After an offseason in which all of the players got into shape, got together to work out and got better, and after a preseason in which ball movement and defense were real, tangible characteristics of the team, the Sacramento Kings are 0-2 with two embarrassing offensive performances against two teams missing their stars. DeMarcus Cousins, the team's cornerstone, has struggled with exactly what he struggled with in his first two seasons: foul trouble, ref complaints, bad shot selection. The Kings have fallen right back into bad habits, with too much isolation play and poor team defense. All the beautifully spun words about a new identity have crumbled under the weight of reality. This Kings team looks exactly like the one we saw last season. And no one liked that version.
This can turn around in a snap, of course. We know DeMarcus Cousins is better than he's looked so far. We know that some King is going to average at least four assists a game. And we know the Kings will be much better at home than on the road (even if the team is still below .500 at home). The home schedule is coming soon, and Saturday's game against Indiana might be winnable: the Pacers are on no rest, too, and are still without Danny Granger. A win on Saturday or a couple wins at home next week can relieve all of that pressure that's mounting.
But if the losses continue, this could be a bloodbath. Keith Smart is a fantastic talker ... but results are needed. Geoff Petrie had some great years ... but he can't afford another failed roster, can he? Petrie's saving grace is the Maloofs' unwillingness to make a move. How long can they wait? Would they let him walk out? If this doesn't work, will he walk out? Isn't this demoralizing for him? I can't stand the coaching carousel, and I like Smart a lot. But to see him preach and preach and preach in the preseason and for all of those sermons to go up in smoke the second that the regular season begins ... that's a problem.
There are a few orders of business for Smart, in my opinion.
1. He needs to get Cousins going. In the post, preferably. I don't know exactly how this would work, but opening the game with some post-ups or Thomas-Cousins picks-and-rolls might help.
2. He needs to figure out the point guard rotation. Isaiah Thomas can't be starting, then sitting throughout the whole fourth quarter.
3. He needs to yank players who don't get back in transition. Even Cousins. Even Evans.
Petrie? He just needs to pray it works.
Not a great start for the Sacramento Kings.