The Kings lost their ninth game in eleven tries on Wednesday night. The Los Angeles Clippers are a very good team and Sacramento gave them a better fight than Friday night’s matchup, when the Kings lost by 38, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
At 5-10, the Kings aren’t just losing games. They are losing games in almost identical ways, time and time again. It’s starting to wear on everyone from the players to the coaches to a very loyal fanbase.
Following the latest loss, a 115-96 stinker that saw the Kings collapse in the third quarter, the players seemed frustrated and slightly defeated.
“It sucks losing. You can never accept it, well, I can never accept it,” Marvin Bagley said following the game.
Even rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who is about as charismatic a player as you’ll find, seems to be losing his positive outlook with the losses piling up.
“It’s kind of the same old stuff, hopefully we can come together and fix that, because if we don’t it’s going to continue to be the same results,” Haliburton said. “We know we’ve got to be better.”
Something has to give. A change has to be made. And in the NBA, you have to be proactive, or someone else might be reactive.
Coach Luke Walton has tried to remain positive, but he was clearly frustrated after his team’s fourth straight loss.
“We’re in this as a team,” Walton said. “Any failure is all of ours. Any success is all of ours. If we have a bad third quarter, it’s on us all. If we have a good third quarter, it’s on us all.”
Fifteen games is a large enough sample size to know whatever is happening on the court needs adjusting. That can mean a swap of the starting lineup, turning to a different player in the rotation or maybe something much more dramatic.
Outside of one game where Richaun Holmes sat with a sore ankle, Walton has run the same starting five out on the court each night. That might be the first place Walton should turn if he hopes to snap the team out of its current funk.
De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes are the group that started the season 3-1. They are also the group that can’t figure out how to make in-game adjustments during the losing streak.
Whether it’s bad on-court chemistry, the group being slow to pick up new offensive and defensive schemes or just a general lack of cohesion, something is missing.
While it’s not all on these five, they are the players seeing the bulk of the minutes in the rotation. They have some really nice moments, but the overall product looks like five individuals taking turns scoring and then one mistake after another on the defensive end.
The NBA is about making adjustments on the fly and this group hasn’t had one of those moments where they come together on the court, get on the same page and then show a marked change in energy or play style.
Walton has already gone away from Nemanja Bjelica, who struggled out of the game, but has started 137 games for the Kings over the past two seasons. He was a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game on Wednesday, although Walton made reference to a possible personal issue prior to tip-off against the Clippers.
Hassan Whiteside is nursing a hip ailment, but even when healthy he has been all over the board. Walton has also given two-way player Chimezie Metu a look in each of the last four games. The young big has had some highs and some lows, which is expected from a young player who lacks NBA experience.
The rest of the bench is filled with young players who aren’t ready or a veteran like Jabari Parker that hasn’t been able to crack into the rotation since joining the team last February.
Sacramento wasn’t expected to be a 50-win team this season, but they have enough talent to at least be competitive. So far they haven’t been and there is usually a price to pay for this type of play.
If nothing else, Walton needs to shake up his rotation like he did last season and hope that players in different roles can change the current direction of his team. He can't keep running the same mix of players out there night in and night out and expecting an epiphany moment.
Desperate times come for desperate measures. The Kings are underperforming. Wins and losses might not matter as much as just being competitive. If the team can't at least get to that point, then no one is safe in Sacramento.