Rewind: Due to alarming trend, Joerger declares lineup changes coming

Rewind: Due to alarming trend, Joerger declares lineup changes coming

SACRAMENTO -- Slow starts. Poor spacing. Intermittent defense. The 2016-17 Sacramento Kings are a major work in progress.

After falling behind by as many as 26 in the first half Friday night against the Clippers, the Kings awoke from their slumber to make a game of it. What was left of the 17,608 sellout crowd cheered their team on as DeMarcus Cousins, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, Rudy Gay, Garrett Temple and Matt Barnes found a way to claw within two points in the final minutes of the game, only to fade down the stretch for a 121-115 loss.

It’s an alarming trend. The Kings come out with a lackluster effort early. They fall behind big. They make a game out of it only to run out of gas.

“I don’t think we’re coming out with urgency,” Cousins said following the game. “Once again, we’re just waiting until the last minute to play with energy, play with a sense of urgency, play with some pride, play with some heart. I mean, it’s all fun, it’s exciting in the end – you feel like we’re playing good and making the right steps, but these games are only going to continue to get harder for us if we wait until the last quarter or I guess you could say second half to try to make a push. We’ve got to start having complete games.”

Be it the wrong mix of players on the floor, poor focus at shootaround or just a lack of effort early, changes are finally in store for the Kings’ starting lineup.

“I’ve seen enough, I’m going to play small” coach Dave Joerger said following the game. “DeMarcus is going to play center.”

“I don’t know who else is going to play with him, but it gives us more zip, more life, more experience,” Joerger said. “It’s not a detriment to anyone else and what they’ve done.”

Joerger has been reluctant to abandon a starting lineup that includes two centers. It’s not an indictment on the play of Kosta Koufos. He’s a big man that does the dirty work. But the sample size from both this season and last say that when Cousins and Koufos are on the floor together, the Kings struggle to space the floor.

Lawson has repeatedly made statements about having nowhere to go with the ball once he beats his man off the dribble. With a smaller lineup on the floor for much of the second half, Lawson had his best game of the season, posting 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting while dishing out eight assists and grabbing seven rebounds. He also turned the ball over just twice in 36 minutes of action and played strong defense on All-Star Chris Paul.

“I felt like myself today,” Lawson said. “I was able to get into the paint, especially in the second half. But still, we’ve got to start off early – we can’t get in a hole like that and play that well in the second half…battling uphill the whole game.”

The lineup change freed Lawson to break down the Clippers defense and find his teammates for open buckets. Two of Barnes’ three 3-pointers in the fourth came off a Lawson assist as he knifed through the lane. For the first time this season, he looked like the Ty Lawson that posted huge numbers for the Denver Nuggets just two seasons ago.

“It’s not a lot of fun I suppose, having a speed racing car going stop and go in the city,” Joerger said of Lawson. “He needs to be playing in space a little bit. I thought going small kind of did that, both Darren and Ty didn’t see so many people in front of them.”

Sacramento trailed 73-54 at the half, but Joerger inserted Collison for Koufos into the lineup following the intermission and the team instantly perked up. They had an up and down third quarter and trailed by 19 going to the fourth, but they built momentum.

The fourth was a whirlwind of action as the Kings pushed the tempo and nearly completed the comeback. But nearly doesn’t cut it.

Sacramento has lost four in a row and they now stand at 4-9 on the season. Mixing up the starting lineup might have the desired effect. But like Friday night’s loss to the Clippers, the Kings are digging a deep hole they may not be able to climb out of.

“Regardless of what lineup is out there, we’ve got to be ready to play,” Cousins said. “We can’t come out with excuses. If we don’t play with energy and urgency from the beginning, it doesn’t really matter what lineup is out there – we’re going to continue to have the same type of game.”

Cousins finished the game with big numbers, dropping in 38 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists three steals and a block in 37 minutes of action. Collison came off the bench to chip in 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting and Barnes came up with a big 15-point, seven-rebound performance in the loss.

The Kings return to action Sunday when the Toronto Raptors come into Sacramento for game three of the team’s five game home stand. They'll need a strong showing to knock off DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and the 8-4 team from the north.

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.