(AP) -- While the Detroit Pistons have played well enough to move back into the Eastern Conference playoff mix in the Eastern Conference, struggles on the road against the West threaten to derail their momentum.Those woes have yet to extend to Sacramento.The Pistons continue a five-game trip Wednesday night when they visit the Kings.Detroit (15-27) has slowly turned things around after a miserable start, recording 11 of its 15 wins since the start of February.With four wins in six games, the Pistons have climbed back into the fringe of playoff contention. They are currently 11th in the East, three games behind New York and Milwaukee, which are tied for the final spot.However, the next few weeks could be difficult for Detroit, which lost 105-90 at Utah on Monday to open a five-game road tip against Western Conference opponents. The Pistons have lost 17 straight road games - five this season by an average of 15.4 points - versus teams from the West.Detroit, which has also dropped four straight on the road overall, plays eight of its next nine away from home.If there's a silver lining for the Pistons, it's that their last road victory versus the West came at Sacramento, a 100-94 win Nov. 14, 2010. They've won their last three road games against the Kings, and the last four overall meetings in the series.The Pistons let the Jazz connect on 7 of 11 3-point attempts and shoot 54.2 percent overall during Monday's loss. Detroit managed to close within two points of the Jazz in the fourth quarter despite those numbers, but Utah ended the game on an 18-3 run.Rodney Stuckey led the Pistons with 29 points while Greg Monroe added 14 in the defeat."We just weren't executing on the offensive end coming down the stretch," Monroe told the Pistons' official website. "Tonight definitely didn't turn out how we wanted it to. We have to go watch some tape, see what we did wrong, but we have a lot more games left on this road trip."After Wednesday, Detroit will visit Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver to close its trip. The best opportunity to win on the swing may come versus Sacramento (14-28), which has the second-worst record in the West.The Kings have lost six of eight and two straight, including a 115-89 home loss Tuesday to a Golden State team playing short-handed after trading Monta Ellis."We thought because they didn't have Monta Ellis and stuff, we thought it was going to be easy on ourselves," said Sacramento's Tyreke Evans, who had 16 points. "I thought we just stopped playing. They just got whatever they wanted."Tuesday's loss dropped the Kings to 2-2 on a franchise-record nine-game homestand, which had opened in promising fashion with wins over New Orleans and Dallas. They've been outrebounded in all four games while allowing opposing teams to shoot 50.3 percent.The Pistons defeated the Kings 114-108 at home Feb. 17, when Stuckey scored 36 points and Tayshaun Prince added 22 and 10 rebounds.
Some professional athletes take a stand by kneeling on the sidelines or raising a fist into the air. Some write succinct tweets expressing their dismay with the current political climate in the United States of America. Others just get right to the point with a poignant off the cuff statement to a waiting camera.
Former Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins has certainly mastered the art of the cryptic tweet, but he’s also never been one to shy away from a direct question when asked. When an inquiry was thrown his direction about confederate statues in New Orleans and his home state of Alabama, Cousins was brief with his words, but very clear.
"Take all them mother****ers down," Cousins told TMZ while navigating a security line at the airport. "Take 'em all down.”
Cousins may not have chosen the most eloquent words, but his point of view is shared by plenty of others. He isn’t the first athlete to take a stand with regards to race in America over the last week as racial tensions have spilled out into the streets in Charlottesville, Virginia. Social media is filled with professional athletes adding their thoughts to the conversation.
The Warriors’ Kevin Durant has made it clear that he will not visit the White House and President Donald Trump, a visit most teams make following an NBA championship.
"Nah, I won't do that," the 8-time All-Star told ESPN on Thursday. "I don't respect who's in office right now.”
"I don't agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” Durant continued. “That's just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they'll all agree with me."
Garrett Temple has used Twitter to make his thoughts known as well. Recently named the Kings’ Players Voice Teammate of the Year by the National Basketball Players Association, Temple has used his position as an NBA player to speak out multiple times.
Over the last week, he’s fielded questions and had plenty of discussions through social media on the issues of race and equality. His Twitter timeline is littered with thoughtful replies and some not so thoughtful ideas as well. Plenty of fans thanking him for using his position to further the conversation and of course, there is the occasional, “stick to sports” comment.
Agree or disagree, today’s athletes have huge platforms to share their opinions. From Cousins to Temple, there are varying degrees of engagement, but the time of players staying out of the discussion is long gone.
Gavin and Joe Maloof have gambled plenty in their lives, which is in part how they ended up losing the Sacramento Kings. They ran big, they hit a dry well, and they ended up selling the works.
So their decision to bet $880,000 on Floyd Mayweather in his “thing” with Conor McGregor for a $160,000 payout seemed the perfectly daft idea for two guys who were painted as perfectly daft when they were running the Kings and their other businesses into a freeway abutment on I-80.
In fairness, they are planning to donate their winnings to a number of charities in the name of their hangover drink (Never Too Hungover, although I might have gone with the more lyrical HurlNoMore), so it’s not like their hearts aren’t a place close to the mythical “right place.”
But it does beg the question, “Why don’t they just give $160,000 and skip the scam?” Because it wasn’t about charity, it was about promotion, and while there’s nothing wrong with promotion, attaching it to one of the seediest carnival events of the modern era makes it seem, well, kind of creepy.
Or maybe “creepy” is too strong. Maybe’s it’s just opportunism, which is more, well, Vegas-y.
Kings fans will remember the Maloofs as the family that saved the foundering team from the clutches of owner Jim Thomas, and then remember them as the family whose clutches Vivek Ranadive had to save the team from 15 years later. It’s the nature of most ownerships – you do good to eliminate a prior evil, and eventually become evil yourselves when the fans turn on you.
But the Maloofs aren’t evil – even their most strident critics will say that. They just saw an opportunity to scratch a bunch of itches at once – good-heartedness, advertising, gambling and Vegas’ most important product – selling you things you could never imagine wanting.
It almost makes you wonder if they harbor a secret itch to take the $160,000 and double down on behalf of the charities for another of their pet projects – the Vegas Golden Knights. If they put it on the Knights to win the Stanley Cup at 200-1, that’s $32,000,000. Then if they took that and . . .
. . . and before you know it, they’re trapped in the fantasyland of Las Vegas at its weirdest. Maybe it’s just performance art with more money than most of us can eat.