The Sacramento Kings focused on a very specific type of player in free agency this past summer. They brought in Anthony Tolliver, Garrett Temple, and Arron Afflalo, and all three were touted as leaders. They were high-character guys. Great teammates. They would strengthen the locker room and the resolve of the team. Even Matt Barnes was supposed to help. Barnes was supposed to be the guy who would force teammates to play hard and practice hard. All of these moves, while they didn’t look flashy on paper, would improve the team. The Kings coupled those moves with the hiring of Dave Joerger, a hard-nosed, no-nonsense, defensive-minded coach who would hold players accountable.
The Kings finally had a break in their schedule. They had a rare in-season break to have multiple days of practice. Time to reset, work on some plays, and prepare for a brutal stretch of home games.
So what happened?
I don’t care that the Kings lost to the Spurs. The Spurs are a damn good team. But let’s take a look at the post game quotes.
DMC: “We know how we have to approach these games and we’re still coming out like we’re one of the top teams in the West."— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) November 17, 2016
Ty Lawson on Kings' shootarounds: "We don't take them serious, nobody takes them serious"— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) November 17, 2016
DeMarcus Cousins said, as the leader of the team, he's got to do better at getting his guys together and have more focused shootarounds.— Blake Ellington (@BlakeEllington) November 17, 2016
DeMarcus Cousins: "We BS through the the 5-on-0 and we come out and do the same thing."— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) November 17, 2016
Dave Joerger said he allowed for a very loose shootaround today, said after 4 days of practice guys were tired of being at practice.— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) November 17, 2016
Joerger allowed a loose shootaround, nobody on the team took it seriously, nobody came out with effort. Nobody was ready to play basketball.
Taking blame after the fact is fine, but this team needs leaders who recognize the issue when it is happening, not after. That falls on Joerger, that falls on the veterans, and it absolutely falls on DeMarcus Cousins.
I tend to think Cousins gets more grief about his leadership than he deserves, but things like this sure make it hard to defend him. Cousins talks about how much he hates to lose, but doesn’t step up and demand his team be ready. He’s been doing this too long now for this to fly.
The Kings have far too many duplicate pieces, the lineups and rotations are suspect, Kosta Koufos had offseason surgery to replace his hands with rubber clubs, but none of these issues are bigger than the massive leadership void facing the team.
Someone needs to step up.