Los Angeles Kings

Kings' failure to find offensive tempo drives eight-game losing streak

Kings' failure to find offensive tempo drives eight-game losing streak

SACRAMENTO -- Something is broken with the Kings.

They spent last season running and gunning. It was sloppy at times, but there was a clear identity with the team and it was a fun brand of basketball.

Thirty-four games into the 2019-20 season and the fun is gone. The team is riding an eight-game losing streak, and they have dropped to a season-low 10 games under .500 (12-22).

“No one is coming to save us, but our group,” coach Luke Walton said after the Kings' 105-87 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. “That’s what we talk about -- not letting (in) outside noise, and distractions and whatnot.”

Last season, the Kings led the league in pace for most of the year before finishing fifth overall. Under Walton, Sacramento currently ranks 30th.

Not only are the Kings losing, but the style of play is hard to stomach.

“We want to pick our pace up,” Fox said. “We’ve talked about it, we’ve practiced doing those types of things and we just have to be able to translate it.”

Fox arguably is the fastest player in the NBA, and he currently looks like a Ferrari on blocks. When he gets out and runs, which is not nearly enough, there are plenty of times where his teammates are nowhere to be found.

“It’s on us -- it’s on Fox, it’s on everybody,” Buddy Hield said. “We have to run with Fox and we have to encourage getting the ball up quick, especially pushing the tempo with Fox.”

Early in the season, the Kings were slowed down by design. Walton and his coaching staff were working on the finer nuances of the game and trying to limit mistakes after an 0-5 start to the season.

Yet, the plodding style of play has stuck despite the Kings' roster being built for speed.

“A lot of the time for us, we see the ball go through the basket and I think that sometimes guys put their heads down instead of getting it out and trying to score quickly,” Fox said. “Our mentality just has to change. Obviously, it’s natural when a team scores to kind of slow down.”

This wasn’t the case last year.

When the Kings gave up a hoop, someone was waiting to catch it coming through the net and the ball was past half-court within seconds.

For much of this season, the Kings have walked the ball up the court. They are taking eight-to-10 seconds just to get into their offensive set and by that time, there is a rush to find a shot before the 24-second shot clock hits zero.

“We want to get across half-court fast, that doesn’t mean we want to take a fast shot,” Walton said. “I think right now, we struggle with the difference between playing fast and still, no matter what, wanting a good shot once we get down there.”

With a slow, half-court offense, the Kings aren’t getting easy buckets. As of this writing, they rank 20th in field-goal percentage (45 percent) and 22nd in 3-point percentage (34.8 percent), despite having an entire rotation of shooters.

The majority of the Kings’ 3-point attempts are coming in the half-court, with very few coming in transition while the opposing defense is still getting set.

“We have to get the ball going faster down to get into what we’re running, and then if it takes 24 seconds to get a good shot,” Walton said. “But there are too many possessions now where we are causally bringing the ball up, and we’ve got to continue to be aware of that and get better at that.”

No one on the roster is happy about the losing streak. To Walton’s credit, he has tried mixing in a few different wrinkles and the injury woes have crushed any momentum his team has built.

While there are still 48 games left in the season, the Kings already are running out of time to turn things around. The alarm bells are sounding, and they sense the seriousness of the situation.

“I don’t think we should panic, when you panic, does anything ever go right?,” Fox said. “But we definitely have to have a sense of urgency.”

[RELATED: Kings center Dedmon publicly asks for trade out of Sac]

The Kings get another chance to snap their losing streak on Thursday when the Memphis Grizzlies roll into Sacramento.

Will they make the necessary adjustments to open the new year, or will it be more of the same?

Sharks' Bob Boughner concerned about players buying in after Kings loss

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USATSI

Sharks' Bob Boughner concerned about players buying in after Kings loss

SAN JOSE -- Bob Boughner has had it up to here. Plain and simple.

The Sharks' interim coach has already commented during his young tenure behind San Jose's bench that some players aren't buying into the team's systems or showing up. But after yet another third-period meltdown and yet another loss in a 3-2 overtime defeat to the rival Los Angeles Kings on Friday night, Boughner made no excuses for skaters he thinks aren't playing up to par.

"Tonight, in a nutshell, real simple, some guys have got to look in the mirror and put it on themselves," Boughner said after the Sharks' ninth loss in 10 games. "You can't dress 12 forwards and have eight or nine show up. That was the problem tonight."

Granted, neither the Sharks nor the Kings looked particularly dominant in the first game after the long holiday break. Nevertheless, the Sharks took a 2-0 lead in the second period and set themselves up for their second win in December. 

Then, Kings forward Martin Frk cut the Sharks' lead in half just 1:30 into the third frame. Then, he tied the game up completely with 1:24 left in regulation on LA's way to an overtime win.

What's worse, Boughner had shortened San Jose's bench after LA got onto the board in the third period. Wingers Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc each skated just three shifts in the third period, and Meier didn't touch the ice in overtime. 

The fact that Boughner had to bench players at all -- in the first game back from a long break, no less -- was clearly a point of contention when he spoke about it after the game.

"We had to shorten our bench and we had a couple of guys that were not sticking with the structure, not playing within the team system," he said point-blank. "They know who they are and it's a wake-up call for a couple of guys in that room right now." 

Boughner has said previously that he wants the Sharks' veteran players to lead the way. On a night when 40-year-old Joe Thornton scored a goal and 40-year-old Patrick Marleau tallied two assists, Boughner wanted the younger set who had to sit to take note. 

"Our two oldest guys were our best players on the ice tonight," Boughner complimented. "That's nice to see from those guys. But some guys from underneath should be looking to those guys and doing what they're supposed to do."

Boughner did extend some of that complimentary attitude to goaltender Aaron Dell. Dell stopped 34 of 37 shots that came his way while the team in front of him had trouble racking up shots on the other end of the ice.

Then again, Boughner still wants to see a full effort from the forward group playing in front of the netminder.

"We're not a deep enough team, we're not a skilled enough team, to have three or four guys missing up front," Boughner reiterated. "That's the bottom line."

[RELATED: What it will take for Sharks to make Stanley Cup Playoffs]

The Sharks have a quick turnaround, with the Philadelphia Flyers visiting Saturday night. There isn't a lot of time to mull over Friday's loss to the Kings, but they had better learn from their mistakes -- and fast.

"For me, it just starts with that mentality of not having everybody on board," Boughner concluded. "And it's unacceptable."

Why Ilya Kovalchuk, Sharks likely aren't a match in NHL free agency

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AP

Why Ilya Kovalchuk, Sharks likely aren't a match in NHL free agency

Ilya Kovalchuk is a free agent, but don't expect him to land in San Jose.

The 36-year-old cleared unconditional waivers Tuesday after being placed there by the Kings, with the intention of terminating his contract. Kovalchuk now is an unrestricted free agent and is eligible to sign with any team.

The Russian star has accounted for 436 goals and 423 assists over 897 career NHL games, including six 40-plus goal seasons. He returned to the NHL last season after spending the previous five years in Russia's KHL and signed a three-year contract with Los Angeles, but he has failed to live up to expectations. Kovalchuk notched 16 goals and 34 points in 64 games last season, and currently has three goals, six assists and been a minus-10 through 17 games played so far this season.

His salary will continue to count against the Kings' cap for the remainder of this season and next, and he received a $2.65 million roster bonus on Sunday. Consequently, Kovalchuk reportedly isn't looking for a huge payout from his next team, according to Sport-Express' Igor Eronko.

Kovalchuk's reported salary concession could make him a possibility for the Sharks, as they currently have very little wiggle room under the salary cap. However, if he's looking to join a contender, it's unlikely San Jose would be near the top of his list. The Sharks currently sit outside of playoff position in sixth place in the Pacific Division and just fired Peter DeBoer, who had a good relationship with Kovalchuk over two seasons as his head coach with the New Jersey Devils.

[RELATED: Report: Ex-Sharks coach DeBoer 'willing to listen' to jobs]

San Jose absolutely could use a scoring boost, and while Kovalchuk once was one of the most feared attackers in the entire NHL, those days appear to be long gone. Given the direction the Sharks' season appears to be heading, they'd be better off giving opportunities to younger, lesser-known options.