loss to the league-leading Golden State Warriors, came as the Kings were feeling pretty good about themselves. They went 2-2 on a trip, defeating teams with winning records, the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers.
The losses came to teams with losing records, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards, but the Kings saw the victories as momentum builders.
“The only thing I can say we learned is we can’t underestimate any team,” Cousins said. “No matter how well we’re playing at the time, we can’t get comfortable playing a certain type of way. We have to bring it every night, no matter who it is.”
4-11 Kings’ road record this season
The keys on the road will be the effort level and mindset, areas in which the Kings have been wildly inconsistent.
“I believe it’s all about effort,” Cousins said. “Effort and playing together defensively. If we have those two things coming into the game, I think we have a great chance of winning both games.”
The Kings also take solace knowing that in a down Western Conference, their 13-20 record doesn’t bury them in the standings.
“We’ve just got to stay together, stay the course,” Collison said. “The good thing about the West – they’re giving us a chance and it’s right in front of us if we want it. If we play together the right way and do what we have to do defensively, we can go on to OKC and Dallas and get a game.”