As the Sacramento Kings walked off the floor following their 92-80 loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves last evening, you didn’t need a degree in body language to read the “here we go again” vibe the players were letting off.
Sure – it’s only been two games, the smallest of sample sizes, but this was supposed to be the year. Things were to change. Things were to finally turn that corner.
Head coach Keith Smart watched hundreds of hours of video in the offseason – he saw the problems – he knew how to fix them – this when he wasn’t selling water to a whale. Fourth year (uh guard? forward?) Tyreke Evans was tired of the losing and he made sure to voice that. He re-dedicated himself to the game and vowed a return to his Rookie of the Year form. DeMarcus Cousins was ready to shed the foul trouble and conditioning issues and become that superstar Sacramento so sorely needs. The addition of Aaron Brooks and James Johnson was to bolster the Kings’ sub-par depth and along with another high draft pick, the Kings looked to finally be on there way.
How quickly that can change.
Two games in and the Kings look woeful. Make no mistake, the Kings didn’t just lose to the Bulls and T’Wolves – two very solid teams in their base form – they lost to a Bulls team void of Derrick Rose and a T’Wolves team lacking both of their franchise players in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Worse than that, they were out-hustled and out-worked in both games. The Sacramento Kings have a lot of talent on their roster, yet, they seemingly embarrass themselves when they attempt to harness it. The two “stars” in Evans and Cousins continually seem to avoid the other, many times opting to play 1 on 4 basketball as we’ve seen heavily through the seasons first 96 minutes, instead of playing together as a tandem. Role players refuse to buy into that supposed role, much like a James Johnson or Travis Outlaw who pound the ball into the floor before shooting a contested nineteen footer. Point guards in Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette and Aaron Brooks appear to be more interested in scoring than helping others score (though in fairness, it’s not like the rest of the roster really helps promote team ball). One on one ball continues to dominate the Kings – a tired story we’ve all read before.
Make no mistake – the Kings aren’t trying to do this. They aren’t actively seeking to be ball pounding ballhogs. They’re not knowingly avoiding good passes or taking bad shots because they’re selfish and don’t care – not hardly. Unfortunately, they (as a cohesive unit) lack a mental game that comes with time and a desire to win. There’s a fine line between winning and losing games in the NBA, that fine line separated by efficiency and a mental makeup the Kings currently lack.
If there’s any good news out of this – it’s that the season is just two games old. The Kings will improve their weak points by default – it’s almost impossible not to. Will it be enough however? That’s something we’ll find out through the next eighty games, but for now, it’s clear the issues that haunted the Kings last season are still lingering in the locker room.