Kings

Kings' up-and-down season defined by inconsistency, adversity

Kings

In what has been a bizarre season, the Kings already have seen some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows. There might not be a better example from this season than the Kings' most recent two games.

Over a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers, you saw the optimal form of this Kings squad even without several starters, and the up-and-down play that has kept this team from achieving its full potential so far.

"I like these guys and I like our team, we just got to find the way of getting to that consistency," Gentry said Wednesday night. "Like I talked about when I was appointed coach, we have to know what we can expect every night, know what we're going to get every night. You're not going to shoot the ball well every night, but we've got to know that we're going to create those shots and they're going to be there, and we've got to know that we can be solid defensively and to me that's the one thing we've got to continue to improve on.

"Being solid defensively and the offensive rebounding. I think tonight we gave them 17 offensive rebounds and that's a little bit disturbing because for most of the second half I thought they played with a small lineup."

Many Kings fans had hope headed into the 2021-22 NBA season that their decade-plus playoff drought might finally come to an end. First-round draft pick Davion Mitchell's impressive work leading the Kings to a Summer League championship had fans convinced they had nabbed a steal in the lottery for the second consecutive year.

 

The season got off to a promising start, as the Kings defeated a pair of elite Western Conference foes in their first two wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns. Even losses to the Warriors and Utah Jazz early offered a glimmer of hope that this team was past the years of futility.

But since a 30-point blowout win over the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 5 that pushed the Kings to 5-4, that positive script has been flipped on its head.

The Kings have experienced a pair of four-game losing streaks since, and head coach Luke Walton was fired on Nov. 21 following an 18-point loss to the Utah Jazz at home, the Kings' third loss of the season against Utah.

Interim coach Alvin Gentry lost his first game at the helm, but proceeded to then rattle off a pair of wins over the Trail Blazers once again and then a thrilling triple-overtime victory over the Lakers at Staples Center.

That was followed up by, however, back-to-back losses to a Memphis Grizzlies team without its star, Ja Morant, and then a home loss to the Lakers without LeBron James. To add insult to injury, Lakers fans drowned out the home crowd over the final quarter with "Let's Go Lakers" chants that led Alvin Gentry to apologize to the fans in his postgame press conference.

The next night, however, this team came out and rolled over the Clippers on the road. After being outscored by 22 in the third quarter less than 24 hours prior, the Kings owned a 37-24 advantage over the Clippers in the third frame on Wednesday.

Another oddity of this Kings season is their home/road splits.

The Kings improved to 6-6 on the road on Wednesday night, and got their second win in the past week at Staples Center. Meanwhile, the Kings are just 3-8 at Golden 1 Center. The Kings score nearly nine points more a game on the road than the team does at home, and are outscoring opponents by 2.6 more points per game away from Golden 1 Center.

Adversity hasn't just come from a change in leadership. Vital players like Richaun Holmes, Harrison Barnes and Tyrese Haliburton all have been sidelined for multiple games each so far this season. Barnes remains out with a foot sprain, having missed his fourth consecutive game Wednesday.

RELATED: Kings respond to Gentry's callout, roll past Clippers

De'Aaron Fox, who was expected to take another step toward superstardom in his fifth NBA season, got off to a very slow start and continues to be inconsistent. Fox is hitting a career-low percentage of his 3-pointers (27.3) and has his lowest offensive rating (109.7) since his rookie season in 2017-18.

All that being said, the Kings have run the gamut of emotions through the first 23 games.

There has been thrilling wins, buzzer-beaters and career nights across the roster. There also has been a coaching change, boos from the home crowd in Sacramento and home games featuring loud chants supporting the Kings' opponent.

 

Gentry and the Kings are doing what they can to right the ship, and the unquestioned goal for this group is keeping that playoff drought from reaching a 16th season.

In order for that to happen, however, the Kings must find a way to routinely perform night in and night out.