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Kings players discuss trying to become a disciplined basketball team

After losing four in a row on the road, the Kings have put two wins together and aim to build on it.

Kimani Okearah

The Sacramento Kings took care of the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night at home coming off a long road trip.

After starting the season 2-1, an east coast trip led to a brutal four-game losing streak. The team looked lethargic at times, showing flashes of what we have seen in Sacramento over the last 10 years – lapses on both sides of the ball, too much isolation, a lack of movement and an overall discipline void. A complete reversal from the hard-nosed, consistent play we saw in the first three games of the season. After defeating the Pelicans 102-94 on the heels of a victory against the Toronto Raptors, the Kings players shared what they took out of their tough road trip.

“I think we learned that we can’t do it by scoring. I think there was some games where we just tried to outscore opponents, but now we’re starting to realize it’s really going to take playing a balanced basketball game,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “We can control the game defensively; we can control the game offensively.”

A lot of what was said about the road trip painted a picture of a team trying to break away from the bad basketball that has plagued the franchise for a long time.

Darren Collison talked about the team deciding to play on some nights and not on others.

“We can’t come out one night and decide to play and then one night, not decide to play. I think if we want to be a really good team, we’ve got to have consistent effort and I think the last two nights we had consistent efforts,” Collison said.

Arron Afflalo brought up defensive intensity.

“The defensive intensity, the importance of that. Understanding that’s going to be our stabilizer that keeps us in games. So when that effort is there, we can compete with any team,” Afflalo said.

Garrett Temple talked about following the game plan.

“I think the last game [against the Raptors] we learned that we’re not good enough to just win unless we follow the game plan and play the way we’re supposed to play,” Temple said. “To win that game in Toronto, a back to back, after losing four in a row on the road, arguably the best team on the road trip, that was real big for us. We bought in defensively.”

Head coach Dave Joerger and Cousins admitted that the defensive effort could have been better against the Pelicans, which dropped to 0-8 on the season Tuesday. Joerger commented on how the Kings didn’t finish the first half with the focus he thought they should have and how they gave up too many points in the paint (46). Cousins echoed that sentiment.

“I think we had some letups. I don’t think we won this game the way we should have … a lot of easy baskets for them, I think we could have defended at an even higher level,” Cousins said.

The Kings now sit at one game under .500 (4-5). Aside from holding the Raptors to 91 points and the Pelicans to 94 points, another bright spot over the last two games has been the team’s ability to take care of the ball. Against the Raptors, the team only had nine turnovers and on Tuesday, the number was 10. The Kings are now averaging 13.6 turnovers per game on the season. Last season, the Kings averaged 15.5, good for third worst in the NBA (the season prior it was 15.6, fourth worst). Joerger said the team’s goal is to get 12 or under on a nightly basis.

“That’s been something that’s been preached to us a lot,” Cousins said. “If there’s one thing that drives Joerger crazy, it’s turnovers. He’s pretty cool about most mistakes, but turnovers, you get another guy. So it’s something that has been preached to us and I think we are a lot more aware of our turnovers.”

I’ll leave you with a comment from Rudy Gay that sums up what the Kings are trying to get past.

“It’s not easy to be good, that’s part of it. If that was the case, we would have been good a long time ago. But it’s not easy to be good, we have to be disciplined. That’s one thing he [Joerger] wants us to be, disciplined, be the same team, night in and night out,” Gay said.