The Sacramento Kings have defined NBA incompetence over the last 15 years. The Kings haven’t made the NBA playoffs since 2006, and that streak seems unlikely to end this year. Whatever hope was inspired by Sacramento’s 5-4 start to begin the year has quickly been extinguished after another rough stretch against the league’s cellar dwellers. The past week has been another case study in how the Kings drive anyone who cares about them absolutely mad.
Following four straight losses to the Pacers, Suns, Pacers, and Thunder, there was a report in The Athletic that head coach Luke Walton was on the hot seat. File that under ‘the least surprising news ever.’ The Kings got it together by routing the lowly Detroit Pistons in their next game, but the good vibes were quickly put to rest against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. Despite holding a halftime lead, the Kings fell apart over the final two quarters to lose, 107-97.
Dropping five out of six against beatable teams (aside from Phoenix) has a way of breaking a man. Just ask Tristan Thompson. The veteran big was asked about where the vocal leadership comes from during a collapse like the one Kings endured against the Wolves, and he responded with highly quotable rant that shows just how tough times are in Sacramento right now.
“No man in this world should rely on another man to inspire him,” Thompson said in the press conference. “Point-blank, you can put that in all capitals. Me personally, no one should ever need a coach to inspire you. If you don’t get inspired in the game, then you shouldn’t be on the court.”
Thompson knows what a championship-level team looks like after helping the Cleveland Cavaliers win the title in 2016 alongside LeBron James. The Kings are not a championship-level team, to put it kindly.
My personal favorite line is a toss up between “This is not no Glory Road sh*t” and “The day I need a coach to inspire me is the day I’m f****** retired.” Both wonderful. Before Thompson went viral with his coaching tirade, he offered another quote that crystalized the Kings’ current frustration.
“I think at the end of the day, the reality is this road trip should have been a 4-0,” Thompson said, breaking down each of Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Detroit and Minnesota. “Those teams, three out of those four teams really didn’t want to win those games. They’re probably (ticked off) that they even won those games. Tonight was another night, these are the games you have to win. If you’re trying to be in the playoffs or be in the play-in game, these are the wins that you have to capitalize on.”
If the Kings wanted to finally get back in the playoffs, beating teams like Indiana, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Minnesota is the place to start. Instead, the Kings lost to all of them. Walton’s days seem numbered. The schedule isn’t going to get any easier in a loaded Pacific Division featuring the Warriors, Suns, Clippers, and Lakers.
The Kings have enough talent to get into the play-in tournament mix this year, but ultimately it feels like the franchise continues to be stuck running in place. It’s going to be a long year for Thompson. It will probably be a short one for Walton.