Even after back-to-back losses in humbling fashion, Kings coach Michael Malone can smile.
The Kings are 5-3 overall and 3-2 on the road. Should they defeat the Memphis Grizzlies tonight, the Kings would split their four-game trip and return to Sacramento with a 6-3 mark before hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.
Losing is never fun, but Malone sees the big picture. After all, it’s a welcome change when a two-game losing streak isn’t the norm and instead causes angst.
“We’re going into Game 9; we’re fine,” Malone said Wednesday after the Kings practiced at Rhodes College. “It’s such a long season, I think people sometimes lose sight of that, and I think our players came in here expecting me to be all gloom and doom and negative. I was the other way.”
The Kings lost to the depleted Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday and blew a 24-point leadagainst the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.
Sacramento still has its best record through eight games since the 2006-07 season.
“There’s no need to panic,” Malone said. “We’ve done a lot of great things.”
The Kings received some good news Wednesday when point guard Darren Collison practiced. He missed the Dallas game because of left shoulder stiffness but is expected to be back in the starting lineup tonight.
Most NBA observers predicted early trouble for the Kings when the schedule was released. In their first 10 games, the Kings face eight playoff teams from last season. And one of the two opponents that didn’t reach the playoffs – the Phoenix Suns – fell short by just one game.
The Kings lost the season opener to Golden State but responded with a five-game winning streak before the current two-game skid, which coincides with a slip in the defense. Opposing guards are scoring too easily, aided by Sacramento turnovers that lead to easy chances.
“We lost two games because our defense has gotten away from us,” Malone said. “Earlier in the year, we were holding teams to like 40 percent (shooting). Our last two losses, we’ve been allowing 46 percent and 103 points per game.”
The Kings must defend better and not be so wrapped up in the officiating that it takes them out of their game, something that has happened during this skid. Collison picked up on that while watching Tuesday.
Asked what concerned him, Collison said, “When we get down, our demeanor. We’ve just got to continue to stay together, stay with it.”
Center DeMarcus Cousins believes the Kings are still focused on shutting down opponents.
“I know it’s there. We just hit a little adversity,” Cousins said. “Just come in with the same mindset. I know for a fact that we’ve accepted we are a defensive team, but we’ve just got to learn that when we do hit that adversity, when we do hit those walls, to be able to overcome them.”
While there is no need to panic, the Kings cannot afford to become comfortable with success before 10 percent of the season is over. If they do not get a handle on their issues from the past two games, the Kings will go from a feel-good story to the same old sad story of losing.
“Just like we’re 5-3 now, we started out 5-1, so anything can happen,” forward Rudy Gay said. “We have to go out there, play well and leave this trip 6-3 and still make another streak like we just did. It’s easy because it’s the NBA. We have a lot of games, and it’s still early. Nobody said it was going to be easy.”