The Kings’ defense is falling off a cliff
The Kings are 2-5 since Tyrone Corbin took over for Mike Malone, and horrendous defense has been the main culprit.
When the Sacramento Kings fired head coach Mike Malone after an 11-13 start, management cited philosophical differences as one of the key issues with the partnership. Malone was a defense-first coach, and management wanted to implement a fast-paced style in the vein of Rick Adelman’s successful Kings teams more than a decade ago.
Sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for.
Sacramento has played faster in the seven games since Tyrone Corbin took over as head coach, and the offense has been significantly more efficient, although Cousins missing the last nine games of Malone’s tenure skews those numbers somewhat.
But the Kings still scored fewer than 105 points per 100 possessions in the first 15 games with Cousins in the lineup, which is about three points per 100 possessions worse than the last seven games under Corbin, per NBA.com. So thus far, the faster pace has helped lead to more efficient offense.
However, Sacramento’s record is just 2-5 under Corbin despite the improved offensive efficiency, and that’s because the defense has fallen off a cliff. The Kings have given up over 113 points per 100 possessions over the last seven games, per NBA.com. That mark would rank last in the NBA.
Sacramento’s porous defense was on display in a 107-99 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night. The Nets have a bottom-10 offensive in terms of efficiency, but that didn’t stop them from putting up an offensive rating of 116.1 in the victory, per NBA.com. Mason Plumlee — who the Kings were trying to pry away from Brooklyn in recent trade talks — had his way down low with 22 points on just seven shots.
The frustration is beginning to boil over in Sacramento, and Cousins gave some candid quotes following a narrow 135-129 overtime escape of the dreadful New York Knicks over the weekend. The Kings allowed 37 fourth-quarter points in that game, and Cousins said the team must regain its defensive mindset, according to News10:
“Every game, going in with the mindset of being a defensive team, like we used to,” Cousins said. “It was even said after the game, we have to get back to being the old team. That’s wanting to defend at a high level and taking pride in actually playing defense. 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. We’ve got to get back to playing that type of basketball.”
Cousins admitted that it has been a tough transition over these past few weeks with all the different lineups and the new playing style:
“Honestly, it’s hard,” Cousins said. “I mean, everything is so new right now. We’ve got a new system, not necessarily a new system, but a new ‘playing style.’ The lineups are switched up every night. There’s a lot going on. Not to make excuses for the team because this is part of it. But we’ve got to get back to the right style of basketball, the right way for us to play.”
While Cousins’ numbers have been just as good, if not better, than before, that doesn’t sound like a player who’s too thrilled with the direction the team is headed. When the star of the team is openly yearning for the style under the recently fired coach that helped make the Kings a surprise success in the opening month of the season, that’s not a good sign.
Sacramento is going to have to strike a balance if they’re going to get back on the right track. It’s okay if the Kings want to play fast, but only if they start playing anything resemblance quality defense. Playing uptempo is fun and all, but it’s pointless if it’s simply going to lead to so many easy baskets on the other end.
Corbin is going to be the man to try and find this balance, as he has been tabbed as the head coach for the rest of the season, according to James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom. It’s not going to be an easy process, but this roster has proven that it can play respectable defense. Now they need to show they can do it again.