Kings' tailspin continues as team hits rock bottom in loss vs. Pistons

Kings' tailspin continues as team hits rock bottom in loss vs. Pistons

What happened to the Sacramento Kings? They’ve been treading just above rock bottom for the better part of a month, but it doesn’t get much worse than the performance they put forth Wednesday in Detroit.

The Kings looked completely disinterested through the first half, almost as if they were just going to show up in the third quarter and blow a completely depleted Pistons team out of the water.

That didn’t happen. In fact, the Kings were embarrassed by a team missing 60 percent of its starting lineup, falling by a final of 127-106.

“Basketball is a simple game, defend without fouling, make the right play and knock down shots early,” Luke Walton told reporters following the loss. “I feel like we didn't do any of those things. Now, I don't know where our competitive spirit was or because of injuries we thought the game might be easy.”

The Kings looked like a team that has completely lost its way. Players started hunting for shots in the third quarter and throwing up one bad 3-point attempt after another.

Instead of attacking the rim, it was a series of misses, followed by defensive rebounds for Detroit. The only time the offense looked anywhere near cohesive was when Walton went to the bench, turning to a group that included Cory Joseph, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and Harry Giles.

Giles has played sparingly over the last week and Bazemore and Tolliver made their debuts with Sacramento after coming over in a trade over the weekend.  

[RELATED: Kings players react to Bazemore-Tolliver trade with Blazers]

“I think our bad stretches are happening for too long, too many times,” De’Aaron Fox told media members. “There are times where we are out there playing good basketball and there are times where we're not. I said it before, you just try to play the best basketball you can for the most amount of time. I don’t think we're doing that right now.”

On the defensive end, the Kings didn’t move their feet and they fouled at will. 12 of the 13 players who stepped on the floor were called for personal fouls, including five each for Buddy Hield and Dewayne Dedmon.

In total, the Kings picked up 28 personal fouls as a team and sent the Pistons to the line for a staggering 44 free-throw attempts, of which they hit 37. Sacramento was outscored by 25 points at the foul line in a 21-point loss.

“There are times where our defense looks great and then we're not making shots,” Fox said. “There are times where we're making shots but we're trading baskets. We just have to be able to piece it together for as long as we can. Like I said before, we can't let our offense affect our defense or vice versa.”

The Kings have now dropped six straight and they are just 3-15 over their last 18 games. At 15-29, they are rudderless and in desperate need of a win.

“It's about where we're going and I'm a very patient person,” Walton said. “I believe in our group, but we need to do a lot of things including starting games with a much more competitive, engaged mindset. So, I still have all the belief in the world in our team. It's still surreal to be coaching this team, but there are some things that we need to improve on and improve on quickly because it's too late in the season to be having these same types of mistakes so frequently.”

With 38 games remaining in the season, the Kings have officially hit a new low. There is still time to make the season respectable and build for next year, but changes have to be made.

Whether that is a rotational move or a trade or something more drastic, the team needs a shock to the system and the current path the Kings are on is completely unacceptable by any standard.

Kings continue postseason push, move to within four games of Grizzlies

Kings continue postseason push, move to within four games of Grizzlies

Something is different with this Sacramento Kings group. Last season, they believed they had a shot at a playoff berth, but when times got tough, they didn’t know how to respond.

The hangover seemed to play into the start of this season when the team dropped their first five games. Before they knew what hit them, the hole was deep and a series of injuries made the road even more difficult.

In a normal year, the Kings’ season would already be over and done with. At 24-33, they should have an insurmountable climb ahead, and the team and the conversation should shift to the 2020 NBA Draft.

But the 2019-20 season has been a train wreck for multiple teams. After making it to the Western Conference Finals last season, the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled all season and now Damian Lillard is nursing a groin injury.

The San Antonio Spurs have made 22 straight postseason appearances, but they, like the Blazers, are just ahead of the Kings in the standings.

Memphis has turned heads with their gritty play, but they are fading and injuries to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clark are slowing their path. New Orleans is making a move, but they are inexperienced and caught up in a 4-5 team race for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Why is this season going to be different than last year when the Kings closed out the year with an 8-15 stretch to fall out of contention?

Maybe it won’t be. It’s very possible that the Kings will fall on hard times once again and stumble towards the finish line.

It’s also possible that this team learned from their mistakes last season, gained valuable experience and the veterans they have added can help hold the ship together as they venture into unfamiliar waters.

“We have a greater sense of urgency,” Harrison Barnes said of what feels different this season. “We realize what we have to do in order to make the playoffs. I’ve been proud of how everyone’s come out, focused, ready to play since the break ended. Hopefully it will continue.”

The Kings have won three straight coming out of the break, including a 112-94 win over the Warriors on Tuesday night. Sacramento is now 9-4 over their last 13 games since falling to the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 22.

The loss in Detroit seemed to be a catalyst for change. Coach Luke Walton shifted his starting lineup to include Bogdan Bogdanovic, while moving Buddy Hield to the second unit, but that was only part of the shakeup.

Since that game, newcomer Kent Bazemore has stepped in and taken on a much bigger role with the club. Second-year big man Harry Giles has also started to show improvement and almost every player is seeing a spike in their numbers.

“We’ve got a little pep in our step right now at shootaround, at practices,” Bazemore said. “Guys are just working. After practice, guys are just in the gym for an extra 45 minutes to an hour, just getting up shots. Guys are loving to come to work.”

[RELATED: How Kent Bazemore proving to be Kings' missing ingredient during surge]

Players are putting in time and they seem to be buying into Walton’s system. The team is staying together and it’s possible they could get Richaun Holmes back from injury and maybe even Marvin Bagley back before the season ends.

Sacramento is starting to pick up the pace on the offensive end, and the defense has played well over the last two games.

“I think we’re playing well on both sides of the ball,” De’Aaron Fox said. “I think we’re playing like a desperate team right now. It’s been going good for us. We’ve been able to get stops when we needed them. We’ve been able to execute when need be. I just think, right now, we’re playing our best basketball of the season.”

[RELATED: Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors]

The Kings came out of the break seven games out of the eighth seed, but they’ve won three straight heading into a back-to-back with the Thunder and Grizzlies on Thursday and Friday.

Memphis has dropped three in a row, allowing the Kings to shave the deficit down to four games with 25 remaining. If the Kings are going to get all the way back in the race, Friday’s game against the Grizzlies is huge, as are winnable games at home against the Pistons and Wizards next week.

Sacramento still needs to find a way to get past Portland, San Antonio and New Orleans in the standings, but they have some momentum. They can’t afford any letdowns from here on out if they are going to have a shot of snapping their 13-year postseason drought.

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.