Rewind: If Kings can't fix slow starts, 'another losing season' awaits

Rewind: If Kings can't fix slow starts, 'another losing season' awaits

Opposing teams are making a habit out of bloodying the Sacramento Kings in the first quarter. Game after game, the team wearing purple falls behind big out of the shoot and it was no different Friday night in Boston. The Celtics looked energized, taking a 13-point lead early and then held on for a 97-92 win.  

A clearly frustrated coach Joerger placed the blame on his players in postgame, answering, “no, no” when asked if there is anything he can do to to get the team off to better starts. When pushed if it was on the players, he bluntly said, “yep.”

It’s become a chronic issue. The starters stumble. The second unit runs onto the court with buckets trying to bail water as quickly as possible. Whether it’s energy, effort or compatibility, something needs to change.  

At the 3:13 mark of the first quarter, Avery Bradley dropped in a 26-foot 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 29-16 lead. The combination of Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple, Ty Lawson and Omri Casspi went to work alongside DeMarcus Cousins and closed out the quarter on a 13-0 run to tie the game.

“They struggled out of the gate,” Joerger said of his starters. “The second unit was good. They had a lot of energy and brought us back from a slow start.”

Making up big deficits take plenty of energy, which always seems to come back to haunt the Kings late. They keep the game close, only to run out of gas at the finish line.

“It’s almost like we got to get hit first to react,” Cousins said from his locker stall. “That’s kind of been the slogan the whole year. It’s not good for us.”

Despite not playing since Monday, the Kings starters were a step slow on their rotations and two steps slow on their closeouts. Boston moved the ball freely and found the open man on their way to 5-of-9 from three in the first 12 minutes.

“We’re in a situation where we have to come out and be the aggressive team every night,” Cousins said. “We’re not that team that can just start playing and think we can turn it on whenever.”

Unfortunately, Cousins is making a similar speech on too many nights early in the season. Clearly it’s wearing on the two-time All-Star.

“If we don’t figure this thing out, we’re going to continue to have these types of games and just another losing season,” said Cousins.

Cousins backed his coach in post game, taking the blame, along with his teammates. For the first time in four contests, he didn’t crack 30 points or more, finishing with 28 and nine rebounds.

“If we want to change things around, it’s on us,” Cousins said. “And we’ve got to hold ourselves accountable and take responsibility for our effort coming out early in games.”

To add injury to insult, the 26-year-old fielded questions with tape surrounding his right eye. Cousins took an inadvertent elbow to the head from teammate Ty Lawson at the 7:08 mark of the fourth quarter. He missed two minutes of game time, which proved to be crucial, but returned to the floor after having the wound glued shut temporarily.

Following the game, Cousins received eight stitches from the team’s medical staff.

Sacramento has a chance to get back to even on their five-game road trip Sunday afternoon when they face the 10-9 New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The NBA schedule waits for no one. If they want to climb out of their slumber, they’ll need to find a solution to their early game struggles on the fly.

Kings rookie Harry Giles healthy, happy, ready to play basketball again


Kings rookie Harry Giles healthy, happy, ready to play basketball again

SACRAMENTO -- It’s not hard to find high school mixtapes of Harry Giles III. He’s the guy listed under “#1 Rated” or “Best NBA Prospect in High School Basketball” in videos from 2015 and 2016.

The story is well known at this point. Giles, a star at the prep level, tore his ACL in both knees during two separate incidents, causing him to miss two full seasons of hoops before he ever stepped onto an NCAA court.

In his lone season at Duke, Giles required another procedure to clean out his left knee, and that limited him to just 300 minutes as a freshman. By this time, the red flags were out and his stock plummeted.

NBA teams don’t often gamble on a 19-year-old kid who’s gone under the knife three times, but Giles is special. With the risk minimized, the Kings scooped up the talented big man with the 20th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft.

"You have your time with doubt, when you’re going through it, ‘Man, I’m not going to make it, I might not get there,' " Giles said about his journey. "But I was young and I knew with time and just hard work, that I could get anywhere I wanted to be. It took time. I had my days of doubt about how good I could be again."

The Kings did right by Giles. They placed him in the hands of their training staff, including Pete Youngman and Manny Romero, who no longer are with the team. The group formulated a plan not only to build strength in Giles’ legs but to strengthen his overall core and prepare him for the rigors of 82 games per season.

Giles sat out his rookie campaign per the medical staff. The Kings kept Giles' development behind the scenes, but murmurs of his progress quietly seeped out of the franchise.

After not playing a minute of real basketball, Giles made his debut at the 2018 California Classic followed by Las Vegas Summer League. The first signs that he was ready came early in the exhibition season when the staff allowed him to go in back-to-back games without minute limitations.

During the preseason, Giles posted 13.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 22.1 minutes per game. He struggled with foul trouble in a few games, but it won’t take him long to learn the nuances of the NBA.

After sitting out most of his senior year in high school, playing just 300 minutes at Duke and redshirting last season, Giles is ready to contribute from the jump. He’s in Kings coach Dave Joerger’s rotation coming into the season and is anxious to prove that he's back to the player that made him one of the country's top prep athletes.

“I think the sky's the limit,” Giles said of his potential. “I’m saying that in the most humble way possible, because I believe in myself and I’ve seen what I’ve come back from multiple times. I know it’s for a reason. So I have to go out there and show what I’m here to do.”

It’s one of the better storylines coming into the season. Giles has a huge personality and a million-dollar smile. He's the type of player who might be able to change the direction of a franchise if he can stay healthy.

He's also wise beyond his years. Giles is glad that people are excited to see him finally take the floor in a real game, but he has a message for the crowd as well.

“I think you just have to be patient with us,” Giles said. “Our concern is people are going to expect us to be great in one day or one week. That’s not what it is. No team becomes great in a week. The NBA champions, they didn’t become good in a year or two. It took time.”

Giles already is a fan favorite. With any luck, he’ll build on his preseason success and have a big rookie campaign.

The injury worries always will be there, but Giles has done everything in his power to get on the floor, and he’s ready to prove he belongs.

Kings guard De'Aaron Fox makes love for Sacramento clear in new video


Kings guard De'Aaron Fox makes love for Sacramento clear in new video

SACRAMENTO -- De’Aaron Fox made it clear the first day that he arrived in Sacramento that he loves the city. He may have even made it clear before he was drafted by the Kings with the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. 

Before the start of his sophomore campaign with the Kings, the 20-year-old turned to the Players’ Tribune to send his adopted hometown and the fans of the team a little more love. 

“If I’ve learned one thing from being here, maybe it’s not surprising that we get overlooked, or even disrespected, but we don’t tolerate it,” Fox says in the clip. “Sacramento, you don’t ask for a lot. Just that we’re all in, like you are.”

“I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep, but I’ll promise this, you fought for us, for this team, this franchise and this city, and that’s why we’ll fight for you,” the former Kentucky star continued.   

Fox came into training camp in great shape and with a more mature outlook on the game. He’s hoping to take on a leadership role for a club in desperate need of someone to step forward. 

A breakout season from Fox would go a long ways towards improving the prospects of a Kings team that comes in with reasonably low expectations this season.