It seems so long ago that the Sacramento Kings were 9-5 and the talk of basketball. Could they maintain this pace throughout the season? Was DeMarcus Cousins a MVP candidate? Was the ship finally righted in Cowbell country? We know the answers to those exciting questions now, plus the most influential development that contributed to them: the mid-December firing of Mike Malone. And three weeks later with his team a season-worst six games below .500, Cousins confirmed the obvious notion that the abrupt change is still negatively influencing the Kings.
His comments came immediately after Sacramento’s 114-95 defeat yesterday at hand of the surging Detroit Pistons, dropping its record with Ty Corbin at the helm to a depressing 3-7. And though Cousins admitted the Kings’ struggles are related to Malone’s dismissal, he also put the onus squarely on he and his teammates.
Via Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:
“We’re not the team we were,” Cousins said.
Asked if Malone’s dismissal affected the Kings more than anticipated, Cousins said: “It’s clear. We’re not the same team. We talk about it, make excuses for the team, but at the end of the day, we’re the ones out there playing. Regardless of who the man is on the bench, we’re the ones out there playing…”
“We’ve got to stop feeling sorry for ourselves,” Cousins said. “Every time something doesn’t go our way, we’re shaking our heads, myself included. We’ve got to man up. It’s on us. Period. It’s on us.”
We panned Vivek Ranadive’s knee-jerk decision to fire Malone at the time, and are hardly surprised the Kings have struggled since. The team had developed noticeable morale and was playing hard under Malone. Its late November/early December stretch of losses directly coincided with Cousins’ absence due to viral meningitis, too.
But wait! A silver lining sure to please Ranadive: The Kings have played basketball fifth-highest pace since Corbin took over! This is the free-wheeling brand of hoops that the owner said he wanted upon Malone’s ouster. So at least there’s that…
Sacramento also has the league’s third-worst defense and fifth-worst assist rate over that stretch. It’s no longer dominant on the glass, and all of that running has led to the team turning the ball over at an alarmingly high rate.
The Kings aren’t playing winning basketball. Getting acclimated to a new style under a time of emotional duress is an awful combination, and Cousins and his teammates are feeling the ill-effects.
Here’s hoping this tough time doesn’t derail the major progress Boogie has made over the past year at the very least. He’s an elite player now, in part because his infamous attitude has been notably toned down this season. It would be a horrible shame for Sacramento and the league at large if a talent like his is wasted by the zealous decision-making of an overbearing owner.
This once promising season is lost for the Kings. And Cousins and company need to do all they can to ensure futures ones aren’t, either.
What do you think?
Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.