The effort has been there and sometimes the desired results.
But the Kings aren’t having a ton of fun, according to guard Darren Collison. Winning produces team-wide grins and general good cheer, and the Kings have offered glimpses of being playoff worthy.
But Sacramento’s 19-30 record has resulted in more frowns than smiles, and a vibe of missed opportunities.
Players and coach Dave Joerger insist the team remains united. An earlier trip this season concluded with the Kings flying home to the sound of players belting out songs. But there wasn’t much for the Kings to sing about on the return home Tuesday night after an eight-game, 12-day trip in which they had three victories.
If there was a perfect image of the Kings’ frustrating trip, on which mounting injuries made close losses hurt even more, it was on an airport tarmac in Chicago. The team plane sat stranded for nearly eight hours on Jan. 21 because of dense fog and mechanical issues. No one was allowed off the plane. Players ate, slept, ate some more and kept their spirits up with conversation or by electronic means.
The team plane sat stranded for nearly eight hours on Jan. 21 because of dense fog and mechanical issues.
The rewards were nice as the Kings beat Detroit 109-104 and Cleveland 116-112 in overtime, followed by a 115-111 overtime loss at Indiana before a 109-106 victory at Charlotte.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Joerger said Thursday afternoon at the team’s practice facility at Golden 1 Center. “They’re playing hard. We were watching tape of us in October, and the first part of November, and watching how much we’ve improved. They’re giving us everything they have.”
Of the team’s general mood, the coach said, “it’s great. When we had the 1-6 homestand (last month), the mood was great. The 7 to 8 hours (at the airport), the mood was still good. Don’t get too low or too high. The guys like each other. The chemistry’s been good. They’re playing as hard as they can. They’re learning, going out there every night, playing the right way, playing together. The results, hopefully, will start to come.”
Effort is one thing. Enjoying the games is another, Collison said.
“The biggest thing is we’re not having fun out there,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to have fun. We’ve got to play to our potential. Guys are not having fun and playing with excitement, appreciating the game. We’ve got to get out of this little rut.”
The biggest thing is we’re not having fun out there. We’ve got to figure out a way to have fun. We’ve got to play to our potential. Guys are not having fun and playing with excitement, appreciating the game. We’ve got to get out of this little rut.
Kings guard Darren Collison
Collison added: “This is the first time I’ve been part of a team where the chemistry has been great and the results haven’t been there. The work ethic has been good. I’ve been on winning teams that didn’t work as hard as us. It shows good character, but at the end of the day, we need results. I want us to enjoy this thing. It’s been so hard for everyone to come together with so many injuries and rotations. Really, no excuses.”
The Kings were rocked on the eve of the trip, Jan. 18 against the Memphis Grizzlies, by losing second-leading scorer and beloved teammate Rudy Gay for the season because of a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. In Tuesday night’s road finale, a 105-83 loss in Houston, the team suffered another blow when guard Garrett Temple went down because of a partial tear of his left hamstring. He likely will not return until after the All-Star break (Feb. 17-19).
The Kings will look more to rookie guard Malachi Richardson and veteran leadership on its six-game homestand. The Kings trail Portland and Denver by 2 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
“More games for us to play and win,” Richardson said. “My job is to go out there and play hard. Just go out there and compete and keep learning. Trust is the most important thing to have in this sport, and to have vets have confidence in a rookie, that means a lot.”