Kings

Rewind: Cousins, Joerger take responsibility for Kings' loss to Spurs

Rewind: Cousins, Joerger take responsibility for Kings' loss to Spurs

SACRAMENTO -- Changes are coming to the starting lineup in Sacramento. After falling 110-105 to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, the writing is not only on the wall, it’s a topic of conversation with head coach Dave Joerger.

“Possibly,” Joerger said when asked if he was considering mixing up his first unit. “We can’t come out... that was not acceptable.”

Sacramento trailed by as many as 12 in the first quarter of the game, which has become a trend of late. Their second unit gave them big minutes early, cutting the deficit to 27-22 going to quarter number two, but the Kings continue to play catch up, which takes it’s toll.

“The starters have to do a better job, no excuse,” DeMarcus Cousins said, echoing his coach’s sentiments. “We set the tone of the game nightly.”

The game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would have you believe. Sacramento trailed by double-digits for most of the night. They used a 16-3 run in the final three minutes without the Spurs starters on the floor to pull the final score to within five.

According to Joerger, the issues with his team began earlier in the day. An unfocused shootaround carried over into the action once the ball was tipped for real.

“It’s on me, because I allowed a very loose shootaround today,” Joerger said. “After four days of practice, I know they were kind of tired of being at practice and hearing my voice.”

Sacramento’s head coach wasn’t the only to shoulder the blame. Slow start by the starters? Coach and star player raise their hands. Poor shootaround? Once again, coach and star player raise their hands.

“I take the blame for that, as the leader of this team, I have to do better,” Cousins said. “I’ve got to get my guys together. I’ve got to have more focused shootarounds and that falls back on me. He’s absolutely right.”

New coaches, new schemes and new players are taking longer than expected to gel. Joerger has stuck with the same starting lineup in all but two of the first 12 games, but after dropping another contest, all options are on the table.

Sacramento’s second team outscored the Spurs 57-22, including solid nights by Ben McLemore, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison and Willie Cauley-Stein. At least one of these players might move into the starting lineup when the Kings take on the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday evening.

Cousins put up big numbers in the loss, finishing the night with 26 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. But his two fouls in the first four minutes of the game contributed greatly to the team’s slow start.

For one of the few nights this season, Rudy Gay was mostly ineffective, scoring 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting against defensive star Kawhi Leonard.

Lawson’s struggles continue...

Veteran point guard Ty Lawson has struggled all season long to get his offensive game started, but over the last six games, he’s shooting just 5-of-27 from the field (18.5 percent). He finished Wednesday night’s game with three points and failed to register an assist in 20 minutes of action.

With the return of Darren Collison, Lawson’s starting job at the point might be one of the fixes Joerger tries as he tinkers. Collison was Sacramento’s third leading scorer a season ago and his ability to knock down open shots from the perimeter

“I think he’s playing hard, he’s playing in a system that does not help him,” Joerger said of Lawson. “He’s playing with guys who just have no pace to get up and down the floor. It’s very difficult for him to try and take it and go against a set defense that’s got three of four guys back.”

It’s possible that Lawson would fit better with the second unit that includes players that can get up and down the floor like McLemore, Barnes and Cauley-Stein.

“I’m trying to push the ball but the big men are just clogging the paint on the other team, just sitting back,” Lawson explained. “Even when I do get a drive or something like that, their big men are sitting right there and I’ve got to kick it out.

“I’ll just keep working at it, keep playing hard, just play hard on the defensive end and try to get steals or just make it hard for other teams. Just got to find my niche.”

Lawson isn’t the only one struggling with the Kings offensive system, but his numbers jump off the page.
 

Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic re-injures left knee, needs another procedure

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Associated Press

Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic re-injures left knee, needs another procedure

SACRAMENTO -- After a week of speculation, the verdict on Kings shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic’s knee is in.

For the second time this offseason, the Serbian is heading for a procedure on his left knee after an MRI revealed a minor injury. The timetable for his return is unknown at this time.

Bogdanovic re-injured his knee Monday while playing for the Serbian national team in World Cup qualifying. He felt discomfort in the knee during the first quarter against Estonia and left the game early. Once Bogdanovic was back in Sacramento, the Kings medical staff evaluated the 26-year-old wing this week and determined that action was needed.

According to the Kings, Monday’s procedure will be performed by Dr. Riley Williams in New York, and Bogdanovic is expected to make a full recovery. The team will send an update when more is known.

Bogdanovic averaged 11.8 points, 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game for Sacramento in his rookie NBA season.

Zach Randolph: Kings training camp profile

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USATSI

Zach Randolph: Kings training camp profile

No one was more consistent on the offensive end for Sacramento than Zach Randolph last season. He fought back father time as long as possible and then finished the season as a spectator when the Kings went young.

Nothing is guaranteed in season two as a King for Randolph. The 37-year-old forward cashed in with the Kings, signing a two-year, $24 million deal in 2017. He’s owed $11.7 million this season, making him difficult to move via trade.  

The Kings plan to go young this year from the opening tip. That doesn’t bode well for Z-Bo, who is nearly twice the age of Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III. 

Strengths

Randolph is a legendary tough guy that brings a grit and a personality to the floor. As he’s advanced as a player, he’s focused more on his perimeter game, extending all the way to the 3-point line where he shot an impressive 34.7 percent last season. 

Still a reliable scorer in the post, the Kings turned to the 17-year NBA veteran on countless occasions last season to help steady the ship. Randolph shot 63 percent at the rim and 50.9 percent inside of 10 feet last season. 

While he struggles to get off the floor, Randolph still managed to post 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes last season by positioning and using his strength on the blocks.

On the defensive side of the ball, Randolph’s physical limitations hurt the team in transition and against quicker players. He can still hold his position in the post, but as a defender, he’s not a great option.

Weaknesses

The Kings went out and drafted a Ferrari to play the point guard and then paired him with a mack truck. Randolph is too slow to play in the uptempo offense the team hopes to transition to this season and would be better suited playing for a team that place a more methodical half court game.

As his game has moved away from the basket, Randolph’s field goal percentage and free throw attempts have steadily declined. He posted 2.2 assists per game last season, which is well above his career average, but he’s not a natural passer. 

Father time is undefeated. Randolph is stationary on both ends of the court. He can still score in bunches and get a rebound when you need it, but he can’t defend more athletic fours.

Path to Improvement

There is no way to turn back the hands of time. By adding the 3-point shot, Randolph extended his NBA career for few extra seasons, but even that has its limitations. 

The only path for improvement this season for Randolph is taking on an even larger role as a leader and locker room influence behind the scenes. With a fleet of young bigs, the Kings need Randolph to become more of a coach than a player and help teach the ins and outs of being a professional and the finer nuances of NBA post play. 

Projection

This is a complex situation. If the primary focus was just on wins, Randolph could still play 18-20 minutes per game and put up numbers. The Kings are going to run and gun and it’s hard to imagine Z-Bo keeping up. 

Bagley, Giles and Willie Cauley-Stein are the future and the present. Nemanja Bjelica fits the role of stretch four and Skal Labissiere is going to need some minutes as well. It’s a crowded front line and we haven’t even mentioned veteran Kosta Koufos. 

Z-Bo started 57 games and played 25.6 minutes per night last season for Dave Joerger. It would be shocking to see that again this year. Things can change, but Randolph’s court time should be limited this offseason barring a series of injuries or a complete collapse of scheme.