This really isn’t complicated. The Kings need to show up and show some fight.
They didn’t do that Wednesday night and the end result was the biggest blowout win in Atlanta Hawks franchise history – the now 3-12 Hawks – who battered the Kings 126-80 at Philips Arena.
The Kings have lost three in a row and have been blown out a lot this season a lot. Still, Wednesday’s debacle was startling in how bad it was. The Hawks don’t have a good record, but they play hard every night. That can’t be said for the Kings, who more than once in limping to a 3-11 record have admitted they play without energy and not enough force.
The Kings couldn’t make shots and the defense was embarrassingly bad. The Hawks shot 63.3 percent, made 16 3-pointers, piled up 40 assists on 50 made shots and led by as many as 48 points.
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Meanwhile, the Kings shot a season-worst 35.2 percent in suffering their worst lost of the season. Their 80 points were the fewest allowed by the Hawks this season.
“We told our guys you’ve got to be ready to play because they’ll come at you, they compete and they play hard,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “Losing is one thing, but we have to do a much better job of competing.”
The Kings weren’t expected to be good, but they were expected to show some fight each night. That’s not happening. If the Kings are looking to use this season to build for the future, the foundation is off to a shoddy start in terms of effort as the lopsided losses pile up and the team’s desire is constantly questioned.
The fun style of play some expected has been replaced by a style and effort that makes you want to use your NBA League Pass to find a better game.
So, why does this keep happening?
“I don’t know man. If I knew that, we wouldn’t be down by 46,” Kings guard Garrett Temple. “We’ve got to figure out how to start competing, start being men. Growing up early, growing up quick and the veterans that are here, we’ve got to compete. ... We’ve got to make shots, we’ve just got to play basketball.”
In past seasons the Kings had players who would erupt over a loss like this. There would be no clichés thrown out to the media. The anger and disgust would be obvious.
This current team doesn’t have those kind of players.
The rebuilding process that began with trading DeMarcus Cousins and releasing Matt Barnes in February seems to have put an emphasis on players who don’t have the type of mean streak those guys have.
Every team needs at least one of those players to stir up things when it looks lethargic.
Joerger said he’s looking for “individual toughness” from the team.
“We’ve got a lot of nice guys,” Joerger said. “I love them, I love them, but I never said I’d split the minutes between 10 guys or 11 guys. I’m looking for guys who jump up and say, ‘I play so hard, you should be playing me. I’m playing so well, you should be playing me.’ And we’re just not getting that collectively right now.”
Guard George Hill said the message from Joerger was the Kings need more players “competing” and “fighting.”
“(Losing by) 46 points in the NBA is almost like laying down,” Hill said. “You’ve got to compete every possession, including myself. At times as a leader I’ve got to take it upon myself to do a little bit better on both ends of the floor.”
The Kings watched as Atlanta center Dewayne Dedmon had a career-high 20 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.
Meanwhile the Kings, led by Zach Randolph’s 16 points, are still trying to figure out why they continue to get run over.
“You’ve got to take it, own up to it,” Hill said. “We were awful tonight as a team. As individuals, we were awful. You can’t back down from it, we got our butt kicked and we’ve got to take it on the chin ourselves.
“We owe Sacramento, our fans better than what we’re showing them.”
The next step is to start competing each night.