Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus Cousins believes Kings are same team that started strong, but mindset has changed

DeMarcus Cousins, expressing his displeasure to coach Tyrone Corbin after being taken out of a game in December, called the Kings’ lackadaisical effort on Thursday  night “inexcusable.”
DeMarcus Cousins, expressing his displeasure to coach Tyrone Corbin after being taken out of a game in December, called the Kings’ lackadaisical effort on Thursday night “inexcusable.” hamezcua@sacbee.com

The Kings have played 24 games under Tyrone Corbin, the same number of games they played under Michael Malone to start the season.

After an 11-13 start with Malone, the Kings have gone 6-18 with Corbin, and at least one King said it’s time to stop using the “We miss Malone” excuse.

“We’re not going there,” center DeMarcus Cousins said after Thursday’s dreadful showing against the Dallas Mavericks, a 101-78 loss.

Where the Kings do go from here is the question because there’s no telling if the team will show the needed effort and desire to find a way out of their rut.

The Kings have lost 10 of their last 11 games, and there is growing speculation that there could be another in-season coaching change after management in late December announced Corbin would coach the rest of this season.

But it doesn’t matter whom the Kings put on the sidelines if the effort on the court is like it was Thursday, when the Kings were routed by a Mavs team without two starters.

“It’s just coming down to playing hard, just some pride, have some self-respect, act like you care,” Cousins said.

The Kings play three of their next four games on the road, beginning Saturday at Utah. And if the Kings play as poorly at both ends of the floor as they did Thursday, the next four games will send the team into the All-Star break in a deeper tailspin.

“My message to these guys at the end of the (Dallas) game was that, no matter what happens, we have to lay it all on the line,” Corbin said. “Whether you’re making shots or not, you’ve still got to play hard the entire time. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you, and right now everyone is thinking they can beat you. They want to punish you if they can. We have to make sure we fight them the entire time.”

Sacramento’s lack of fight on Thursday angered Cousins. Although the Kings have been losing, they at least had found the resolve to mount some kind of comeback.

There was none of that against the Mavericks.

“If we play hard and we get our brains beat in, I’m fine with that,” Cousins said. “But to come out and just lay down like we did (Thursday) is inexcusable.”

During the last two weeks of December, many gave the Kings a pass for being emotionally spent and not being themselves on the court. Even Corbin acknowledges the players have been through a lot with Malone’s firing.

Cousins has said Malone’s departure, an emphasis on playing at a faster pace or any other intangible is no excuse for how the Kings have played lately.

He said the Kings are still the team that started the season 9-5, but their mindset has changed.

“There’s nothing wrong with the team,” Cousins said. “The same guys that were winning are the same guys in the locker room right now. Ain’t nothing changed but the attitudes of the guys in this room.”

Along with playing lackadaisically, the Kings have bickered on the court at times. As usual, game officials are big targets of player frustrations, too.

Meanwhile, the losses pile up. Through 48 games last season, the Kings were 16-32, meaning Sacramento is just one game better at this point than the team that finished 28-54 last season.

Despite looking forward to playing in his first All-Star Game, Cousins acknowledges he’s part of the problem and said it will take a collective effort to fix it.

“We know if we’re fighting one another, we know if we let frustration get the best of us, it’s only going to make the situation worse,” Cousins said. “We know that, so why buy into it? Why not catch it before it comes and try to change it?”

Corbin repeatedly had praised the Kings for their resilience to get back in games. But lately, teams have gone on huge runs, and the Kings have had no answer.

Dallas turned a 35-35 tie into a 60-43 halftime lead. The Kings led Golden State 20-10 in the first quarter on Tuesday before allowing a 19-2 run and never recovered.

“I think we’re trying,” Corbin said. “I think we get deflated when things don’t go well for us. We have to fight our way through it.”

Cousins said the team that was becoming a solid defensive squad is still in Sacramento. It’s simply up to the players to believe it can still be a good defensive unit.

“We’re the same team,” Cousins said. “The same team that everybody was praising in the beginning of the year, so, yes, we can do it. It’s just a matter of us changing our attitudes.”

Collison update – Point guard Darren Collison, who left Thursday’s game against Dallas in the first half, has a hip flexor strain and is doubtful for Saturday’s game against Utah. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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