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.”
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?