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Kings keep focus on reaching playoffs

Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi (18) runs down court in the first half during the game against the Houston Rockets at Sleep Train Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 in Sacramento.
Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi (18) runs down court in the first half during the game against the Houston Rockets at Sleep Train Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 in Sacramento. hamezcua@sacbee.com

The Kings have had plenty of up-and-down moments in the first two months of the season, and through it all they currently sit in the position they had hoped after 25 games – in the mix for a playoff berth.

The Kings are just 10-15, but the Western Conference does not appear to be nearly as deep as in recent seasons. So even though the team has experienced a number of unsettling moments, the Kings are pleased to be where they are, all things considered.

The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are the class of the West with Oklahoma City coming on strong lately. The Los Angeles Clippers are also hitting their stride after a disappointing start.

Entering Wednesday, four games separated Dallas – the fifth team in the West – from the Kings, who are 12th. The Kings were just one game behind Denver for the eighth spot.

“Before we do our film sessions in the morning, the board is up and it tells us how many games we’re back,” said Kings guard Darren Collison. “We want to make the playoffs, that’s our whole goal this year, nothing else. We want to make the playoffs, nothing else.”

It took 45 wins by the New Orleans Pelicans to make the Western Conference playoffs last season. At this rate, a .500 record – 41 wins – could secure a playoff berth in the West this spring.

9-8 Kings’ record since their 1-7 start

The Kings, 9-8 since since their 1-7 start, have played better and are gaining confidence as they ascend in the standings. It also helps that teams such as Houston have struggled, and New Orleans has faced setbacks amid injuries.

“That is another thing, this year the West hasn’t been as good, so that’s helping,” Collison said. “If this was last year, I couldn’t tell you where we’d be. The fact that teams haven’t been playing well – and a lot has to do with the West is being so competitive – it is giving us an upper hand in trying to make the playoffs.”

Kings coach George Karl would tell observers not to look at his team’s record as an indication of its overall success. Even as the Kings have struggled, he’s said they have played some good basketball.

“I say this all the time. People think I’m crazy, but there are a lot of NBA teams who play good basketball who don’t win,” Karl said. “Everybody thinks when you lose you’re bad, but that’s not necessarily the case. We had our chaotic mentality a little bit, the frustration that comes with losing, comes with expectations. I’m proud of how we fought through it, how we sustained, balanced the crazy.”

People think I’m crazy, but there are a lot of NBA teams who play good basketball who don’t win.

George Karl, Kings coach

The crazy has come in different forms: internal strife, injuries and suspensions. But as the Kings begin a four-game trip Friday in Minnesota, team unity might be at a season high.

Karl also regularly points out the Kings have 10 new players, and the constant changes to the lineups because of injuries and as he’s tried to find rotations that work have made it tough. He believes all that’s happened to the Kings to start the season has prepared them for success.

“I think they’re learning each other, learning maybe me, learning what I want. It’s a process of growing and getting better,” Karl said. “The next process we showed we can be a pretty good home team with three-fourths of the league maybe. Now we got to go out on the road and win some games, and I think that’s the step that also is a part of the progression. You don’t win on the road unless you have a more mental edge than maybe this team has had in the first 15 to 20 games.”

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Note – The Kings announced Wednesday evening that forward Eric Moreland suffered a broken left foot during practice earlier in the day that will require surgery. He is out indefinitely.

The second-year player fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. He has appeared in five games this season.

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

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