"We are settling into, at times, where it’s OK, and it’s not OK. You've got to bleed for this, you’ve got to bleed for playing time, you’ve got to bleed to win," Joerger said Tuesday.
The comment can be interpreted as a suggestion that he saw the team thinking that losing is "OK" and that the players need to come out with more fire. It's a cliché to say you don't want players to get "used to losing," but it is true. While the Kings are in full rebuild mode with a lot of young players, there still needs to be a good win every now and then to keep spirits up. If losing becomes contagious, then there's a chance the development of the team’s young players takes a hit.
After the loss to the Pistons, the Kings faced the All-Star-loaded Oklahoma City Thunder at home. Prior to that game, Joerger declared that the team's most recent practice was one of the best they have had. And then on Tuesday night, the Kings surprised Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George with a win – the team’s second win of the season.
“They have been practicing well, and we haven’t been able to get rewarded with a win ... looking for small victories, and this was a big victory," Joerger said.
Joerger said he was glad to see that his players’ heads “were in it" against the Thunder. He said it meant a lot to them to play that way. Many of the players cited the team's recent practices as the reason why the defense was in sync, the shots were falling and points were being scored off hard cuts to the basket as the ball was moving well.
"Once you start losing a few games, it’s human nature for you to kind of get down a little bit. So, for us to come off a practice like we had yesterday, competing against each other and then coming out today, that was huge," said Justin Jackson, who finished with 16 points in 30 minutes.
Garrett Temple also referenced the team’s recent practice.
“We had a great practice yesterday. Very good practice yesterday. Guys really competed, and the biggest thing in this league is if you can compete, even if you make a mistake, good things happen if you play hard, and I think that’s what we did tonight,” Temple said.
So, what has been happening in these practices? Joerger said he has been focusing on stopping the ball on defense because it is part of the reason why the Kings have been giving up so many three pointers and points at the rim.
“Really working on the point of attack and trying to stop the ball in front of us," he said. “We’re working on competing, and having more grit and more toughness.”
The Kings held the Thunder to 33 percent from the field and 27 percent from three, while Westbrook went 7-21, Anthony went 4-17 and George went 4-16. The Kings shot 46 percent and 37 percent from three.
De'Aaron Fox had 10 points and 8 assists in the win.
"We just came out today and knew that we had to bring a different type of energy, and that’s one thing that we’ve been preaching – bring some type of energy, bring something to the table that doesn’t have to be skill, it can just be effort," Fox said. “It’s really just a mentality. You can’t really practice someone’s aggression. We come out in practice, we compete, we fight for minutes. We make each other better. But when it comes to the game, it’s up to you, you have to be the aggressive one.”
For the rebuilding Kings, losing isn't the end of the world, but being OK with losing, is well, not OK at the same time.
“Losing sucks, so we’ve got to put the team together and try to make it work," Buddy Hield said.
The Kings host the 6-4 Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.