SACRAMENTO -- Changes are coming to the starting lineup in Sacramento. After falling 110-105 to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, the writing is not only on the wall, it’s a topic of conversation with head coach Dave Joerger.
“Possibly,” Joerger said when asked if he was considering mixing up his first unit. “We can’t come out... that was not acceptable.”
Sacramento trailed by as many as 12 in the first quarter of the game, which has become a trend of late. Their second unit gave them big minutes early, cutting the deficit to 27-22 going to quarter number two, but the Kings continue to play catch up, which takes it’s toll.
“The starters have to do a better job, no excuse,” DeMarcus Cousins said, echoing his coach’s sentiments. “We set the tone of the game nightly.”
The game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would have you believe. Sacramento trailed by double-digits for most of the night. They used a 16-3 run in the final three minutes without the Spurs starters on the floor to pull the final score to within five.
According to Joerger, the issues with his team began earlier in the day. An unfocused shootaround carried over into the action once the ball was tipped for real.
“It’s on me, because I allowed a very loose shootaround today,” Joerger said. “After four days of practice, I know they were kind of tired of being at practice and hearing my voice.”
Sacramento’s head coach wasn’t the only to shoulder the blame. Slow start by the starters? Coach and star player raise their hands. Poor shootaround? Once again, coach and star player raise their hands.
“I take the blame for that, as the leader of this team, I have to do better,” Cousins said. “I’ve got to get my guys together. I’ve got to have more focused shootarounds and that falls back on me. He’s absolutely right.”
New coaches, new schemes and new players are taking longer than expected to gel. Joerger has stuck with the same starting lineup in all but two of the first 12 games, but after dropping another contest, all options are on the table.
Sacramento’s second team outscored the Spurs 57-22, including solid nights by Ben McLemore, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison and Willie Cauley-Stein. At least one of these players might move into the starting lineup when the Kings take on the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday evening.
Cousins put up big numbers in the loss, finishing the night with 26 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. But his two fouls in the first four minutes of the game contributed greatly to the team’s slow start.
For one of the few nights this season, Rudy Gay was mostly ineffective, scoring 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting against defensive star Kawhi Leonard.
Lawson’s struggles continue...
Veteran point guard Ty Lawson has struggled all season long to get his offensive game started, but over the last six games, he’s shooting just 5-of-27 from the field (18.5 percent). He finished Wednesday night’s game with three points and failed to register an assist in 20 minutes of action.
With the return of Darren Collison, Lawson’s starting job at the point might be one of the fixes Joerger tries as he tinkers. Collison was Sacramento’s third leading scorer a season ago and his ability to knock down open shots from the perimeter
“I think he’s playing hard, he’s playing in a system that does not help him,” Joerger said of Lawson. “He’s playing with guys who just have no pace to get up and down the floor. It’s very difficult for him to try and take it and go against a set defense that’s got three of four guys back.”
It’s possible that Lawson would fit better with the second unit that includes players that can get up and down the floor like McLemore, Barnes and Cauley-Stein.
“I’m trying to push the ball but the big men are just clogging the paint on the other team, just sitting back,” Lawson explained. “Even when I do get a drive or something like that, their big men are sitting right there and I’ve got to kick it out.
“I’ll just keep working at it, keep playing hard, just play hard on the defensive end and try to get steals or just make it hard for other teams. Just got to find my niche.”
Lawson isn’t the only one struggling with the Kings offensive system, but his numbers jump off the page.