Kings remain positive despite setbacks, win back-to-back road games

Kings remain positive despite setbacks, win back-to-back road games

Just when you expect them to zig, the Sacramento Kings zag. Near the end of December, the Kings rattled off four straight wins, including huge victories against the Trail Blazers and Jazz on back-to-back nights. They looked like a team ready to make a serious run at a playoff spot.

But then they followed up that stretch with 10 losses in 12 chances, including a 1-6 homestand. Coach Dave Joerger pointed to the schedule. The players talked about staying together. Rudy Gay snapped his Achilles.

“When you’re at home, you want to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, technically, and see if you can nick some of the teams that were supposed to beat you, and we didn’t do that,” Joerger told reporters in Cleveland.

The season began to take on very similar look to the last two. Decent starts. Chaos. Collapse.

This group seems different though. They played about as well as you can in a loss Saturday in Chicago and have a botched two-minute report to show for their efforts. A win in Detroit wasn’t expected and the 116-112 toppling of the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime Wednesday, despite the champs recent stumbles, couldn’t have been more shocking.

“I think we’re just growing from it,” DeMarcus Cousins told reporters following the win in Cleveland. “I think we’ve seen every type of mistake possible this season and I think we’re growing from it.”

There are times where Cousins has looked to win games on his own and it’s hurt the team. He struggled mightily in the first half against the Cavs, but scored 17 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Sacramento can’t live without Cousins’ scoring, especially with the loss of Gay and his 18.7 points per game. But he is developing into one of the game’s premier passing bigs, which was on full display in Cleveland.

Just days earlier, Cousins tried to force a move in the paint against the Bulls in the waning moments of the game. Chicago’s defense read the play and collapsed on Cousins. He turned the ball over, which led to a big bucket on the other end. Game over.

Faced with a similar situation Wednesday night, Cousins sensed the collapsing defense and showed faith in veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo. The Kings’ All-Star big hit Afflalo in rhythm for a game winning 3-pointer while picking up his ninth assist of the evening.  

The talk of playoffs isn’t dead. Sacramento wasted plenty of opportunities so far this season, yet they still sit just a game and a half out of the eight seed with nearly half a season to play and a cosmic shift in the schedule just a week away.

“We’ve remained positive, we’ve remained together in this locker room and we’re still believing,” Cousins said.

What is different? Why have the Kings gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and back up again over a three week period? It’s a mystery to all involved.

“Nothing’s really changed from a week ago, we have good chemistry, guys like each other, the locker room’s fine, it has been fine, it’s not different today than it was a week ago,” Joerger said. “That’s what you love about our group, we’re trying build and be better on a nightly basis in some areas. Had we won or lost this game, this is three in a row that we've played very competitively.”

You can’t argue with Joerger on this front. His team competes every night. Losses to teams like Miami (twice), New York (twice) and Dallas hurt this team’s chances of snapping their decade-long playoff drought. But a win like the one in Cleveland help make up for at least one of those stumbles.

The Kings return to action against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night and then travel to Charlotte for a back-to-back in Saturday. When they finish out their season-long eight-game road trip on Tuesday in Houston, they will have played 28 road games on the season and just 21 home games.

Sacramento doesn’t leave the pacific time zone from the start of February through March 5. They play 11 of 13 at home and there are plenty of winnable games during that stretch. A good stretch at Golden 1 Center could go a long ways towards erasing the memory of the last homestand and propelling the team back into the chase for eight.

Report: Former Kings star offers to pay for Stephon Clark's funeral

Report: Former Kings star offers to pay for Stephon Clark's funeral

Former Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins reportedly reached out to Stephon Clark's family and offered to cover the cost of his a funeral, according to The Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones

Sacramento police shot and killed Clark, a 22-year-old African-American father of two, on Sunday while he was holding a cellphone in the backyard of his grandmother's home. Clark was unarmed. 

During his six-and-a-half year tenure in Sacramento, Cousins was not only the face of the Kings on the court, but the face of outreach efforts off of it. He paid for the funeral of Sacramento-area high school football player Jaulon "JJ" Clavo, who was shot in 2015, and ran free children's basketball camps for the city's children during the summer.

He continued to run a camp last summer following a midseason trade to the New Orleans Pelicans, and has spoken at length about how much he treasures maintaining strong ties to Sacramento. He told The Sacramento Bee last February that he "still consider[s Sacramento] a home."

“It’s very important to me,” Cousins told The New Orleans Advocate in October. “I’ve built relationships in a lot of the different places I’ve been. My biggest thing is helping those kids and helping families in need. I was once in their position, and it would’ve done wonders if I could’ve had a little bit of help coming up. I’m just doing my part.”

Bodycam footage from the officer-involved shooting was released on Wednesday, setting off protests on Thursday. Protestors blocked traffic on Interstate 5 both ways, according to NPR, before locking arms and surrounding the Golden 1 Center ahead of Hawks-Kings that night. Those protests delayed the start of the game by 15 minutes, and an estimated 15,000 fans were unable to enter the arena. 

Kings find themselves in middle of protest as sports, politics collide: 'It has to stop'

Kings find themselves in middle of protest as sports, politics collide: 'It has to stop'

SACRAMENTO -- Basketball took a backseat Thursday evening at Golden 1 Center. Protesters surrounded the Sacramento Kings’ facility, locking arms and blocking the entrance to an estimated 15,000 fans. The game was delayed by nearly 15 minutes and the limited number of ticket holders that made it into the building were basically put on lock down and supplied with free food for the evening.

This issue at hand was the officer involved shooting death of Stephon Clark, a local South Sacramento man that was killed Sunday evening.

Video of the shooting was released by the Sacramento Police Department Wednesday afternoon, setting off community outcry in Sacramento.

In perhaps his finest moment as owner and chairman of the Sacramento Kings, Vivek Ranadivé took center court surrounded by his players to address the undersized crowd.

“On Sunday, we had a horrific, horrific tragedy in our community and on behalf of the players, the executives, ownership and the entire Kings family, I first of all want to express our deepest sympathies to the family. What happened was absolutely horrific and we are so very sorry for your loss.

I also want to say that we at the Kings recognize your people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that. We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform. It’s a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously and we stand before you; old, young, black, white, brown and we are all united in our commitment.

We recognize that it’s not just business as usual and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place, starting in our own community. We are going to work hard to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.”

Protests continued throughout the night in the courtyard adjacent to Golden 1 Center. Security and police stood guard at each entrance, trying to keep the events outside the building from spilling into the team’s two-year-old facility.

The locker room was quiet. Despite the 105-90 victory by the Kings, basketball was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

"I just want to say I 100 percent agree with the protest outside,” Garrett Temple said following the game. “If I didn't have a job to do, I probably would have been out there with them peacefully protesting, because what's going on has to stop. It has to stop.”

Sacramento’s leader behind the scenes, Temple has been active in reaching out in the community and fostering conversation with local youth. He wasn’t able to play in Thursday evening’s game due to a left ankle sprain, but that didn’t stop him from waiting around to field questions.

“I think the protest did what it was supposed to do, it brought a light to what’s going on, I think that’s what protests are for,” Temple added. “After that, something has to change. Us not playing a basketball game isn’t going to change the fact that police unfortunately view black and brown men as a threat, when they are certainly not.”

Temple said that he had viewed the video and admitted that it was dark. A split second decision by a police officer cost Clark, a 22-year-old African American, his life. According to published reports, Clark was holding his mobile phone and not a weapon as officers believed.

The tragic events played out in seconds, but it’s storyline that many communities around the country have had to face on countless occasions.

Temple isn’t one to sit by idly by and bite his tongue. He may have addressed the shooting on his own with or without the protest going on outside the arena. But with the events of the night, politics and sports intersected at 500 David J. Stern Walk, opening a door for Temple to express himself.

“To those that say politics and sports don’t intertwine, this is a democracy, people have a voice and we’re people at the end of the day,” Temple said. “Obviously, sports and politics definitely intertwined tonight. The protesters did what they wanted to do in terms of bring light to the situation.”

In addition to Ranadivé’s comments following then contest, the Kings put out two separate press releases. The first came out around 7 pm to update fans of the current status of the game.

"Tonight's game began with a delay. Due to law enforcement being unable to ensure ticketed fans could safely enter the arena, the arena remains closed and we ask fans outside to travel home. We will issue further information soon regarding a refund."

The second press release came later to insure fans that they would receive a refund.

“Due to law enforcement being unable to ensure ticketed fans could safely enter the arena, the arena remained closed as tonight’s game proceeded with a delay. In the coming days, guests who purchased tickets for tonight’s game directly through the Sacramento Kings or Ticketmaster will receive detailed instructions to facilitate a full refund.”

The Kings return to the court Sunday afternoon for a 3pm matinee game.