The team that began the Orlando bubble saying “we want all of that smoke” just learned that smoke usually is accompanied by fire.
At 1-4 in the NBA restart, the Kings have shown they aren’t ready for the fire and they might not be ready for prime time.
“I think it starts with individual accountability, just in terms of the effort we are putting out there on a consistent basis,” veteran Harrison Barnes said following the Kings’ 119-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. “It’s hard to win in this league and to be consistent, you have to do that every single night.”
[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
The Kings have talent. But rarely is that enough at the NBA level.
You have to play together. You have to play for one another. In the end, you have to bring energy and effort every night or a team of no-names, like the squad the Nets threw on the court Friday, will embarrass you.
It’s a common theme with the Kings. They played a tremendous game in a 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, scoring 49 points in the first quarter
Just over 24 hours later, they looked like a collection of players that had never played together. There was no chemistry. No passing. No rotations on defense.
Just forced and ineffective basketball.
“Frustration is high,” Barnes admitted. “I don’t know if it’s disappointing, but it’s frustrating. Coming into this game, we knew it was more mental than physical. It was meeting force with force. It was being disciplined. It didn’t matter what scheme we had or what game plan we had if we didn’t have any effort.”
Who's to blame for the Kings’ flame out in Orlando? Coach Luke Walton has already drawn plenty of criticism, but at some point the players themselves have to take ownership for the things they can control on the court.
Following the loss to the Nets, Barnes fell on his sword as one of the leaders of the team. He placed the blame on himself and the rest of the veterans.
“I’ll be the first to say it’s definitely on us as veteran players -- guys like myself," Barnes said. "I’ll take responsibility for that because I’ve been to the playoffs, I’ve been to the Finals. I know the energy and effort it takes to win games and if you don’t bring that, you lose.”
“As a group, we have to learn that you can’t just turn it on,” he added.
[RELATED: NBA puts money where its mouth is for racial, social justice]
The Kings have a choice. They can pout and get their lunch handed to them for the next three games. They can also play spoiler and leave the bubble on as high of a note as possible.
Either way, this isn’t the outcome the Kings were hoping for. They have had a few bright spots, like the play of De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic, so the experience isn’t a total wash. But after five games, any talk of playoffs is over and changes likely are coming during the abbreviated offseason.