SACRAMENTO -- The Kings came into the season with extraordinarily high expectations for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 13 straight seasons.
After an 0-5 start to the season, those expectations aren’t being met, and the good people of Sacramento are voicing their displeasure with that.
The boo birds started to come out in the first half Wednesday night, but they quieted down when the Kings went into the intermission with a five-point lead over the visiting Charlotte Hornets. As Sacramento again fell apart in the third quarter, the Golden 1 Center crowd started to turn on the home team.
"It's Sacramento, man, they're die-hard basketball fans,” Kings guard Buddy Hield said after the team’s fifth consecutive loss to open the season. “I respect that. If my team wasn't doing well, I'd boo them, too. You can't take it harshly because we're sucking right now."
By the middle of the fourth quarter, fans were streaming toward the exits, and the conversations were not good. After a 39-win season, anger and disappointment are boiling over, and the fans aren’t the only ones airing their grievances.
“No one wants to be 0-5,” Kings forward Harrison Barnes said. “From a player's standpoint, management standpoint, fan perspective -- no one wants to be in that situation. So, there’s a lot of frustration to go around.”
The Kings were outhustled and beaten at their own game in the second half. A young Hornets team took away some of the things that worked for the Kings in the first half, and Sacramento had no counter.
“I mean, we should be ashamed with the way we played, especially on our home court,” Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “We have to find energy inside of the locker room, and have to definitely step up and get together.”
While the Kings fell 118-111, they played better than they had in the previous four games. There were a few silver linings to the loss, including the play of Richaun Holmes and the sense of urgency shown by Barnes.
“I think it is going in the right direction,” Hield said. “It’s not showing that, but you’ve got to have faith, man. You’ve got to have some kind of faith, and you have to believe in what we are doing. Yeah, it looks ugly right now, but you’ve got to have confidence.”
The vibe behind the scenes is of dissatisfaction with the outcome, not disgruntlement. As of now, the players don’t appear to be turning on each other or coach Luke Walton.
“Luke is doing a great job with us. No matter what anyone says, we’ve got his back,” Hield said. “We’re out there playing. We’ve got to go out there and execute, we’ve got to make shots. Luke is putting us in good spots to be successful. We’ve got to guard better, we’ve got to do everything better. It’s on us to go out there and perform. His job is to go out there and coach us.”
It’s early in the season, but there's still plenty of time for the Kings to find some chemistry on the court and turn things around. They have plenty of talent, but they're also learning a new system and have plenty of new pieces in the rotation.
If they have any hopes of bouncing back from a rough start, they have to stick together and try to improve as a team.
“We have to -- we have to,” Holmes said of the Kings’ need to avoid pointing fingers. “We’re 0-5 right now. It’s still a young season, 77 games left and a lot of time to right the ship, and we have to get on it ASAP.
“We work hard every day,” Holmes added. “Every time we step in the gym, we’re working hard to correct the problems. We’re watching film, we’re all together, we’re all together in this locker room, and we’re all looking to right the ship, and that’s something we’re going to do.”
The task at hand doesn’t get any easier for the Kings. On Friday, they’ll host the same Utah Jazz team that throttled them by 32 points last Saturday, and then head out on the road for an East Coast swing.
There is a lot of pride within the group, but this season is dangerously close to spinning out of control before it even has a chance to start.