George Karl wants to coach basketball.
He doesn’t want to be a mind reader or a psychologist. He doesn’t want to guess if his team will play with sustained energy and proper focus on any given night.
Karl doesn’t want to coach effort. But if that was the case, he wouldn’t be coaching the Kings this season.
Given their periodically mystifying drops in energy, the Kings haven’t afforded Karl the luxury of worrying about simply diagramming plays.
What’s behind the ebbs and flows? Complacency, a lack of professionalism and a need to respect the game more come up. Players also have been unhappy with their roles and schemes at various times.
The frustration clearly is getting to Karl. After another prolonged lack of energy from his team in Sunday’s 98-94 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, he abruptly ended his news conference with, “I’m done. I’m frustrated.”
Regardless, Karl must connect with his players and figure out how to get them to play with more enthusiasm.
Karl admittedly isn’t the raving madman from his days with the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1990s. Still, he must inject some passion into a team that aspires to be good but often shows up and plays as if its fortunes already have turned around.
You can be happy about a win, but you can’t be complacent about a win. You can’t be cocky about a win because every team in this league is capable of beating you.
George Karl, Kings coach
Today’s players are less likely to respond to a turbulent Karl, who probably can use that persona once a month on this team and hope it’s effective.
So Karl will try to appeal to this players’ sensibilities.
“Just tell stories,” Karl said. “You try to bring up situations. My explanation is the last couple of weeks is just trying to explain to them how difficult this league is, how tough it is to be successful in this league.”
Thirty games into the season, the Kings have had trouble grasping that concept. They might play a week’s worth of solid basketball, followed by a flat performance.
That’s how a team goes from two road victories against teams with winning records to a collapse against a Portland team missing its best player, Damian Lillard, because of an injury.
The Kings can’t simply roll out the ball and turn on the energy when it feels like it.
“Just a week of success doesn’t mean you’re (good),” Karl said. “A story I told a couple weeks ago is that in the NBA, if you want to be really good, you’ve go to get two or three months of 10 wins.”
Entering Monday’s game against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, the Kings had 12 wins. That explains why a three-game winning streak might excite this team. But it doesn’t explain why it becomes a reason to take off long stretches of games against opponents the players would even say they should beat.
“You can be happy about a win, but you can’t be complacent about a win,” Karl said. “You can’t be cocky about a win because every team in this league is capable of beating you.”