Gameday: Will skidding Kings tighten the rotation against rolling Pistons?


Gameday: Will skidding Kings tighten the rotation against rolling Pistons?

Death spiral or a blip on the radar? No one said it would be easy when the Sacramento Kings entered the season with 10 new faces and five rookies on the roster. But after dropping their third straight in blowout fashion and their sixth in a row overall, the Kings are searching for answers.

Coach Dave Joerger mixed up his starting lineup Wednesday against the Celtics and found success early. But when the wheels came off the bus in the second and third quarters, the veteran coach had no answer. Sacramento has scored 83, 83 and 86 points in the last three games. The offense has been out of sync and the defense is scrambling to make stops.

Detroit is fresh off a 105-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday evening. They’ll face a Struggling Kings team, but on the second night of a back-to-back. Did the scheduling gods throw Sacramento a bone?

Pistons by 9

Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Andre Drummond -- Can you find two players at the same position in the NBA that any more different. Drummond is coming off a 24-point, 15-rebound performance in Milwaukee and he currently ranks third in  the league in rebounding at over 14 rebounds per game. Cauley-Stein just posted a three rebound night against the Celtics and his season average is down to 6.8 rebounds per game. If Cauley-Stein can’t keep a body on Drummond, the Kings are in for a long night in Motown.  

Kings: 1-7, fifth place in Pacific

Pistons: 6-3, first place in Central

Kings: PG George Hill (personal) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out.

Pistons: PF Jon Leuer (ankle) doubtful.

IS IT TIME TO TIGHTEN THE ROTATION? -- Dave Joerger has turned to 10 and sometimes 11 players in his rotation with varying degrees of success. With the team in a slide, is it time to get back to the basics with a core eight or nine players and trying build some momentum? Who plays in this scenario is anyone’s guess. Veterans and a couple of young players might do the trick and then expand from there.

DID BUDDY HIELD FIND HIS GAME? -- Hield finally started hitting shots in the fourth quarter in the Kings’ blowout loss to the Celtics. Those points came against third string players, but the second-year guard finally found some success from the field. He’s shooting 38.7 percent from the field and an abysmal 25.7 percent from behind the arc. Those numbers need to improve if the Sacramento are going to continue to feature the former Oklahoma product.

WILLIE REBOUND OR WON’T HE? -- Cauley-Stein burst onto the scene with back-to-back double-doubles to start the season. It’s gone dramatically downhill from there. The Kings drafted WCS as a defender and rebounder. They need him to reconnect with his identity or look for veteran Kosta Koufos to start eating his minutes.

The Kings swept the season series 2-0 last year, including a 109-104 win at the Palace at Auburn Hills in late January. Detroit holds a 133-119 advantage over the Kings all-time and a 36-26 edge during the Sacramento-era.

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

SACRAMENTO -- Light in the rear. It’s a term the Sacramento Kings coaching staff has used since the beginning of training camp to describe the bigs on the roster. On Monday night at Golden 1 Center, the team’s lack of strength inside was on full display as the Denver Nuggets crushed them on the glass.

“I think we’re 29th in the league for rebounding, so that’s a little bit of our makeup of how our team is made,” Dave Joerger said following the Kings’ 114-98 loss.

Joerger is close in his assessment, but off by a few spots. His roster ranks 26th in the league in rebounding overall and 28th on the defensive side of the ball. It’s become an achilles heel for a team that has a few glaring weaknesses.

“When Willie (Cauley-Stein) and Kosta (Koufos) aren’t in there to snag every rebound, we have to get in there and help Zach (Randolph) and help Skal (Labissiere),” veteran Garrett Temple said. “Skal’s a little undersized in terms of weight and Z-Bo will put his body on people, but some people might be able to out jump him.”

On a normal night, Temple is right. Randolph and Labissiere struggle to put up big numbers on the glass. But against the Nuggets, it was Koufos and Cauley-Stein that combined to grab nine rebounds in 51 total minutes of action.

Randolph and Labissiere didn’t fair much better, finishing with 10 boards between the two of them in 38 minutes with the starters. Between the Kings’ four bigs, they were out rebounded by the Nuggets bigs by a final of 34-19.

The Nuggets came into the night a top 10 rebounding team overall and the second best offensive rebounding team in the NBA at 11.8 per game.

It’s not just the bigs that struggled to grab boards for Sacramento. Without Buddy Hield, the club’s best rebounding wing, the Kings’ were dominated 49-34 overall in rebounding, including 14-5 on the offensive glass.

“The first shot, it’s a good contest, we did everything right, except get the rebound,” rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “And then they get an open shot off a second chance shot. If we can complete a lot of plays with the rebound, we’ll be okay.”

To Fox’s point, the defensive possession doesn’t end until the rebound is secured. Sacramento was outscored 19-6 on second chance points. In a 16-point game, those numbers loom large.

“Us guards, we know we have to help our bigs,” Fox said. “We know our bigs are athletic. We know they do what they do, at the end of the day, other team’s guards are helping their bigs rebound and their bigs aren’t alone.”

Outside of the four bigs, none of the other seven players to see action had more than three rebounds. It’s an issue that has to be addressed as the Kings move forward.

“There are some instances that really bothered me,” Joerger said. “We had some guys leaking out, standing at half court and that I won’t have.”

The Kings have a day of practice on Tuesday to try and sure up some of their issues. Some of the problems stem from inexperience, but some of the issue comes down to energy and effort.

It doesn’t even get easier on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Lakers rank second in the league in rebounding at 47.5 boards per game. On the plus side, they also give up the 28th most rebounds in the league.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings


Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings

Michael Malone won't be on the sideline when his Nuggets take on his former team on Monday night.

The NBA announced Monday afternoon that Malone has been suspended without pay for the game against the Kings.

The suspension stems from Malone "entering the court, halting play and making contact with a game official" during Denver's game against the Lakers on Sunday. The incident occurred midway through the second quarter.

Malone was hired as head coach of the Kings prior to the 2013-14 season. He was fired just 24 games into the 2014-15 season.

Coverage of the Nuggets and Kings gets underway at 6:30pm on NBC Sports California and streaming on the NBC Sports App.