No Fresh Start For Kings On The Court


VIDEO: Grizzlies defeat the Kings 97-86 on Sunday

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Meanwhile, back in reality, they’re still the same Kings on the court, a team that not only can’t stay in games but already can’t be bothered to deign maximum effort in such a rapid descent that even the greatest of skeptics couldn’t see it coming. (Hello, Seattle.)

Growing pains for an operation with a rookie owner, a rookie GM and a rookie coach is one thing, but this is a roster filled with veterans that needed about a week to start looking like it’s the fourth game in five nights in April and the U-Haul is packed and idling in the driveway. Fans, sold on the promise of a new day but still getting the old one, lasted until the third home contest to boo the effort. Michael Malone, the new coach who promised accountability, has followed through by calling out players and making three lineup changes.

This would be the start to another bad season except that this was never supposed to be just another season. This was the start of the revival after the league voted to turn back the Seattle threat and keep the team in Sacramento, the sunshine coming through after years of ownership in quicksand, the first steps in the recovery. There was a love affair again. New majority owner Vivek Ranadive won over the city because his name was not Maloof. Hiring Malone as coach and Pete D’Alessandro as general manager was a risk by Ranadive in having two first-timers in the jobs, but otherwise sound additions of smart, experienced basketball men with bright futures. Trying to trade up in the draft to get Ben McLemore and then having McLemore fall to the Kings at their original No. 7 surely had to be a sign of how much their world was changing.

If only they didn’t have to, ya know, play.

The Kings opened with a victory over the Nuggets that followed the script – a celebration at Sleep Train Arena of the team still being in town, curtain calls at mid-court for mayor Kevin Johnson, commissioner David Stern and Ranadive, an energy-filled win. The feel-good moments got a little sparse from there.

When the Denver win was followed by falling behind the Clippers by 15 points before losing by nine and then trailing the Warriors by 27 before losing by 11, Malone knew he had a problem. Atlanta: a 19-point deficit. Portland: 14. Portland again: 22.

Six games into the season, and the Kings were already having issues with effort.

“I didn’t see it in training camp, didn’t see it in most of our – I think, really, any – of our preseason games,” Malone said heading into the next game, against Brooklyn. “And then all of the sudden Golden State, that first back-to-back, is when I first saw it. That was, ‘OK, this is the first time I’ve seen that. I hope this is not who we are.’ I’ve just been seeing it too often since then. It’s there and we’ve addressed it. We’re not trying to ignore it. That’s why we’re changing lineups and putting new guys out there, finding guys that will go out there and play with great energy.”

McLemore for Marcus Thornton at shooting guard, Jason Thompson for Patrick Patterson at power forward, with the obligatory disclaimer from Malone that he wasn’t blaming the two benched players for the 1-5 start. (How would anyone ever get that idea?) And then the Kings responded with great energy in beating the Nets by 21, suggesting Malone had a solution.

Or not. Two days after that, the Kings lost at home to the Pistons. Malone followed with another move, Luc Mbah a Moute for John Salmons at small forward, leaving center DeMarcus Cousins and point guard Greivis Vasquez as the only season-long starters, and that didn’t help. Sunday, Sacramento scored 34 points against the Grizzlies in the first half, fell behind by 20 early in the third quarter, Malone made four substitutions en masse with 7:37 left in the period, and the Kings lost 97-86.

“We’e changed the lineup twice now,” Malone said afterward. “The first was Marcus and Patrick, and then tonight we’re starting Luc. When you’re 2-7, I guess sometimes I find myself constantly searching for a group that’ll go out there and play the right way. We made those subs pretty quickly in that third quarter because the group that was out there, as a group, was not playing the way that we need to play, and it’s unacceptable to me.”

The Kings have already lost four games by at least 11 points and been called out by their coach for inadequate energy twice. The season is barely one-tenth old and playing hard for 48 minutes is an accomplishment.This is more of the same, not growing pains.

18 Comments

  1. Nate says:

    Very difficult time indeed to be a Kings fan because honestly the talent AND surprisingly enough defense are both looking pretty promising. More scoring and effort and the Kings will be back in the playoffs before you know it.

  2. DirkDiggler says:

    The franchise is not going to magically change in one season. Why would you write an article about things not changing after less than one month of the season? The roster is pretty much the work of the idiot Maloofs, not the new owner. Give it time before you criticize and know that Sacramento has a bright future, it just may take more the ONE MONTH OF THE FIRST SEASON UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP to turn things around.

  3. Fan One says:

    Dear Kings Players and Coaches,

    It is DEFINITELY not too late to turn this season around. Now is the time to play with a reckless abandon, like true maniacs. Forget all concerns about playing time and other coaching decisions and repeatedly ask yourself one question, “AM I PLAYING WITH FULL INTENSITY EVERY SECOND ON THE FLOOR? AM I PLAYING LIKE A BEAST?” You know what the answer should be. Lead the league in that stat.

    Fan One

  4. jaaysoul says:

    The kings just have the worst mentality, and I feel like they keep hiring dumb IQ coaches,
    They need to get rid of Thorton, and Thompson, the team is playing with a bad mindset and bad body language,
    Whenever you’re playing basketball so much is mental game, and right now the players are all on different pages.
    Keep figure a way to work Jimmer and Isiah with Patterson and Cousins and Mbu

  5. jaaysoul says:

    The kings just have the worst mentality, and I feel like they keep hiring dumb IQ coaches,
    They need to get rid of Thorton, and Thompson, the team is playing with a bad mindset and bad body language,
    Whenever you’re playing basketball so much is mental game, and right now the players are all on different pages.
    Keep figure a way to work Jimmer and Isiah with Patterson and Cousins and Mbu

  6. Ken says:

    GET JOHN WALL!!!

  7. vonhulland says:

    Same oh! Same oh! Why is Thompson even starting? Yes, he has been here the longest, oh well, I’d say too long. Trade him for a good player. When I watch the games I think to myself’ Why can’t we have a good team for a change after all the fans have been through for years. Every player is suppose to have someone to guard, do they? No!!! Left wide open and then the Kings are in dismay because they scored. DUH! Heard it said by one player?” Still have a lot of games so we are doing alright” That is what they said every year. You get way down and there Is no way you can catch up. Home games, LOST. Good crowds, probably not any more.. You play one game and really play, next games act like you haven’t played before. I don’t blame the owners or the coaches you can only make someone good if they want to be!!!!!

  8. glenn bell says:

    Everything starts with defense—and consistent high energy defense is just not there. Jason is often asleep, not guarding his man, but just watching the play. He’s been around too long and should be traded. So too with Thornton (get rid of him). Salmons seldom plays defense. Some of the older guys need to go. The jury is out on Luc. Patterson plays defense only occasionally. It is just stupid not to play Jimmer. McL is fabulous, he just needs time. Out substitute center is GREAT. A monster on defense. Who knew! Playing him much more for DeMarcus would be a defensive wake up or Cousins.. Hayes and DeMarcus at the same time makes sense. DeMarcus is just not a real center, but what a power forward he would be! We need a center. Shot selection from Isaah is often poor. Vasquez is playing too many minutes. He gets tired and sloppy. Trade J.T. for Asik. He would be a center with a chip and a lot to prove. Perfect for us. DMC could be a PF and we would then still have two big centers. It is not just the players. Coaches and ownership carry some of the blame for poor choices.

    GB

  9. Jack says:

    I don’t see how energy has been the problem for the Kings — they have lots of energy and play hard defense until they get way behind. The biggest problem I see is that Thomas and to a lesser extent (but getting worse) Cousens make wild drives to the basket that don’t work out *at critical moments* in the game. Tyreke did this last year for the Kings. Towards the end of his stint with the Kings, Bibby’s tactic at critical times was to drive into a crowd and hope for a foul call. Thomas and Cousens are now doing the same thing and it doesn’t work out well unless you’re Kobe or LeBron. That said, I thought Thomas was better about this against Memphis, but I stopped watching once they were 20 down.

  10. keek says:

    I like Isiaiah Thomas, entertaining player to watch, cousins is very skilled, but he should stop taking jump shots. The kings have alot of bad contracts, and that landry sign was terrible. will be hard for them to turn things around with that roster.

  11. This team hasn’t upgraded in years…………………………….
    Getting rid of Tyreke and adding Ben Mac was a sideways move.
    Getting rid of Udrih and adding Jimmer was a sideways move
    Getting rid of Jackson and adding Hayes was a sideways move
    Getting rid of Garcia, and adding Mbah- a Moute was a sideways move
    Getting rid of LANDRY… THEN ADDING LANDRY was a sideways move
    and Having Patterson and Landry is redundant.. They have the same game
    and Marcus Thornton is overpaid

    This team is going nowhere. Skill wise, this team has been the same for 4 years. They don’t have wings that can shoot and defend consistently. They don’t have shot blockers or rim defenders.. They won’t win…. See You Next Year, with the SAME PROBLEMS

  12. Michael says:

    They might just be tanking the season for andrew wiggins…

  13. okc2014 says:

    Just be patient Sacramento, you will win first lottery pick.

  14. ko0kiE says:

    most important thing what they lack is consistency… lineup changes won’t gonna help.

  15. Bob says:

    The chemistry is bad here. Too many young players, lackadaisical play, and poor shot selection. DMC is going to implode in this situation. Too, too much youth and no veteran leadership.
    I’d run Jimmer. The coach said he is going to rot on the bench because of the other guards on the roster are better.
    I really liked the Kings in the Webber, Divac, Peja, and Bibby days the fans are great and they were a major center away from a championship.
    Blow it up and get some team players that understand the game and play D

  16. steppx says:

    counsins is a cancer. And why not play Jimmer. The guy has never NEVER had two solid weeks of 30 min. Nobody has yet given him a shot to get regular minues. Instead they play marcus thornton. The most selfish player on a very selfish roster. I expected more from malone.