Kings face Bucks in first game without Westphal

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Kings face Bucks in first game without Westphal

PROGRAMMING ALERT: We will have a Live Video Feed of the team's press conference tonight at 5:45 -- both on CSNCalifornia.com and Chronicle Live. Watch the news as it happens.
Milwaukee (2-3) vs. Kings (2-5) at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California and Comcast SportsNet Plus
With DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, the Sacramento Kings appear to have a promising nucleus for the future.Appearances, however, aren't always what they seem as the Kings hope a coaching change can spark the duo heading into Thursday night's game versus the Milwaukee Bucks.Paul Westphal was fired after a 2-5 start dropped the Kings into last place in the Pacific Division and replaced by assistant Keith Smart on Thursday afternoon. Even before the lockout, the season has been viewed as a crossroads for the franchise, which may again consider relocating from Sacramento if a financing deal for a new arena cannot be reached.RELATED: Kings fire Westphal as coach
"I want to thank Paul for all of his effort on behalf of the Kings," said team president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie. "Unfortunately, the overall performance level of the team has not approached what we felt was reasonable to expect. I wish him the best in his future endeavors."Westphal's falling out with forward DeMarcus Cousins may have been too much to overcome. He suspended the mercurial second-year pro for Sacramento's game on Jan. 1, criticizing Cousins' commitment to the team and claiming he asked to be traded, something the player's agent denies.
The firing represents the fastest coaching changes to start an NBA season since 1976-77. Billy Cunningham was axed by the 76ers after seven games in 1977-78.Petrie tabbed Smart, who went 36-46 as Golden State Warriors coach last season, to take over the team. Yet Smart may be hard-pressed to fix the defensive shortcomings of a team which currently ranks second-to-last in both defensive scoring at 102.4 points per game and defensive field goal percentage (48.5 percent).The Warriors were tied for 27th in scoring defense at 105.7 points per game - one full point worse than Sacramento - in Smart's lone season.The fifth overall pick in 2010, Cousins had a season-high 26 points off the bench in a 110-83 loss at Denver on Wednesday but is shooting just 38.6 percent overall while averaging 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds. Evans, the 2010 NBA rookie of the year after averaging 20.1 points, is contributing 14.3 per game on 42.0 percent shooting.Even without three key players and struggling offensively, the Bucks (2-3) may be catching the Kings at the right time. Milwaukee has dropped the first two games on its five-game western trip but has won its last three games at Sacramento.Ratto: Westphal swamped by the tide
Without star Andrew Bogut (personal reasons), swingman Mike Dunleavy Jr. (groin) and former King Beno Udrih (shoulder), the Bucks shot a paltry 30.5 percent from the field - including 2 of 21 from 3-point range - in an 85-73 loss to the Jazz on Tuesday."It's tough," said forward Drew Gooden, the lone bright spot with 24 points and 12 rebounds. "We can't win scoring 70-80 points. We've got to be in the high 90s to beat these teams. That comes with executing the offense."Milwaukee has averaged 109.0 points during its three-game winning streak at Sacramento that follows a four-game road skid to the Kings. However, with Bogut (14.3 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game), Dunleavy (10.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Udrih (9.0 ppg) all likely to miss this season's annual visit, the Bucks' run in Sacramento could be in jeopardy.They certainly need more production from guard Brandon Jennings, who has totaled 20 points in the last two games while shooting 9 of 35 overall and 0 for 11 from 3-point range. He averaged 22.7 on 46.0 percent shooting in the season's first three contests.Jennings went 8 of 13 from beyond the arc and finished with 35 points in his only previous game at Sacramento, a 114-108 double-overtime victory March 19, 2010.

Disgruntled Bulls PG Rondo throws shade on Kings

Disgruntled Bulls PG Rondo throws shade on Kings

After wearing out his welcome in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, Rajon Rondo is doing the same in Chicago.

The veteran point guard, who was benched for five games at the end of December and beginning of January, opened up his situation in Chicago during a recent interview.

While talking about what could possibly be the problem with the Bulls, Rondo brought up his one season with the Kings.

“It’s just, maybe, the personnel in this situation. I mean, last year -- I hate to keep talking about last year -- but you couldn’t name three people on my team, the Sacramento Kings, and I led the league in assists. You know? I don’t know. I believe so (that his skill set still has value), given the right personnel and the flow of the game," Rondo told TNT's David Aldridge last week.

While the Kings were mired in a 33-49 season in 2015-16, Rondo racked up an NBA-leading 11.7 assists per game. Russell Westbrook was second with 10.4.

In four games since returning from being benched by coach Fred Hoiberg, Rondo is averaging 6.5 points and 6.0 assists in 22.6 minutes per contest.

Rondo is signed through the 2017-18 season and is scheduled to make just under $14 million next season.

'Undisciplined' Kings regressing at halfway point of 2016-17 season

'Undisciplined' Kings regressing at halfway point of 2016-17 season

SACRAMENTO -- Undisciplined. It’s a word that we haven’t heard much, but it is one of the better ways of describing the 2016-17 Sacramento Kings 40 games into the season.

“We’re not a good team right now - plain and simple,” veteran Matt Barnes said following another loss on Sunday night. “We have what it takes, but we’re undisciplined, we’re not consistent and we lose our focus too much.”

Turnovers, technical fouls, inconsistent offensive and defensive sets - this has become the Kings’ bread and butter. And it’s come to a head during the team’s 1-5 homestand, especially on the Kings’ 122-118 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Tonight, turnovers killed,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “We didn’t execute well. I don’t think we were that great defensively.”

Cousins’ six turnovers was a team-high, but he had plenty of help. Only Garrett Temple failed to give the ball up on the night, leaving nine other players to share in the 22 total miscues for Sacramento.

“We just don’t pay attention to detail and it always comes back and bites us in the ass at the end of games,” Barnes said.

Despite all of the messy play, Sacramento still had a chance. The Kings had an outside shot to erase an enormous deficit and come back and beat OKC. But that has become their modus operandi.

During their six-game homestand, they have trailed by 14 or more points in every contest. On Sunday against the Thunder, they fell behind by 17 and still were able to cut the lead to just three with 26.5 seconds remaining. In a game that often comes down to a few opportunities that go one way or the other, the Kings are more often the team that makes the crucial error.

“It’s a few plays here and there that we think don’t matter early in the game and we end up losing a four point game,” Barnes said. “We’re a hell of a team in the last three minutes of a game. We make it exciting, but most of the time, by that time, it’s too late.”

Kosta Koufos picked up a tech in the second quarter. Barnes picked one up during a crucial moment in the fourth. Cousins had one as well, giving him 11 on the season, but it was the double-tech variety with Russell Westbrook, so it had no impact on the score.

“We complain too much to the refs, you know what I mean,” Barnes said. “We’ve got to worry about the other team. I think we worry about the refs too much.”

Those two points came back to play a major role in a close ball game and they carried no favor with the officiating crew either. It’s possible that the game would have had the same outcome, but it’s difficult to say for sure.

“Stop talking to the officials and let it go,” Temple said. “They’re going to call what they call; I’ve never seen a call changed because a person is talking to the official. It is what it is.”

There is no benefit of the doubt for a team like Sacramento. They have a reputation with the officials that they live up to on most nights. They are in the refs ear from start to finish. When technical fouls are called, it isn’t a surprise to anyone in the building.

“They’re human beings just like us, so if you constantly berate them about calls, that’s not going to help you,” Temple added. “So we’ve just got to leave them alone, try to control what we can control.”

At some point, the Kings need to learn from their mistakes. But at the halfway point of the season, they appear to be regressing. Frustrations are mounting as their playoff hopes once again dim in the month of January.

With the loss, Sacramento fell to 16-24 on the season. They have one game left at Golden One Center on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers before embarking on a brutal eight game road trip.