Not much has gone right for the Kings on the court lately.
They’ve lost 10 of 13 games, and three weeks after coach Michael Malone was fired, players remain angry, confused and unsure about the team’s direction. The Kings, 11-13 when Malone was let go, have won just three of 10 since he was replaced by Tyrone Corbin.
And as the players sort through their feelings on and off the court, there’s no break in the schedule.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook won’t have any compassion if the Kings are listless again. The rest of the homestand consists of games against Denver, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I don’t know how, but somehow we’ve got to find a way to figure it out,” Kings guard Darren Collison said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves at this point. We’ve just got to find a way to figure it out and find our best way to move forward.”
The Kings are coming off a 1-3 trip. The lone win was at Minnesota, which has the worst record in the Western Conference. The other three losses came to Eastern Conference teams below .500, and the losses at Boston and Detroit were lopsided.
A month ago, the Kings were a confident group, even with center DeMarcus Cousins out because of viral meningitis. But their competitive spirit has taken a nosedive.
When asked if he’d ever seen a season like this, veteran forward Rudy Gay said, “Never like this.” “But every game this year is something new, and I take it as a learning experience.”
Learning these lessons wasn’t what the Kings planned at this stage of the season. One reason for their struggles is their lack of defensive focus and intensity.
The Kings are allowing 104.4 points per game, tied for 25th in the NBA after allowing an average of 109.3 on the trip.
In the finale of the trip, they allowed the Detroit Pistons to score 114 points, including a season-high 35 from guard Brandon Jennings.
Jennings wasn’t the only player to have his way against Sacramento on the trip. Minnesota rookie Andrew Wiggins equaled his season high with 27 points in the Timberwolves’ 110-107 loss to the Kings. And several Celtics, including Jared Sullinger (20 points) and Kelly Olynyk (15 points), had big games in a 106-84 rout on Dec. 31.
The defensive intensity the Kings had in the first month of the season was absent for most of the trip.
“We had some success early in the year, but it was early – it was a small sample,” Corbin said. “This is where you see what you really are and give the effort.”
The Kings don’t seem to know who they are. The emphasis on speeding up the offense and increasing scoring seems to have robbed the team of its fight on defense.
And even though the Kings have scored more, turnovers have hurt the defense.
“We have the same people,” Gay said. “We haven’t changed anything. Same players that we played well and competed with. We have to find that competitive nature that we had before.”