MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The other Kings were back Tuesday night. The maddening Kings, the bad Kings, the repetitive ones who barely showed up again and fouled a guy taking a 3-pointer again and lost to a weaker opponent. Again.
No wonder John Salmons couldn't bear to look. Fifteen minutes after the buzzer sounded on the 107-94 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies amid the empty seats of the FedEx Forum, he was still in full uniform, even the headband, sitting hunched over in a chair and staring down at the carpet in front of his locker after most teammates showered and some were finished dressing.
He was asked if this was the low point of the season.
Silence. About 10 seconds of silence.
"It's a tough loss," Salmons finally allowed.
Coach Reggie Theus was asked about the loss to the team that went in tied for the third-worst record in the league.
Absolutely zero silence.
"That's about as bad as it gets for us, in terms of the way we played," he said. "We played without focus. We just played selfish. We didn't move the basketball, didn't get the ball where it needs to be. But even worse off, I thought that defensively we were equally as bad. That's really the bottom line."
Wasted in the loss was Kevin Martin's game-high 33 points. Hakim Warrick led the Grizzlies with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
For all the morale-building wins — Orlando, Dallas, Detroit and New Orleans in the last five weeks alone — the credibility issue now swings both ways after the Kings wasted a 12-point lead from the first quarter, reacted poorly to what seemed like the first time they had ever seen a zone defense and scored 20 points in the third period and 15 in the fourth.
Because now also in the same five-week span: a loss to the Grizzlies, a distant last place in the Southwest Division and beating only the Timberwolves for the worst record in the Western Conference; a loss to the SuperSonics, 24 games under .500 but fortunate to have Minnesota as basement padding in the Northwest; a loss to the Clippers, the last-place team in the Pacific Division; and a loss to the Pacers, a team on a path to miss the playoffs in the East, which really takes some doing.
"We've shown a lack of maturity in that way, in playing to the level of the competition," Theus said.