A long 41 games have been played and the first half of the season has been a tough one for the Sacramento Kings.
To make matters worse they have just concluded one of the worst home stands in recent memory and lost small forward Rudy Gay for the season. So now what?
Before we can figure out what’s next we have to look back to see how we got here.
There was genuine excitement to start the 2016-2017 season for the Kings. A new coach, some new players and an amazing new arena. That shine has faded quickly because of poor starts, inconsistent play and a bad home record.
The Kings missed Darren Collison for the first eight games, they have missed Rudy for a stretch of 11 games and now the rest of the season, and the starting lineup has been a revolving door around who can fit with DeMarcus Cousins.
The positive is that the team competes until the end most every night, but the reality is they haven’t been good enough for most minutes of the game and that is why they are a season-low nine games below .500.
DeMarcus Cousins will be an all-star for the third time and his game on the court has actually grown. He has become a decent passer and his assists number is higher than his turnover number, even though the latter is still too high. He has become a good three point shooter and clearly is one of the better big men in the league.
Cousins’ “other stuff” hasn’t improved much. He has 11 technicals including three others that were rescinded. He still fouls a lot and continues to get caught up with the whistles most every night.
The rest of the team, besides Rudy, is filled with role players. Some have been a nice surprise, while others have underachieved. The team has yet to get a good look at the three rookie draft picks and may have to change their course on that for the second half of the season if it continues its current trend.
Coach Dave Joerger has done some nice things, but even at the halfway point I am trying hard to find an identity for this team besides one that sticks with the game all the way until the end. They aren’t great at one thing and have been middle of the road in most stats. They are so up and down by games, by halves and by quarters. Part of that could be the revolving rotation, but in Joerger’s defense, who are the right guys to play?
That leads us to where we are now. Forty-one down and 41 to go.
I don’t see them having a second season for another year. They are technically in the playoff race, but they don’t have the look of a postseason team to me.
Also with Rudy’s injury it should get worse. This team has gone a respectable (5-6) without Rudy so far this season, but keep in mind that they are averaging a margin of defeat of 18.6 points without Rudy and have three of their worst losses of the season when he doesn’t play.
If the role players all play well without him, it works – if not, it is really bad. They also begin an eight-game road trip filled with good teams and three sets of back-to-backs on this Eastern journey. After that, we will be getting closer to the trade deadline and some difficult decisions will need to be made by the front office.
This team is in a very awkward spot now. They clearly have wanted to fight for the 8th spot – and they are doing that – but mainly because the bottom of the Western Conference has been bad. Even if they sneak in there, where is the staying power?
The players getting minutes are played to win right now and they aren’t doing that enough. The rookies aren’t playing, Willie Cauley-Stein and Ben McLemore haven’t developed and as many as eight guys could be gone from the team by next season. A lot of contracts are up, some cap space will be there and now throw in the Rudy wrinkle and this mess is getting messier.
For the last decade this has been a wild ride for Kings fans. It appears there is no end in sight right now but if you are the organization you have to find ways to make the small wins. Those small victories can lead to progress and to an eventual turnaround.
It is hard to see today, but you have to keep working at it. Plans can be fluid but they need to start with a strong direction and flow off of that.
Halfway through the season is a good time to evaluate things. Is this current plan the best one, or did the way you played the first half, the big injury to Rudy and what’s ahead for the next 41 cause a shift in mindset? Time will tell but it certainly is time to evaluate.
Kings fans enjoy the ride, like it or not, it’s our ride.