It’s going to take a team effort. The Sacramento Kings are quickly learning that their path to success for the 2016-17 season is not one or two players delivering on a nightly basis. If they are going to compete, everyone has to contribute.
“I think we’re understanding better, we’re understanding that we can only win by playing together,” DeMarcus Cousins told CSN’s Kayte Christensen following the Kings’ 109-106 win over the Hornets Saturday night in Charlotte. “Moving the ball, having a team oriented defense. The iso ball and all of that is out of play now. The only way we win games is to play together.”
Cousins is the wrecking ball. He is the player that the team relies on to do major damage both as a scorer and rebounder, but they also need him to facilitate for other. On Saturday night in Charlotte, the three-time All-Star dropped in 26 points, 18 rebounds and four assists.
“He’s understanding that defenses are giving him all types of looks and he’s being a lot more poised and patient,” Darren Collison told reporters following the win.
Sacramento’s star player has made it a point of emphasis to get his teammates involved and increase his assist numbers this season. He’s averaging a career-best 4.4 dimes per game this season, but over his last 18 games, he’s increased that number to 6.2.
“DeMarcus is doing exceptionally well getting us involved,” Collison added. “It’s our job to knock down the shots. He can only do so much, but when we give him the added help, it makes him look good as well.”
Collison has been a major beneficiary of Cousins’ recent play. The 29-year-old point guard dropped in 17 points against the Hornets on 7-of-11 shooting and over the last four games, he’s averaging 19.5 points per game as the Kings’ second scoring option.
Everyone is getting involved in the action. After falling out of the rotation for stints this season, Arron Afflalo has found his groove as a spot up 3-point shooter and occasional post up player. The 10-year NBA vet has posted double-figure scoring in three straight games and he’s now shooting an impressive 41.4 percent from behind the arc on the season.
Like Afflalo, second-year big Willie Cauley-Stein is finding his niche with the team and contributing in a big way.
“I’m just letting the game come to me, just being in good spots, always being engaged and trying to be aware of where guys are and where the holes are in the defense and just trying to flash and get as many touches as I can while I’m in there,” Cauley-Stein told Christensen.
The wiry 7-footer scored 13 points in 14 minutes off coach Dave Joerger’s bench. He shot 6-of-7 from the floor and he’s quietly becoming the disruptive defensive force the Kings thought they were getting when they selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Something feels different with this group. Even the young players are noticing the change.
“The team camaraderie is just very vet oriented,” Cauley-Stein added.”There’s no beef between anybody. Everybody knows their roles, not anybody is trying to play out of their roles.”
Garrett Temple played incredible perimeter defense. Ty Lawson wrang up nine assists off the bench. Anthony Tolliver hit 4-of-8 from 3-point land on his way to 14 points.
Even the players that didn’t post big stats made an impact as the Kings shook off the tough loss in Indiana from the night before.
“We’re getting to a level where this needs to be how we play every night as far as how hard we play,” Joerger said. “We’ve been playing hard, but you look at last night - that was a heck of a basketball game, tonight was a heck of a basketball game. Guys diving on the floor like it’s a playoff game.”
The Kings get a much needed day off on Sunday before returning to the court Monday afternoon in Philly against the upstart Sixers. They finish out their road trip Tuesday in Houston against the high powered Rockets and then return home.
It’s been a brutal stretch, but the Kings are 3-3 on the road trip and still have a chance to build on that win total. Following the contest against the Rockets, they play 11 of the next 13 games at Golden 1 Center.