Kings searching for answers after 'embarrassing performance' vs. Jazz

Kings searching for answers after 'embarrassing performance' vs. Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY -- The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. The Sacramento Kings already are at that point just three games into the 2019-20 NBA season.

After the Utah Jazz ran them over 113-81 on Saturday night, the coach and some players acknowledged that what's happening on the court is unacceptable.

“I don’t know what that was tonight,” coach Luke Walton said. “That’s not who we are. Honestly, that was an embarrassing performance that we gave out there, and that’s coaches included. That’s everybody. The Kings fans and the organization deserve a better effort than that.”

Walton seems like he’s at a loss, with his promising first season in Sacramento off to an extremely rocky start. Something looks off with the Kings. They’ve lost their identity, and the schedule isn’t waiting around while they figure everything out.

“There could be any number of things you could point to,” forward Harrison Barnes said. “I think the biggest thing is ownership. We have to just own the responsibility that we’re all in this. As the leader of the team, I take a lot of ownership on that, just making sure guys are ready to go. That’s on me, and I’ve got to be better at that and we all have to be better.”

Saturday's 32-point loss looked more like a late-season game when a team is just going through the motions and looking forward to the offseason. With 79 games still remaining in the season, Sacramento needs to start finding fixes to whatever ails the team on the court.

“No excuse, man. We’ve just got to try to figure it out and try to find a way to get stops and score the ball,” guard Buddy Hield said. “We look terrible right now.”

The game was so out of hand at Vivint Smart Home Arena that Walton threw in the towel 3:21 into the third quarter with his team down 75-43. He made a line change, with all five starters exiting at once. Four of the five sat out the remainder of the game.

“There really wasn’t much to be discussed,” Barnes said candidly about Walton’s move. “We weren’t getting it done with the energy and effort starting off the game in that third quarter. So he made a decision to pull us.”

The second unit fared no better, and neither did the third unit. Walton’s group trailed by as many as 37 during the game, and the locker room was extremely quiet afterward.

“None of these losses sit well with anybody, so I think everyone is highly motivated to change things,” Barnes said. “It’s just a matter of putting it together, and the next game against Denver is a perfect opportunity to do that.”

Sacramento still believes in the group that’s been assembled. No one was pointing fingers behind the scenes. The focus is on building chemistry with the new additions and getting back to what made the Kings successful last season.

“Everybody is trying to figure it out, everybody wants to win, everybody that came in came from winning cultures, so they know what it’s like winning,” Hield said. “So we’re just trying to figure things and put it together.”

It’s still early in the season, but Walton doesn’t see his team coming apart at the seams. The group likes each other and has worked to build a strong culture that can withstand this early hiccup.

“It won’t happen -- we’ve got a good group,” the Kings’ coach said. “Our group works really hard. It’s part of the reason it’s frustrating, because it’s not transferring over from the practice court right now. And I’m in there every day, and I see the type of work they put in. I want the group to start succeeding with some of the stuff.”

[RELATED: Purple Talk podcast with De'Aaron Fox]

“I have no concern about the group splintering at all,” Walton added.

The Kings have a busy week ahead. They flew home after the loss, and will host the Nuggets, Hornets and Jazz at Golden 1 Center this week. They are waiting for that moment when it all clicks and they can come away with a win.

There is a lot of concern, but there's still optimism that things can turn around quickly and they can get back on track.

Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors


Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO -- No team needed the All-Star break more than Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox. An early-season ankle injury was getting heavy. Bumps and bruises were adding up and the time away was an opportunity to both heal up and mentally reset.

That worked for all of one game. 

Fox woke up on Friday morning with a sore left shoulder. He’s had it taped up the last two games, but he’s playing through the issue.

In the team’s 112-94 win over the Warriors on Tuesday, Fox disappeared to the locker room due to tightness in his right groin. He returned to the game and looked no worse for wear.

Fox is fighting through the pain because his team needs him on the court if they have any hope of continuing what has become a hot streak. 

“It’s motivating,” veteran wing Kent Bazemore said of Fox playing through pain. “You can see him wincing out there, but he’s pushing through. It means a lot that he’s bought in. We have his back and he is still demanding a lot of attention, dominating the game.”

Against the Warriors, Fox stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 21 points, five assists, two rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes of play. He shot just 4-of-9 from the free-throw stripe, but that has nothing to do with the nagging issues he’s currently struggling with.

“I don’t know,” Fox said when asked about shooting freebies. “I think we just gotta get there and get better. I don’t really know what else to say about it.”

Is there concern that the injuries will take Fox off the court or decrease his effectiveness? Absolutely, but in the NBA, injuries always are part of the game.

“They tell me he’s good to go, I asked him at halftime and he said, ‘play me’,” Luke Walton said. “Between our medical staff and talking to him, I feel confident. He came out and made some big-time in that second half and seemed to be alright.”

The team will be cautious with the 22-year-old budding star, but they also are going to forge ahead. 

[RELATED: Bazemore is ingredient Kings missed during early struggles]

“We’ll go about it smartly and we’ll give him off days where he needs it and rehab and treatment and all that,” Walton added.

Fox is averaging 19.9 points and 6.9 assists for the Kings this season. He’s taking another leap forward in his production and growth, but Sacramento needs him at full strength if they are going to continue to stay in the hunt for the postseason. 

Kings takeaways: What we learned in satisfying 112-94 win vs. Warriors


Kings takeaways: What we learned in satisfying 112-94 win vs. Warriors


SAN FRANCISCO -- These aren’t your championship Warriors. 

The Kings walked into Chase Center Tuesday night and while it wasn’t always pretty, they put the smackdown on the team from the Bay Area.

Golden State struggled from the perimeter, hitting just 4-of-28 shots from long range. Sacramento countered by knocking down just 19-of-34 from the free-throw line to let the Warriors stick around. 

In the end, it was too much Buddy Hield in the fourth for Golden State (12-46), and the Kings came away with the 112-92 win.

Here are three takeaways as Sacramento (24-33) picked up their third straight victory to improve to 24-33 on the season.

Better late than never

Hield had a quiet game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, scoring just seven points in 15 minutes of action. 

The Kings’ leading scorer got off to a slow start at Chase, but then let it fly to open the fourth. Hield hit the Warriors with three straight 3-pointers to open up a 17-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.

Hield scored 15 of their 19 points in the final period and chipped in six rebounds. Buddy showed up when his team needed it and put the game away. 

Barnes does it again

Harrison Barnes came into Tuesday averaging 17.2 points on 54.8 percent shooting from 3-point range over his previous five games. He put on another show against the Warriors.

The Kings’ starting small forward posted 14 points in the first quarter to get the ball rolling. He was quiet late but still managed to post 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting including a pair of makes from long range.

Barnes decided back in December that he wouldn’t shave his face until the team got to .500. He now seems to be harnessing the power of the beard. 

[RELATED: Bazemore is ingredient Kings missed during early struggles]

Making an impact

After failing to notch a double-double in his first 87 career games, Harry Giles almost got a streak going.

The second-year center scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Warriors' frontline. He struggled in the pick-and-roll against Marquese Chriss, but was active and made an impact on the floor. 

If Giles can continue to play like this, Walton will have plenty of options in the post when Richaun Holmes eventually returns to the court.