SACRAMENTO -- The last thing the Kings needed Wednesday evening was a visit from Luka Doncic. The budding superstar, who the team passed on during the 2018 NBA Draft, ran over Sacramento on the way to his NBA leading 12th triple-double of the season.
Adding to the frustration of the night, with a 127-123 loss, Sacramento fell 11 games under .500 and finished the first half of the season at 15-26. They currently sit five games behind last season’s 20-21 record at the midway point and they are in 14th place in the Western Conference standings.
The Kings are lost. They are 3-12 over their last 15 games and they are about to hit their longest road trip of the season, beginning Saturday in Utah.
If ever there were a soft spot in an NBA schedule, the Kings just went through one. They played 10 out of 12 at home with seven of those games against sub-.500 teams. They went just 2-8 at home over the stretch in front of near-sellout crowds.
Fans booed during Monday’s loss against the Mavericks. It’s not the first time they’ve made their displeasure known this season and the way things are heading, it won’t be the last.
“Everybody is frustrated, it’s not even them, we’re trying to figure it out too,” Buddy Hield said following the loss. “But it’s the home team and we get booed...we don’t agree with it, but they’re going to voice their opinion.
“I understand their frustration, but like I said, I’m going to keep shooting the ball,” Hield continued. “When I make a three they like me, when I don’t, they hate you. That’s how Sacramento fans are, man, so you’ve got to embrace it.”
Hield is wrong. This is not how Sacramento fans are. They are loyal to a fault and at this point, they are being tested.
Fans are voicing their angst because they feel like they were sold a “Super Team, just young” and now the Kings are neither super, nor young.
After watching one of the most exciting teams in basketball last season, management made the decision to fire their coaching staff and start over. Instead of building on the success, the players were forced to learn a new system and terminology during an abbreviated training camp due to a trip to India.
On Opening Night, the injury bug hit the Kings and hasn’t let up the entire season. The team looks disjointed and out of sync, although they have enough talent to make every game close.
This isn’t a Luke Walton issue, despite the fan rhetoric. Yes, he has an over-reliance on a few veterans, but he’s also had his core of Hield, De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes and Bogdan Bogdanovic healthy for just one game this season.
Not only has this group of players missed a combined 59 games, they rarely have practiced together or had time to build any continuity in a new system. Getting everyone healthy is only going to create its own set of issues.
We can talk about the 19 games decided by five points or less. We can talk about the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report. We can talk about missed draft picks or bad free agent signings. There is a litany of issues that are either reasons or excuses for the Sacramento Kings.
The fact is, this is the most disappointing first half to any season since 2006-07 when the Kings’ streak of missing the postseason began. Watching Doncic tear through the team was just salt in an open wound.
These are the questions facing a Kings franchise in complete disarray.
Is it too late to turn the season around?
No, but the clock is ticking.
How does this situation get better?
Luck, better health, and an epiphany moment where the core players understand the system, play extended minutes together and find a rhythm.
Is it possible that moment comes this season?
Yes, but a lot of damage has been done. The record is one issue, but the confidence of the team would have to completely change. They may not have the leader behind the scenes to fight through the adversity they are currently facing.
Were expectations too high?
Absolutely not. This is the most talented roster the Kings have had in over a decade. They have four top-seven draft picks in their starting lineup and enough role players to fill in the gaps. They won 39 games last season and that number would have been closer to 42 if they didn’t collapse in the final week of the season.
When do people start losing their jobs over this?
It doesn’t sound like that’s happening anytime soon.
This isn’t how anyone saw the first half going for the Kings. They are on pace to win 30 games this season and finish outside the postseason picture for a 14th consecutive season. They have not only lost massive amounts of time due to injury, but also major development time for some of their young players.
The team needs a solid second half to the season to assess where they are moving forward. If they post one similar to what we’re seen through the first 41 games, someone needs to be held accountable.