SACRAMENTO -- We have officially moved from Manic Monday to Terrific Tuesday in Sacramento Kingsland. That’s the way things go in the NBA. One night you are embroiled in chaos and the next day everything is back to normal after an impromptu team meeting.
We know the tale of the tape from Monday. The Kings received a big boost when franchise cornerstone DeMarcus Cousins returned from injury. For three quarters the team played almost even with the San Antonio Spurs. There was hope that Sacramento would somehow pull out a victory and snap their five-game skid, but the final 12 minutes of hoops proved to be disastrous.
The story goes sideways from here. Something happened behind the scenes before the media was allowed to walk into the Kings locker room. We won’t speculate as to what, but once again, the room had an awkward vibe.
No one was in the mood to speak. And before anyone could fully get dressed, Canadian rapper Drake entered the room as a guest of owner Vivek Ranadivé. There were a few handshakes and some laughs from a small group of players surrounding the singer, but the entire scene was a bad look.
By the time DeMarcus Cousins finally settled in to field questions, it was well past most writing deadlines. He began with the standard recap of game events and then shifted into high gear like only Cousins can.
“We got some issues that we got to, you know, carve out,” Cousins said. “Can’t really speak on that, but one thing is, us players, we’ve got to stick together. Just with that, that will get us over or get us through most battles.”
When pushed for more information, the All-Star center mentioned to reporters that the team had scheduled a meeting in the morning to air some differences. This isn’t the first time we have the dreaded “team meeting” rear it’s ugly head in Sacramento, but certainly it was unexpected just eight games into the season.
When the media curtain lifted on Tuesday at the Kings’ practice facility, it was as if the night before had never happened. Players were laughing and joking on the court. Coaches were out running competitive games. It was a normal Tuesday morning practice, with the exception of a large media contingent waiting to get the dirt.
We never really know what goes on in these meetings, but we were given a small trail of breadcrumbs to follow. Strangely, it wasn’t Cousins, Rudy Gay or Rajon Rondo, the team’s leadership trifecta that stood for questions. Karl was also unavailable for comment. Instead, we were fed responses by veterans Caron Butler and Omri Casspi, as well as general manager Vlade Divac.
“It was good I think,” Divac said. “Going 1-7, you expect much better things. There’s a lot of frustrations among the group and it was pretty good and active. We addressed some issues and the most important thing is we are on the same page after that meeting.”
According to Divac, the meeting was cordial and included everyone from the front office, the coaching staff and the players. Divac was once again thrown into the role of mediator between a fresh group of players and a newly formed coaching staff.
"When you have a problem in the family, we addressed it, we talked about it,” Divac said."I was very pleased.”
Without going into specifics, Divac pointed to the players and the coaching staff being on a completely different page with regards to the X’s and O’s.
“I’m not saying they don’t like the system,” Divac said. “They just aren’t buying in yet.”
Divac is relying on his veteran additions to help stem the tide of negativity. The team needs to find balance and there are plenty of voices with experience to turn to.
Butler has played sparingly over the first eight games of the season. When Karl has called on the 14-year-veteran, he has given the team strong minutes. He was brought in this offseason as an insurance policy in case of injury, but also for his leadership skills.
“You’ve just got to be honest,” Butler said. “It’s like any family environment where there are problems that need to be fixed on the fly. You address issues and you get better on the fly and you be honest with one another.”
Butler was clear to define family as “everyone in the organization” and according to the former All-Star, everyone had a chance to voice their concerns.
“All problems are fixable,” Butler said with a chuckle. “They all are. If they weren’t fixable, I don’t think I would be over here sitting, talking to you guys.”
“We talked about things we can be better at,” Butler added. “All of us, not just the coaching staff, but us too as players. You challenge yourself and you move forward and you prepare for the moment and tomorrow’s another moment.”
Casspi is one of the few Kings that have been able to avoid the slump that has befallen the Kings early in the season. The 27-year-old wing is averaging 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and is one of the league leaders in 3-point shooting at 57.9 percent.
“It’s time for us to start games better, to pay attention to details more, to play harder on both ends,” Casspi said. “It starts from shootarounds and carries over to the game.”
Casspi tried to add perspective to the conversation, telling his team that if you take Stephen Curry or James Harden off of the Warriors or Rockets and make them play the schedule the Kings have played, they would struggle as well.
According to Casspi, Cousins reached out to his teammates following Monday’s loss via text and the message was clear.
“He was the one who sent out a text to the players last night how he cares about the team and how much he wants to win and he feels like we have the right pieces here,” Casspi said. “So we all have to step up.”
Cousins is not scheduled to talk to the media until postgame of Wednesday’s matchup against the Detroit Pistons. Karl will hold a special media session following shootaround on Wednesday morning to address his team’s issues.
There is no hiding from 1-7. The Kings are in a rut and in desperate need of a win. If not, expect wholesale changes to come down the pike very soon.