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Kings coach George Karl says team needs more professionalism, effort

Kings coach George Karl hopes his team comes out with more energy in its game Sunday against Toronto than it did in Friday’s loss at Minnesota. ... Sacramento guard Darren Collison (7) looks to pass to a teammate under pressure from Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng, left, during an NBA basketball game in Minneapolis, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015.
Kings coach George Karl hopes his team comes out with more energy in its game Sunday against Toronto than it did in Friday’s loss at Minnesota. ... Sacramento guard Darren Collison (7) looks to pass to a teammate under pressure from Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng, left, during an NBA basketball game in Minneapolis, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. The Associated Press

The Kings sometimes look uninspired on the court or rely on talent instead of hard work.

Sure, the scheme and concepts might not be perfect, but nothing will work if the Kings are lackadaisical and fail to prepare properly.

“If we get a more serious, play-hard mentality, a more serious defensive mentality, I’ll take all the blame in the world,” said Kings coach George Karl. “You can blame me all night long. But when I’m managing attitude, when I’m managing approach, when I’m managing professionalism then yeah, my X’s and O’s aren’t good, either.”

The Kings’ next opportunity to prove they can take a truly professional approach is Sunday against the Toronto Raptors. Sacramento is coming off a loss at Minnesota in which it lacked focus early.

If we get a more serious, play-hard mentality, a more serious defensive mentality, I’ll take all the blame in the world. You can blame me all night long. But when I’m managing attitude, when I’m managing approach, when I’m managing professionalism then yeah, my X’s and O’s aren’t good, either.

Kings coach George Karl

Karl hoped the Kings would come out with fire in Minnesota, considering the Timberwolves had beaten the Kings in Sacramento.

Instead, the Kings fell behind by 14.

Sacramento is 2-9 on the road this season. To improve that record, it cannot wait for eight minutes to elapse before starting to play.

“I think our establishment has got to be defense and energy,” Karl said. “That’s got nothing to do with offense. We’re a team that has to outwork people to win games on the road. I think sometimes we worry too much about shots, rotations. That stuff comes when you’re trying to win a big-time game against a big-time team. Right now our priorities are simple: outwork people, defensive focus, professional attitude.”

It would seem obvious that the 10-16 Kings know they need to play hard every game. But Sacramento’s lapses in effort and focus prove otherwise.

The Kings brought in 10 new players with a focus on veterans from winning situations to add more professionalism. But changing the habits that seem to be part of the fabric of their jerseys has been difficult.

Karl said new players learning about each other creates some of the issues.

“That’s part of the process of trying to change the culture with winning ways, winning habits, and we’ve got some guys who can help do that,” said guard Rajon Rondo. “Marco (Belinelli) is a winner; CB (Caron Butler) is one. We’ve got enough strong personalities to help change the culture. It’s just a matter of time if the team stays consistent with it.”

Karl said the “connection is coming,” but it might not be happening as fast as he or the team would like.

“The blessing we have right now is we’re lingering around (in the standings), and if we get it going the right way, we can make some noise,” Karl said.

That noise must be made by players who bring a professional approach.

The blessing we have right now is we’re lingering around (in the standings), and if we get it going the right way, we can make some noise.

Kings coach George Karl

“It’s not on anybody but ourselves every night,” Rondo said. “We’re the ones on the court. Coach calls some of the plays, but on every team, every night, players have to go out and perform.”

Karl likened the Kings worrying about scoring, schemes and the like before playing hard to “decorating the room before we build the house.”

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But for Karl’s plans to work, the players must do their part.

“I try to lead by example,” Rondo said. “Try to be the most vocal one as far as knowing the plays and just doing it by example. Not so much doing it with my words, even though I do talk a lot. Coach (Doc) Rivers told me (with Boston) you can talk all you want but you have to lead by example. You can’t pick and choose when to lead.”

Nor can the Kings pick and choose when they want to prepare and play hard. It must be a given.

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

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