A Kings team used to chaos gets first-hand look at dysfunctional Bulls


A Kings team used to chaos gets first-hand look at dysfunctional Bulls

The Kings have no idea what Chicago Bulls team will show up Monday evening. On Friday, the Bulls shocked the Oklahoma City Thunder for a two-point win, just their sixth victory of the season. The next night they rolled over and lost to the Boston Celtics 133-77.

It’s not often you see a 56-point blowout in the NBA. In fact, it’s the worst margin of defeat in Bulls history and the players pinned it on new head coach Jim Boylen.

According to reports, the Bulls players are, “on the verge of a full-blown mutiny,” in Boylen’s first week on the job. Issues with Boylen’s coaching style and grueling practices led to a team meeting on Sunday, first with the players and then as a team.

After 19 years as an assistant, Boylen is getting his first chance running the show and it’s not going well. He took over for Fred Hoiberg, who posted a 5-19 record this season and a 115-155 showing over the last three-plus years.

Boylen has worked with plenty of great coaches, including 11 seasons with Rudy Tomjanovich in Houston and two seasons on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio.

The Kings have been in this position before and it breeds chaos. Switching coaches midstream rarely works out and it often leads to a massive downward spiral.

Since the departure of Rick Adelman following the 2005-06 season, Sacramento has pulled the plug on a coach in-season four times if you include both Michael Malone and Tyrone Corbin during the 2014-15 campaign.

Replacements coaches, including Corbin, Kenny Natt, Keith Smart and George Karl finished a combined 49-126 over the stretch.

When you have a young roster, like both Chicago and Sacramento, stability is key. Hoiberg might not have been the answer, but the Bulls front office likely understood that coming into the year.

In bringing a new voice, Boylen is trying to push a second training camp on the players, this time in the middle of the season. He’s also attempting to communicate with an extremely young group and by the looks of things, he’s having trouble finding common ground.

The Kings come into Chicago at 13-12 and looking to finish their road trip at 3-1. Behind the coaching of Dave Joerger, the Kings have quickly developed an identity of their own this season, despite their inexperience as a group. Their focus has been on self-improvement over scheming for opponents.

Sacramento has no idea what kind of Bulls team will show up and they likely don’t care. So far this season they have put the blinders on to what is happening outside of the locker room.

Be it the team’s own drama surrounding clashes with the front office and the coaching staff or the expectations from NBA experts that had the team winning 25 games, the group seems unaffected by the noise.

The Bulls have talent. They should be better than 6-21 on the season. But the NBA is a tough business. Avoiding drama is a luxury Chicago doesn’t have and it will likely cost them dearly throughout the remaining three quarters of the season.

Kings learn another harsh lesson, blow massive lead in loss to Nets


Kings learn another harsh lesson, blow massive lead in loss to Nets

SACRAMENTO -- The hum of a stocked glass-door refrigerator in the corner was the only discernible noise in the Kings’ locker room Tuesday night. The weight of a monumental 123-121 loss to the Brooklyn Nets hung in the air, and no one was in a mood to speak to the media.

In a season of harsh lessons, blowing a 25-point fourth quarter lead and giving up the winning bucket with 0.8 seconds remaining may have been the straw that broke the Kings' backs.

“It’s just a bad loss,” a frustrated De’Aaron Fox said.

“We blew it. I hate losing, especially like that,” rookie Marvin Bagley said.

After destroying Brooklyn with a 20-0 run to begin the second half, the Kings looked unbeatable headed into the fourth quarter.

Bagley was having another breakout game. Fox looked finished for the evening when Joerger turned to Yogi Ferrell off the bench.

Sacramento led by 103-78 heading to the final frame. They were well on they’re way to their 35th victory, and a move back to .500.

Then, D’Angelo Russell caught fire.

The Kings have seen a player do something similar in the past. Golden State’s Klay Thompson hit the team for 37 points in a third quarter of a game back in Jan. 2015. But this was different.

This wasn’t a run to blow a team out. Russell’s 27-point outburst in the fourth came in a hostile environment, as every point cut into a big deficit. The All-Star guard finished the evening with 44 points out of necessity for his club, and the Kings had no answer.

“Well, that certainly can be a tough one to take, but it’s a good opportunity for our guys to learn and hopefully we’ll be in those opportunities again in the future where we have a lead and we don’t relax,” coach Dave Joerger said. “We relaxed and were very casual, didn’t run back on defense, turned the basketball over a ton and took a lot of jump shots because we thought it was going to be easy.”

The lead evaporated quickly. Sacramento started missing shots, and turning the ball over. Russell started pulling up for 3-pointers on the break, and hitting them.

A stunned Golden 1 Center crowd was silenced as the Nets hit the Kings with one blow after another.

“They made shots, we turned the ball over, they got it going and got hot and they finished the game better than we did,” Fox said.

When Russell missed a couple of shots, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson picked up the slack. When they needed a big 3-pointer, veteran Jared Dudley knocked it down.

Joerger tried different looks in the fourth, but nothing seemed to work. Sacramento shot just 22.7 percent in the final 12 minutes, and turned the ball over seven times. Only Buddy Hield hit more than one shot in the final 12 minutes, and even he went just 2-of-6 from the field, and missed all three of his 3-pointers.

“They wanted it more than us,” Hield said. “They out-toughed us. Outplayed us. They were the guys that were the most confidence. They were talking, having fun. They took the fun away from us in the fourth quarter.”

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In the end, the Nets hit big shots and the Kings came up short. The ball got sticky, the game slowed down and a team with a lot to play for handed Sacramento a devastating loss.

“We kind of relaxed in that moment and the basketball gods punished us. That’s how it goes,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said.

With the defeat, the Kings dropped to 34-36 on the season. Combined with a Los Angeles Clippers victory, Sacramento fell seven games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings with 12 games remaining.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 123-121 loss on Nets' unreal rally


Kings takeaways: What we learned in 123-121 loss on Nets' unreal rally

SACRAMENTO -- Desperately needing a win over a tough Brooklyn Nets team, the Kings looked like world beaters in the third quarter.

Then it all fell apart Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center.

Riding an incredible performance by D’Angelo Russell, the Nets erased the Kings' 25-point third-quarter lead. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson got a flip to fall with eight-tenths of a second remaining, and Buddy Hield’s desperation heave came up short as Brooklyn pulled out a shocking 123-121 win.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped to 34-36 on the season, with their slim playoff hopes fading even more.

The good run

Sacramento held a 66-58 lead going to intermission, and then the third quarter happened. The Kings came out on fire, punishing the Nets with a 20-0 run to open the second half.

Brooklyn slowed woke up to score 20 points in the quarter, but the damage was done. Sacramento outscored the visitors 37-20 to take a 25-point lead into the fourth.

The Kings shot 69.6 percent in the quarter, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Harrison Barnes scored 12 of his 17 points in the quarter, and Fox added nine as the Kings hit the jets and blew the Nets off the court.

The not-so-good run

An NBA game doesn’t end after 36 minutes, and the Kings learned that the hard way.

Led by an incredible fourth-quarter outburst from Russell, Brooklyn (37-36) stormed back in the final 12 minutes and maintained its position as the Eastern Conference's No. 7 seed.

Russell torched the Kings for 27 of his game-high 44 in the final period, single-handedly bringing the Nets to victory. He didn’t hit the game-winner, but with all of the attention focused on him, the Nets found a way to put the ball in the basket.

Bagley puts on a show

The rookie is growing by leaps and bounds every time he steps on the court. After dropping in 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds against the Bulls on Sunday, he destroyed the Nets' front line on Tuesday.

Bagley shot a perfect 8 of 8 from the field in the first half for 17 points. He backed that up after the break, finishing with a team-high 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

The 20-year-old is looking to finish the season strong. He’s posted back-to-back 20 point games despite playing on a minutes restriction.