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.”
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“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.