SACRAMENTO -- Over the years, we’ve seen it all in the Sacramento Kings locker room. Perpetual losing breeds instability and you begin to expect the unexpected.
After a demoralizing fourth quarter collapse that saw the San Antonio Spurs outscore the Kings 34-19 in the final 12 minutes on their home floor, the locker room had the same eerie feel that we have become accustom to.
The 106-88 defeat sent the team to its sixth straight loss and a 1-7 record on the season. This start matches the team’s worst in the Sacramento-era. The pressure is building for a team that needed a strong showing going into a new home next season. The constant losing wasn’t expected and neither was the temperament in the locker room.
And then things got weird.
With players still hanging out in towels, Canadian rapper and actor Drake entered the locker room with owner Vivek Ranadivé, amongst others. A downtrodden room instantly turned gleeful as the players greeted the former Degrassi star.
For those on deadline, the interruption felt like an eternity. Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay hung out with the entertainer until DeMarcus Cousins returned from the showers. Drake and Cousins are close. The singer was even wearing a Kentucky Wildcats jacket from Cousins’ alma mater.
Eventually the sideshow exited the room and the locker room instantly turned back to silence.
And then things got weird...again.
For the last week, the Kings have been saying all the right things. They have been waiting patiently for DeMarcus Cousins, their All-Star big man to return, with the hopes that his immense talent could stem the ever growing tide.
Cousins returned to the court Monday night to mixed reviews. His 21 points and 12 rebounds led the team, but he shot just 5-for-20 from the field and turned the ball over four times.
When he finally dressed and turned to the media, we saw a different person than the one smiling with his famous friend just minutes before. His initial quotes were not out of the ordinary for a player missing four straight games with a lower leg injury.
“I’m tired, honestly,” Cousins said. “My first time running was yesterday.”
He continued by saying that he felt “no pain at all in his leg” and that he just needed to find his wind. It was all the standard fare and then Cousins went a different direction.
“We got some issues that we got to, you know, carve out,” a cryptic 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.”
“We got some issues in-house we need to figure out,” Cousins continued.
Cousins refused to elaborate on what the issues might be, but he was clear that they had nothing to do with the action on the floor.
“It will be a players only meeting, but just to make it clear, I believe in every single person in this room,” Cousins said. “We just got to stay together. That part I’m not worried about, but it is issues we got to figure out.”
Cousins was asked if winning could fix what ails the struggling Kings, his answer was even more cryptic.
“I feel like when those issues are fixed, the winning will come,” Cousins said.
Veteran Rudy Gay was quickly asked for his take on Cousins’ comments and he backed up his frontcourt mate.
“I do, I do, I agree with it,” Gay said. “It’s obvious. What is it, six in a row? We have a lot of things we need to address and for us to be a good team, we have to do it quick.”
Gay wouldn’t elaborate any more than Cousins, but he said the issue isn’t a players or coaching issue, it is a team issue.
The Kings return to the practice court on Tuesday, but there is clearly going to be a meeting of sorts early tomorrow. It’s no surprise that there is turmoil building. The team worked hard to reinvent the roster in the offseason and a 1-7 start was never even considered a possibility by those around the team.
Gay sat for a stretch holding his young son while reporters continued to pepper him with questions.
I did say this was a weird night, right?
The tension in the room was snapped when Gay’s son accidentally turned on a YouTube video and a toothpaste commercial interrupted his flow. When he returned to the barrage of questions, he had a more cogent statement to make.
“It’s within the players and staff,” Gay said. “We just have to get a winning mentality, get together and try to find a way to win these games. I’m not pinpointing one thing or one thing that’s wrong, but it’s obvious. We’ve lost six games in a row, something we have to change and we have to do it fast.”
It’s still early in the season, but the Kings are quickly turning into the mess that many predicted following a summer of change.
A prolonged losing streak, Drake and players only meeting on the horizon. Two weeks into the season and the Kings have once again figured out a way to steal the media spotlight while piling up losses.
A photo posted by Vivek Ranadive (@vivekyr) on Nov 10, 2015 at 10:10am PST
A photo posted by Vivek Ranadive (@vivekyr) on Nov 10, 2015 at 10:13am PST