Sacramento Kings

Kings’ Rudy Gay struggles to find his game

Kings forward Rudy Gay, left, celebrates a dunk as Los Angeles Lakers guard Marcelo Huertas looks on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif. Gay is averaging 17.1 points, but is shooting just 40.5 percent and attempting 17.3 shots per game.
Kings forward Rudy Gay, left, celebrates a dunk as Los Angeles Lakers guard Marcelo Huertas looks on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif. Gay is averaging 17.1 points, but is shooting just 40.5 percent and attempting 17.3 shots per game. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Without DeMarcus Cousins, it’s not unreasonable to expect Rudy Gay to do more.

Gay expects more from himself.

But Gay has struggled as the Kings have dropped five games in a row, the last four without Cousins. Cousins hopes to return from a strained right Achilles’ on Monday night, when the Kings host the San Antonio Spurs.

Gay hasn’t been as efficient as he’d like this season. He’s averaging 17.1 points but shooting just 40.5 percent and attempting 17.3 shots per game.

Without Cousins, defenses are keying on Gay. He’s trying to operate in tighter space, and he’s getting fewer clean looks.

But even if Cousins returns against the Spurs, it doesn’t mean Gay will instantly find his groove.

“I’d love to have him back – that’s my running mate,” Gay said. “We need him back. But I can’t say that’s the reason I’ve been playing terrible. I’ve just been playing terrible.”

I’d love to have him back – that’s my running mate. We need him back. But I can’t say that’s the reason I’ve been playing terrible. I’ve just been playing terrible.

Kings forward Rudy Gay on injured DeMarcus Cousins

In the four games without Cousins, Gay has averaged 16.3 points on 37.1 percent shooting.

“I don’t know if I need to turn my underwear inside out at night or rain-dance or something, but I have a hex on me right now,” Gay said. “I don’t know what it is.”

Cousins’ absence cannot be ignored. Gay also has had changes in his personal life with birth of a new child in the days leading up to the season opener.

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Besides the offensive struggles, Gay has drawn some tough defensive assignments, especially when he’s played power forward against players such as Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph. While that might drain Gay on the court, the changes at home have also drained him.

“It’s been a tough month for me,” Gay said. “I’ve been through a lot mentally, and I’m still trying to adjust to the way life is now. I just have to get over it and be the better basketball player I can be.”

Gay missed 15 of his 25 shots in Saturday’s loss to Golden State, but Kings coach George Karl credited Gay with keeping the game close against the NBA’s last undefeated team.

Karl also said improved conditioning will help Gay.

“There’s no question that without Rudy Gay, (Golden State) would not have been a close game,” Karl said. “We probably need him in a little better shape, a little better conditioning, get his legs under him a little bit more, I just think right now with the pace that we play. And I think he had six or seven shots that normally go in.”

Gay likes being the Kings’ primary option on offense. Sacramento went to Gay in the post multiple times in the fourth quarter against the Warriors, but he was unable to score enough for the Kings to pull off an upset.

“I put a lot of it on myself,” Gay said. “I take a lot of pride in it, especially with Cuz out. Guys have to be better; we’ll be better.”

I don’t think anybody’s happy about where we are. We also know the last two games we’ve moved in a good direction. It’s time to stay positive; it’s time to grow, come together.

Kings coach George Karl

The Kings must improve soon. While everyone knew the schedule to open the season would be difficult, falling to 1-7 with another loss would make it tough to keep selling that progress is being made.

“I don’t think anybody’s happy about where we are,” Karl said. “We also know the last two games we’ve moved in a good direction. It’s time to stay positive; it’s time to grow, come together.”

For Gay, Sunday’s off-day was much needed. He was asked if he was getting much sleep with two young children, one a newborn, at home.

“I’m trying,” Gay said. “I’m trying.”

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Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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