SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are in the middle of a mid-December break. After a brutal schedule to start the season, including very little practice or recovery time, the Kings have four days to lick their wounds and get some much needed floor time together.
By all accounts, Saturday’s practice was one of the team’s best. It finished with a halfcourt shot by veteran forward Caron Butler as time expired on the clock. The second team celebrated like they had just won the championship which captured the mood in the room perfectly.
“There’s always heavy moments in a season,” George Karl said Saturday following practice. “And our heaviness started the year out and it’s kind of lingered on.”
The heaviness Karl speaks of is not just in the volume of games, but the quality of the team’s opponents. The Kings played plenty of home games early, but their schedule was filled with top-end Western Conference teams. They’ve already played their season-long five game road trip and traveled to Mexico City for a contest with the Boston Celtics.
Sacramento has tried desperately to get their bearings after a 1-7 start. They have had bounce-back moments, but they are always tempered by slip-ups. After clawing back to 7-12, the team stumbled again last week with an 0-3 road trip.
The break in action is giving the team time to hit a reset button of sorts. Sacramento has had plenty of early season injuries to deal with. It’s hard to implement changes on either side of the ball while missing pieces almost on a nightly basis.
“It’s about tune-up, recovery, a little maintenance work, whatever we need to do to get ready for Tuesday night’s game,” Darren Collison said. “I think we’re doing a good job of that. Coach is giving us the time that we need for our bodies to fully recover.”
At 9-15, it feels like the Kings are finally building momentum. After solid wins against the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks on Tuesday and Thursday, Sacramento finishes their three-game home stand next week opposite the Houston Rockets.
Unfortunately, they will be without the services of point guard Rajon Rondo, who was suspended by the league for comments made to official Bill Kennedy more than a week ago.
“It’s not the hand I would like to be dealt, but in an 82-game season, there’s a lot of curve balls sent your way,” Karl said. “We have a good enough team to figure out the ‘next man up’ mentality.”
According to Karl, Collison will start in Rondo’s place, but he also expects Seth Curry to get a good look as well.
“D.C. is very capable of helping us win a game, and Seth actually deserves more minutes than he’s been getting,” Karl said. "For that one game, we’ll see what happens.”
With the two-game win streak, the team is finally in a good place. The league’s announcement of the suspension nearly 10 days after the incident in question in Mexico City came as a shock to everyone involved, but there is little recourse.
“It surprised me and disappointed me ... again, we’ve got to move on,” Karl said. “This is a great stretch for us. Today was one of our best practices since I’ve been here.”
Rondo is playing at an All-Star level and his presence will be missed greatly by his teammates. Collison has started plenty of games in his career and the team is in capable hands. More than anything else, the Kings will have to adjust to a change in style and hope that Curry can replace some of what Collison has brought off the bench this season.