The Kings are going to have some rough nights with a roster of mostly young players. If anything, the Kings should be an energetic bunch from the start, right?
So there’s no using youth as an excuse for what happened Sunday at Golden 1 Center.
The Kings were never in the game, looking like the early tip-off time caught them off guard in what became a 110-83 loss to the Washington Wizards.
This was not a matter of a young team that was simply overmatched. It was about a young team that came out not ready to play, compounding their lack of experience.
“We’ve got to be better at being ready to play at each position because we’re going to have to overcome playing a team that has got a lot of experience and they were ready to play,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said.
The Kings rested two veterans, point guard George Hill and power forward Zach Randolph. Joerger replaced them with De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere in the starting lineup and swapped rookie Justin Jackson out for rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic.
The Kings fell behind 13-0 and never threatened the Wizards. They trailed by as many as 37 points in losing their fourth consecutive game.
“You’ve got to be really dialed in and focused, ready to go from the jump,” Joerger said. “Once they got on us, our young guys got a little frantic and then the wheels kind of came off. Different people react in different ways.”
Errors are a given with a young team, but it’s different when they are errors that come by trying to make aggressive plays. That wasn’t the case Sunday as the Kings were just outworked from the start.
“You’ve got to be ready, man,” guard Buddy Hield said. “Can’t be lackadaisical out there.”
Labissiere was critical of his performance.
“I know personally I was really soft out there,” the forward said. “I just think that we as a group need to be more physical. That’s going to come with time.”
How long before that time comes is the issue. If it continues, there will be more teachable moments like Sunday, and it’s not the way Joerger wants his young team to come out.
It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to go through the motions and get routed. The Kings might lose a lot this season, but if they aren’t competitive as was the case against Washington, that’s a problem.
Joerger is not resting veterans to watch their young players get run off the court. He wants to look to different lineups and create opportunities, not wave the white flag.
“I disagree with the mindset that you go out, do this every night and that’s how you learn to play in the league,” Joerger said. “I think competing and competing for minutes and earning and deserving them, which is what we’ve been trying to do, is the best way to learn how to win. I don’t give that consolation prize to our guys.”
Bogdanovic led the Kings with 15 points and four steals in his first NBA start. Fox, who was started for the first time, had the worst game of his young career with two points, five assists and four turnovers.
“I felt like I played bad,” Fox said. “I felt like we played bad as a team.”
That will continue to happen if the Kings do not find the proper focus to start games. The underdog has to come out swinging, and most nights the Kings will be the underdog.
“It’s on us,” Fox said. “It’s really just the mentality. It’s never been physical. Of course those guys have been in the league for much longer than us and sometimes it could be physical. It’s just the way we come out and approach the game.”
John Wall led the Wizards with 19 points and nine assists.