Amid DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors, the Kings continue to be a complete mess
The rotation is weird, the chemistry is bad, and they've lost eight of 10. Otherwise, things are fine
Well, here we are, again.
The Sacramento Kings are 4-9, and have lost eight of their last 10. After some competitive games early vs. San Antonio and Miami, they've plummeted back to being the Kings. They went down huge early to the mighty Clippers Friday night before staging a comeback in the second half featuring a small lineup, only to fall short.
Here's what Dave Joerger and DeMarcus Cousins said after the game:
"I've seen enough," Joerger said. "We're going to play small. DeMarcus is going to play center. I don't know who else will play with him. It just gives us more zip, more life, more experience. That's not any detriment to anyone else or what they've done."
The only version of a small lineup the Kings have started was against Miami, with small forward Matt Barnes in place of Koufos because the Heat use four smaller players around center Hassan Whiteside.
Now Joerger will have to sort out which players fit best around Cousins.
"I don't think we're coming out with urgency," Cousins said. "Once again we're waiting until the last minute to play with energy, with a sense of urgency, play with some pride, play with some heart. It's all fun, it's exciting in the end, you feel like we're playing great and making the right steps but these games are only going to continue to get harder for us if we wait until the last quarter or second half to try to make a push."
Sure, go small again. You know, the strategy they used with George Karl when the team was filled with dysfunction and hated their coach. Maybe it'll be better with Dave Joerger, but then, not everyone's happy with Joerger.
The players rumored to be available in trade for the Kings within the last four months: Kosta Koufos (who has just been bumped from the starting unit and didn't play in the second half Friday), Ben McLemore (former top-five pick who they have been unable to unload for several seasons), Willie Cauley-Stein and Omri Casspi, the latter of which Cowbell Kingdom reported Joerger hasn't spoken to one-on-one since the season began. Here's how that situation is going:
"Last year, I started a majority of the games and I was guarding the best threes and fours night in and night out," Casspi told Cowbell Kingdom when asked about being called a defensive liability.
"The easy way out when you are a player like me is to call it defense. I don't remember any guy going off on me last year."
"We haven't talked since preseason. It was a team-wide meeting only," Casspi said.
Neither party has approached one another to discuss Casspi's lack of minutes, however he reassured that he hasn't stopped working hard.
"I am at the point in my career where I am trying to do whatever I can to help the team," Casspi said. "Just waiting for my opportunity."
In last night's post-game press conference, Joerger was asked if he considered replacing the struggling Rudy Gay with Casspi.
"You want me to give him some of Rudy's minutes? Yeah, that's not happening," Joerger said.
Casspi was one of the few players to consistently contribute last season, and is a good wing who can shoot and defend multiple positions. The Kings' defense has been worse with Casspi on the floor this year, but then, with him off it's still been a disaster (108.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). Synergy Sports shows that he's allowed 21 points on 24 possessions individually defended, a decent mark in small samples outside of the context of the larger defense.
Joerger is effectively scratching off guys in the rotation. In the second-half vs. the Clippers, Joerger went with an eight-man rotation, with Anthony Tolliver only playing four minutes. That's a pretty heavy workload, especially for both Ty Lawson and Darren Collison, who played over 19 of a possible 24 minutes. Is that sustainable?
The bigger question is about the direction of the team. They are not better under Joerger. DeMarcus Cousins' individual scoring and assist numbers are up, his rebounding and defensive numbers are down. Incredibly, the Kings are five points per 100 possessions worse with him on the floor on defense this season vs. last.
Willie Cauley-Stein looks lost, but was a good rim runner last season. Kosta Koufos was a great backup center under Joerger in Memphis. Casspi was a quality rotation wing. All of these players are effectively being blamed by Joerger for their own struggles, when the starters and guys he's playing are still struggling.
To sum up, nothing is working with the Kings and everything is bad, but they refuse to change course or make changes.
And of course, Cousins continues to sit there, wasting his prime, grading on those around him, yet continuing to do really good things in the community. Nothing is ever simple when it comes to the Kings.
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