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The perpetual ‘learning’ loop of the Sacramento Kings

Things always get talked about, but never fixed.

On Jan. 12, following an impressive win over the Indiana Pacers, I posed the question of whether the type of 48-minute effort the Kings came out with would continue in subsequent games.

I knew the answer. You knew the answer. It was fun to hope though, right?

The same issues continued:

  • Lack of Consistent Effort
  • Lack of Defense
  • Mental Breakdowns

The Kings are 0-4 since the Pacers win.

Everyone has always known what is going to happen not only this season, but what is seemingly a perpetual loop of lapses that get talked about, but never fixed. It’s an endless tale of "learning" no matter how many veterans are on the roster and how many times everyone attempts to hide behind the idea that the team "is young" and needs to learn how to play winning basketball.

Let's take a walk down memory lane:

  • DeMarcus Cousins in 2012: "I wish people understood how much I hate losing. Honestly, the losing really gets to me."
  • DeMarcus Cousins in 2014: “We can't be a team that tries to come out every night and outscore people. That's not us, we defend and our defense transitions over to our offense.”
  • Jason Thompson in 2014: "You don't want to try and outscore them because there are going to be nights where you don't shoot the ball well."
  • Rajon Rondo in 2016: "We can control what we control and that's our own destiny, so we have to find a way, we have to continue, well not continue, we have to start to play with a sense of urgency.”
  • George Karl in 2016: "There's no question when we get whatever, the black hole, or the emotional breakdown, or the physical breakdown, we give in a little bit, probably too much right now.”
  • Dave Joerger in 2016: “If we're going to play winning basketball, we feel like we've got to do a better job defensively and we want to set that tone with this crew.”
  • Omri Casspi in 2016: “We can score with the best of them, but we can't really get stops.”
  • Dave Joerger in 2019: “We relaxed and were very casual, didn’t run back on defense, turned the basketball over a ton and took a lot of jump shots because we thought it was going to be easy, and I told them two minutes into the fourth quarter – this team is going to run it back at you because we’ve made so much carelessness with the basketball, and we fouled kind of silly fouls, and so they were in the penalty shooting the rest of the game with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. So, what they did is just pin their ears back and just kind of got to the lane over, and over and over. It’s a good experience for us, I don’t like to have to take a loss to learn that, but I think we’ll be better for having gone through this."
  • Buddy Hield in 2019: “They just out-toughed us, out-played us, they’re the guys that were most confident, they were talking, they were having fun, they took the fun away from us in the fourth quarter.”
  • Marvin Bagley in 2019: “We blew it. I hate losing, especially like that, that’s pretty much all I’ve got to say.”
  • Luke Walton in 2019: “We need to be aware of the fact that the third quarter has been our worst quarter, but it feels like it’s starting to take on a little bit more now. Like we’re too worried about it.”

Now, let's look at some comments from after the Kings loss to the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night after the collapse in the third quarter:

  • Marvin Bagley: “We made the same mistakes as last game against this team. Kind of similar situations where it was a great first half, we came out second half and just went downhill. We’ve got to learn from that.” “I hate losing. We’ve got to figure something out, man because it’s not cool to just come out here and just give teams the OK to think they can come in and just it’s going to be an easy night against us, it’s going to be a game they can easily check off as a W. We’ve got to put that to an end ASAP.”
  • Glenn Robinson: “Just staying together when things do get rough. If teams come out and pressure us, not panicking, knowing and seeing our next options, having a backdoor available, continuing to play the game when teams do pressure us.”
  • De'Aaron Fox: “As individuals, we have to come together and say we aren’t going get straight line drives, or I’ve got your back if you do get beat, that’s pretty much it. Defensively it’s about communication and just having everybody’s back.” “Just being able to be consistent defensively is something we really need right now.”
  • Glenn Robinson: “The first half, you could see where our chemistry is, you could see when we do play the right way and move the ball I think it’s believing in that for 48 minutes, believing in that the whole game, and believing in each other.”

From 2012 to 2019 (and well before 2012), you saw talk of too much losing, relying on scoring instead of defense, a lack of urgency, breakdowns, not being able to get stops, the other team out-toughing them and poor third quarters.

This season, we have seen plenty of losing, relying on scoring instead of defense, a lack of urgency, breakdowns, not being able to get stops, the other team out-toughing them and poor third quarters.

Walton’s first season was supposed to teach the Kings how to play better defense and execute in the half court. The Orlando Bubble was supposed to teach them how they need to be disciplined on defense.

More lessons learned Wednesday night as the Kings dropped their 9th game in the last 11.

“The Clippers definitely picked up their physicality there in that third quarter, but that’s what I’m talking about – learning from our mistakes. Learning from our losses. We understand we’re not that team, but if we’re going to make the same mistakes two nights later then that’s wasted opportunities for us to grow,” Walton said. “Unfortunately, these lessons are frustrating and they’re painful, but we have to learn them. For us right now, where we are as a team, it’s like that level of intensity and then as soon as there is a little bit of a drop off, it’s an 8-0 run, it’s a 10-0 run and it can’t be those big of peaks and valleys, it’s got to be steady.”

Robinson shared what Walton told the team after the game.

“Luke said it after the game, but that’s a championship-caliber type of team [Clippers]. They know a lot of their goals. One of our goals is to make the playoffs, one of our goals is to play hard every night and that’s what that team does,” he said.

The Kings are still learning how to play hard every night.

The newcomer, Tyrese Haliburton, summed it up well: “It’s kind of the same old stuff so hopefully we can come together and fix that because after a while if you don’t it’s just going to continue to be the same result.”

Hopefully Tyrese, hopefully.

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January 22, 2021 11:01 am

Great article – love the historical quotes.

January 22, 2021 11:02 am

Change starts at the top

January 22, 2021 11:08 am
Reply to  deepshot22

Yep what’s the constant? Perpetually terrible ownership and front office management. The ownership problem isn’t going anywhere any time soon but I have to hope that Monte McNair is finally put together a competent front office. We shall see.

January 22, 2021 11:16 am

You forget the element of luck, risk taking and the size of your market. I would not say the management for the current NBA reigning champion is something to be proud of. If you are attempting to build from within, successive improvement. I don’t know many examples of success for that method. I’ve seen success in building assets then trade for established good players. I don’t see the blow it up makes for quick improvements.

January 22, 2021 12:06 pm
Reply to  ZillersCat

I don’t see the connection between luck and effort, other than the observation that the harder that I work, the luckier I seem to get.

January 22, 2021 12:54 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

this sounds like a motivational poster.

January 22, 2021 5:46 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Here you go

January 22, 2021 2:27 pm
Reply to  ZillersCat

The Kings have had a TON of luck over the last few years. Just to recap… They jumped up to 3 and then moved down to 5 because of a terrible trade by Vlade. They jumped up to 2 and had a generational superstar in Luka sitting right there and passed on him. This year they had the 12th pick and somehow Haliburton fell all the way to 12 and the Kings got an absolute steal that should not have been possible. The Kings have been in a position to turn their franchise around and because of mismanagement at every level, they have failed.

January 22, 2021 11:21 am

Monte needs to be our Geoff Petrie

January 22, 2021 12:04 pm
Reply to  deepshot22

And the owner, who thinks he is a basketball savant, needs to stay out of the personnel decisions.

January 22, 2021 12:17 pm
Reply to  deepshot22

The very top. Fuck you Vivek. He is the problem. Until he backs off we are screwed. And I don’t see him backing off.

It’s really gross behavior. His ego is crushing this team. Selfish prick.

January 22, 2021 11:03 am

I was thinking about this yesterday about how we have been hearing the same messages for years with different coaches, different players, different management, etc. I am tired of hearing it.

I do not care if you lose games because your roster does not fit or the coaching sucks. I care when you lose games lacking effort. Just get on the court and throw everything you have into winning a game. If you make mistakes, miss assignments, or make poor lineup changes as a coach then so be it. Just don’t get blown out because you are standing around pointing fingers and telling someone else to guard someone.

As kings fans the bar has been set pretty damn low for this year. We are basically asking players to give things 100% of their effort and be competitive in games. We are not even asking them to win. In fact, we are out here rooting for a top 5 pick. If I am Walton, I am throwing away all the strategy and X’s and O’s for this next game and just telling them to play like they are playing in game 7 of the NBA finals. Leave it all out there and show others that you might win in Sacramento but you will be tested.

January 22, 2021 11:41 am
Reply to  Peja

George Zip said that?

January 22, 2021 4:32 pm
Reply to  eddie41

How am I the only one to rec this?

January 22, 2021 11:10 am

No accountability.
This is a place people come to in order to get paid.
It’s Bball hell but bank account heaven.

January 22, 2021 11:59 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I don’t like it but I agree. Why bust your ass playing defense when you need points to improve your position with your next team? The current defensive neglect screams of “career stop” to me, but I’ve grown so cynical, sometimes I wonder if I can even see straight.

January 22, 2021 1:33 pm
Reply to  Marty

Sadly, your cynicism seems very accurate !

January 22, 2021 12:17 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

This is how I feel. If I were GM, I would dump Buddy and Barnes. At least it could give us an opportunity to see the young guys and tank for Cade/Mobley. It bothers me that we have so much money invested in Joseph, Buddy, and Barnes.

January 22, 2021 11:10 am

thank you for calling it a “loop”. Whatever the cause is, it keeps happening. When the fans first noticed it umpteen years ago, Rick Adelman said it was the lack of defensive players on the roster (probably before the Artest trade). I mean, look at who you’re quoting up there … Jason Thompson? Hield? Bagley? I think a big part of the problem is basketball IQ. Doesn’t matter how hard guys try if they’re thinking two steps behind. I mean when the fans are seeing the floor better than the nba players, something is wrong. After the Cousins trade Sacramento went from basketball hell to a Sport Billy Sport Lilly episode, and all the fans can do to ease the pain is say “slippage” with a French accent.

January 22, 2021 11:15 am
Reply to  eddie41

I think this is why kings fans love Haliburton so much. We are finally watching a high BBIQ player. It is refreshing after years of overvalued talented low BBIQ players

January 22, 2021 1:36 pm
Reply to  eddie41

Of course Rick did make the playoffs in all eight seasons he was in Kingsland ! Likely, a truthful statement !

January 22, 2021 11:40 am

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January 22, 2021 11:49 am

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January 22, 2021 11:54 am

Sad and depressing-but true. And the only constant since 2012…us. Change starts at the top and that is evident. Vivek needs to pass along leadership.

As a Cubs fan as well, I know there will be 1 day (hopefully I am alive) where the Sacramento Kings will be winners…and I cannot wait for how amazing that parade down J Street will be.

Unfortunately that is professional sports. We root, cheer, laugh, cry, live, and die for our teams with hope.

1 day it will come-and when it does, it will be so glorious. Until then, we’re in a perpetual state of “learning,” aka losing, developing, hiring, or tanking.

January 22, 2021 12:38 pm
Reply to  jlandweh

One of our local radio guys think Vivek will step down one day out of honor or something? lol The National writer he had on said “thats an interesting theory” I go the other way, Vivek was able to swing it that he could be minority owner and still run the team. Now that he runs the team, Sacramento is stuck with Vivek. Thats the curse. Vivek loves the NBA, so much so, that he pays ex players to hang out with him. He an NBA groupie and he is not going anywhere EVER.

January 22, 2021 12:03 pm

They need to sign young defensive oriented players and be sure that the drafted players are tough defenders. While I love Bagley’s hops, he is a terrible one on one defender when he is on the perimeter and in today’s game, they take you out to the perimeter all the time. Everyone loves to shoot the ball but not everyone wants to play defense. Note: Most improved player on defense (surprise): Buddy

January 22, 2021 12:06 pm

I know that the Kings need to lose this year. And I am ok-ish with that. However, historically bad D and lack of effort is not acceptable. Other than Fox and Hali, I say clean house. I would miss Holmes, but other than that, I could not give a single rat’s ass about this team’s current roster. Vivek is a douchenugget, who needs to let McNair do his thing. I think.

January 22, 2021 12:22 pm

Not that I believe it would make a huge difference in the win column, but I think it’s about time to shake-up the starting line-up. We’re getting a mini all-star break with the Griz postponements. Time to re-group come back with a more entertaining product. Buddy and Bags are the obvious candidates to provide punch to the bench. I’ve heard different takes on who it should be but, everyone agrees it’s 1 of these 2 or both.
I agree with J Reynolds, Buddy has proven he can come off the bench and that opens up the spot for Haliburton. Jonathan Tjarks suggested benching Bagley, and moving Buddy to the 3 to make room for Haliburton. I’ve seen enough of Buddy’s defense at the 2 to want to see him guarding 2s coming off the bench, and not starting 3s. Also I don’t see how moving Bagley to the bench makes anyone better, whereas Buddy becomes a star in his role as a 6th man. Bagley may be due some patience with that contract so complete our due diligence with him, and if he continues to suck, at least he contributes ping-pong balls to help replace the pick we wasted on him.
I would also like to see GRIII start at three and move Barnes to the 4 spot which I believe helps maximize his value, but that also would likely mean moving Bagley to the bench with Holmes at the 5. If Whiteside works with this smaller line-up 1-4, then this brings value to his contract while sending 3 strong players to the bench in Hield, Bagley, and Holmes. Maybe Bejilica even gets back in the mix.
In short, they have nothing to lose in terms of momentum. Sometimes just a change can be good to boost morale as well as give guys a chance in new roles, and Haliburton already has earned a chance to develop with the starting unit. The difference it makes in our draft odds is negligible, and Buddy isn’t going to be part of a winning core in Sacramento. Let him earn his trade coming off the bench since he can’t seem to play starter level defense. He’s still worth his contract to the right team as his contract matures, for his ability to spread the floor alone. Bagley’s trade value can’t go much lower, so I wouldn’t sweat that. At least look like your trying!

January 22, 2021 12:40 pm

My son was born in ’02 when we still thought we were getting a championship in Sac. He’s 18 now and doesn’t remember when the Kings were good.

Last edited 4 months ago by Hamlet1989
January 22, 2021 12:46 pm
Reply to  Hamlet1989

I wasn’t even in grade school yet when the Kings last made the playoffs. My first and only playoff game I’ve ever been to was KMart’s game winner. One of my favorite childhood memories.

January 22, 2021 12:41 pm

I just typed out this long-ass rant, saved it, then thought “What’s the point?” Ugh.

January 22, 2021 4:33 pm
Reply to  Marty

Perhaps Hamlet can assist you in finding the point.

January 22, 2021 12:44 pm

I’ve said this in probably half my comments or more on this site, but it starts with accountability. Joerger held guys accountable and some of the players weren’t fond of it and the front office sided with the players who in fact did not want to be held accountable. People talk about how knowing how to win games in this league is a skill and Dave Joerger knew how to win some f’ing games. He knew what it took. But because Bagley didn’t want to come off the bench and he rubbed Buddy the wrong way a little we decided to hire Luke Walton to come in and right the ship that was already headed in the right direction. What did Luke do with that ship? He flipped a 180 degree turn. Now we’re back looking like a Keith Smart led team.

But Luke doesn’t deserve all the blame. I believe it was a few weeks back on TNT when Chuck said something along the lines of “I hate when players blame the coach. At some point the players gotta say screw the coach and find a way to win basketball games.” And you know Chuck doesn’t make a lot of good points anymore but that was one of them. At some point these players have to hold themselves accountable and that starts with the best player.

January 22, 2021 1:02 pm

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January 22, 2021 1:42 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Some things remain the same in the Kings version of NBA basketball !

January 22, 2021 2:16 pm

I don’t think this rises to the level of a rumor, but I found found this quote in Lowe’s Ten Things piece interesting:

If they don’t tighten up [defensively] soon, something will change.

That seems like the type of subtle statement that a plugged in reporter would make based on whispers he’s hearing about Luke’s current job security.

January 22, 2021 3:40 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if they don’t improve from being the all time worst defense in NBA history, then Walton’s job could be on the line.

January 22, 2021 5:32 pm
Reply to  King4life

The point is that Lowe seems to have inside knowledge that McNair is considering the possibility of firing Walton if things don’t improve quickly. A guy in his position wouldn’t word things that way based on an educated guess.

January 22, 2021 3:42 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

I hope Monte will get a trade lined up that is like a warning shot to the players (or Walton), like sending them to another bottom feeder like Min/Was/Det. I thought about Philly too, with the reputation their fans have, but then they might actually be on a winning team.

January 22, 2021 3:44 pm

Sounds like the makings of another Billboard campaign?

“Hey Vivek, your team is historically bad. Is that what YOU wanted to be known for?”

January 22, 2021 6:45 pm

Well, this made me sad, but the Omri mention had me revisit the classic Curry-Casspi shootout on Youtube, so at least I have that going for me

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