Two games into his tenure as Kings head coach, George Karl is fighting the battle his predecessors have in trying to mold the Kings into a winning team.
That battle is how to get the Kings to play like a team consistently.
The lack of passing by the Kings has been detrimental all season and it was again in a 126-99 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Every coach has used their own term for the Kings’ penchant for discarding team play and taking tough shots.
Selfish and hero ball are just a couple.
Karl introduced another term Saturday.
“Sometimes there’s shots out there that I call thirsty and the players out there are thirsty,” Karl said. “Thirsty for a score, thirsty for a shot.”
The Kings had only 18 assists and shot only 34.1 percent against the Cliippers.
“Good teams don’t care about who scores, good teams just care about scoring, they don’t care who does it,” Karl said.
“I feel sometimes out there guys care about who is scoring. we’ve got to let that go and build some habits that unify the team rather than build habits that disconnect the team.”
The King are last in the NBA in assists per game, so it’s not a surprise they’d have this problem.
The Kings have shown they can play unselfish basketball in spurts under three coaches this season, but more often they’ve played like they did against the Clippers.
“There’s still a lot of bad habits with the way we used to play,” said center DeMarcus Cousins. “We’ve just got to continue to move forward and find a way to shake those bad habits and run the system the correct way.”
Karl said after two games, he has an idea of what he’ll work on in practice. The Kings do not play again until Wednesday when they host the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I’ll just say habits of how to get a good shot,” Karl said. “Habits of understanding the pace of the game ... habits of passing the ball to the open man. making the extra effort to get great shot rather than just an OK shot.”
A night after finishing with 26 assists against Boston, their highest total in two months, the Kings reverted back to form.
The ball didn’t move and players didn’t move with the same vigor, which has been a problem all season.
Even without All-Star forward Blake Griffin, the Clippers are far more formidable than the Boston Celtics, who the Kings beat in Karl’s first game.
So execution and sharing the ball are more important. The Kings did not do that and ended up traily by as many as 37 points.
Also another nondescript player posted a career high. Austin Rivers joined the likes of Justin Holiday, Cole Aldrich, Festus Ezeli and Isaiah Canaan as players who have had career nights against the Kings.
Rivers scored a career-high 28 points off the bench.
“Things we did the previous night we didn’t come out and do tonight,” Cousins said. “We won the (Boston) game by sharing the ball, running and playing defense. We did the complete opposite (Saturday).”
When the Clippers made their run in the second quarter, the Kings had no response and were outscored 42-18.
Having played a night earlier was a factor, Cousins said. Karl said breaking another habit that has been a problem for years.
The Kings have been known as a team that will show its angst on the court when things go bad.
“Maybe we ran out of gas but mentally we got frustrated,” Karl said. “It’s a personality we’ve got to fight through.”
How long it will take to fix this is a guessing game.
“I can’t really give yo ua timetable,” Cousins said. “All we can do is try to improve each game. We did well the first game even though we made a lot of mistakes. We had a lot of those same mistakes agaisnt a better team and it showed.”