After what was a whirlwind of a weekend for the Sacramento Kings, the team made quite the statement on Monday night.
Rumors of coach Dave Joerger being on the hot seat due to rotation issues were brought forth last Saturday, causing the entire Kings fan base to let out a collective groan.
Ahh, yes. These were the Kings we know and loathe. The dysfunctional laughing stock of the NBA. The team with the longest current playoff drought. The franchise that trades away future first-round picks, completely unprotected, for the cap space to sign an underwhelming crop of free agents.
The “fire your coach after a shockingly good first 15 games” feeling was all too familiar.
Apparently, though, these Kings are different.
This Team Will Not Quit
Sacramento played host to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday evening in a battle of two teams that were headed in seemingly opposite directions. The Thunder had won 9 of their previous 10 contests and the Kings looked like they were about to implode. Sacramento was a five-point underdog entering the match.
Dogs, they were.
It could have been that the players were trying to make a statement. It could have been the Thunder overlooking the Kings in anticipation of their date with the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. Whatever it was, the Kings were able to pull out a gritty victory, beating OKC 117-113 in a must-win-for-morale type of contest.
Sacramento came out hot, building a 13-point lead in the first quarter and carrying that into halftime. They did so mainly behind Iman Shumpert, who scored all 23 of his points in the first two quarters. Their biggest lead was 19 points.
After a dismal third period, the young Kings turned on the jets. Rookie Marvin Bagley III had just three points entering the fourth quarter but dropped a crucial 12 in the final frame to go along with three key blocks down the stretch. Buddy Hield continued the hot start to his season, hitting five shots from beyond the arc and finishing with a team-high 25 points.
This game was the perfect opportunity for the Thunder to expose and embarrass the Kings. The old Kings would have come out flat, disorganized, and completely void of chemistry had they just gone through the weekend the current Kings did. Not these guys.
These Kings played with a passion. They played with a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose. They played like a team who was out to prove that no Yahoo Sports report is going to damage the chemistry of their team and their locker room.
Dave Joerger’s job seems to be safe for the time being, according to multiple reports, as well as General Manager Vlade Divac himself. Good thing, because firing a coach at this point in the process would be moronic.
We know. We have seen it.
The resilience of these Kings was best exemplified by their best player’s performance on Monday night. De’Aaron Fox shot a dismal 1-10 from the field and scored just six points in 35 minutes of play. Instead, he facilitated, finishing with 13 assists while quarterbacking the inexperienced bunch for the last eight minutes of crunch time.
While the question may still remain of whether the Kings are legit, that same question about De’Aaron Fox has already been answered.