Kings

Gentry critical of Kings' players after loss in his debut

Kings
Gentry

The Kings made a seismic change Sunday when they fired Luke Walton as coach and installed Alvin Gentry as interim head coach.

The hope was that making the move would spark the team full of talented players and lead to a season turnaround over the final 65 games.

The first of those 65 games looked a lot like the previous 17 games that cost Walton his job, as the Kings struggled on offense in a 102-94 loss to the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers at Golden 1 Center on Monday night.

While De'Aaron Fox had a slight uptick in his play and finished with a team-high 23 points, Tyrese Haliburton went scoreless in 33 minutes of action. Harrison Barnes entered the night as the Kings' leading scorer at 19.9 points per game, but he managed to score just 10 points.

Buddy Hield scored 21 off the bench and Richaun Holmes chipped in 18 points, but as a whole, the Kings shot 42 percent from the field and a lousy 22 percent from 3-point range (7-of-31). Sacramento (6-12) entered the fourth quarter with a five-point lead, but went ice cold in the final period, managing to score just 12 points. The 76ers scored 25 and came away with the stunning victory.

"Bottom line is you've got to step up and make shots," Gentry told reporters after the loss. "I thought we got a good look at it and we didn't make them. And that's kind of where we've struggled. We go 33, 19, 30, 12 and that's really not conducive to winning in this league. You give up 102 points, obviously they shoot 42 percent, they shoot 28 percent from three, all of those say you should win the game. But our offense for some reason right now is very stagnant and we're missing shots and we're not making quick decisions. We say 'Point-five, you've got to decide. Either it's a shot or you got to move it on.' And we're continuing to work at it.  

 

"We've got to find the combination of guys that are going to play. Don't really care what the hell the back of the jersey says, we're going to play the guys that are going to play hard and do what we try to ask them to do. If you don't want to run and you don't want to get out and play in the open court, then we've got to find somebody that will."

Gentry didn't sugarcoat any of his postgame comments, and he believes the swagger the Kings had entering the season has taken a hit.

"I don't know if it's 'Oh no, here we go.' But I do think our confidence has been rattled a bit," Gentry said. "You do have a tendency to go through that somewhat. The one message I said from Day 1 is that the only thing and the only one that's going to rescue us from this is us. There's nobody in this league, not in the 35 years I've been in it, that has any sympathy for us. So you have to come together and you have to find a way to bail yourself out of this."

With the loss to the 76ers, the Kings now are a stunning 2-7 at home, and that's not going to cut it for Gentry, who has more than three decades of NBA coaching experience under his belt.

"The thing that's really disturbing right now is that we're having trouble winning games at home, and in this league, you have to win your home games," Gentry said. "You have to be good at home and then you have to be decent on the road. And we have not been good at home. We've got to find a way to get that changed right away."

Prior to the game, Gentry admitted that the system and philosophy implemented by Walton largely would stay the same. But after the Kings' fourth straight loss, he was quite clear that if certain players or rotations aren't working, changes will have to be made.

"We can either improve or we've got to start looking to play different people," Gentry said. "That's the solution, really. If we can't get it done with the people we have out there, obviously as a coach I've got to decide on different people being out there. 12 points in the quarter is unacceptable to a team that's basically playing with their second unit."

 

One of the more outspoken Kings is veteran center Tristan Thompson, who is in his first season with the team. He has won an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers, so he won't stand for all the losing.

A few days before Walton was fired, Thompson went on a postgame rant about the Kings frustrations.

Given the chance to talk to reporters shortly after Gentry spoke, Thompson didn't quite echo his coach's belief that the players were all to blame for the Kings' failures this season.

"I think everyone has to look in the mirror. It's not only the players," Thompson said. "Yes, it's a players league but your job is to play. But in terms of building a team, it takes a collective group. It takes everyone from the top to the bottom. From ownership to the trainers to equipment managers to players to PT to GM, assistant GM, scouts, it's all of us. I don't think it's just "Players got to figure out, players got to look in the mirror.' I think everyone has to look in the mirror. Everyone that's getting a check from the Sacramento Kings or is cutting the checks, we all got to look in the mirror. We all have to look at ourselves and say 'How can I be one percent better for this city, for this franchise?' But yes, of course, the players, you're out there, you've got to go and perform. Everyone's got to get better. Everyone.

"I'm a big believer in everything, from the top to the bottom, has to be on the same page and have an understanding. I think that's the only way you can build something special. And I've experienced that. Where if there's loose ends anywhere, if anyone is cutting corners and not doing their job or cutting or slacking, you're going to see it. It's like building a home. You don't put the steel right or you don't put that roofing right, when that rainy day comes, you're house is effed up. So it's everyone. Everyone's got to be better. Everyone's got to look in the mirror. Everyone's got to get a reality check. We've just got to have more toughness and grit. We're playing a little too nice. Got to get a little nasty. Got to hit a motherf---er on the floor. Gotta make someone feel you."

RELATED: Gentry believes he failed Walton

No one expected the change from Walton to Gentry would be an overnight fix, but there was no sign of progress Monday night. And the finger-pointing seems to be getting worse with each loss.

The Kings now have Tuesday off to work on things with Gentry and coaching staff. But it doesn't get any easier as the Portland Trail Blazers (9-8) come to town Wednesday night.

Gentry has plenty of experience and knowledge at his disposal, but righting the ship in Sacramento is a tall task and is going to take a lot of time. And it's going to take everyone, from the players to the coaches, to pull in the same direction to get things turned around.