Sunday Musings: Learning and growing from mistakes

Cousins-looking-down

Life lessons are harsh.

My 11-year-old told me Friday morning he had failed a test at school with just a week remaining in the session.  There was a miscommunication, which led to him missing nine questions, an error that may cost him straight A’s for the trimester.

He regaled me with the semantics, including a conversation with his teacher he believed would absolve him of the score.  He relayed testimonials from his classmates that confirmed that he was in fact not at fault.  Yet the grade stands.

When he tried to further explain, I simply told him that his situation reminded me of the Sacramento Kings game from Thursday night and for that matter, Tuesday night as well.

My son had an entire trimester to sew up an A.  He had opportunities for extra credit, and there were plenty of times that he chose video games or time with friends over putting in the little bit of time that would have secured the desired outcome.

It’s kind of like being up 26 points in a game and then losing with 0.3 seconds remaining on the clock.  Was there a tip by Ryan Hollins in that last second play in Memphis?  I’m not sure.  Did Courtney Lee release the shot in 0.3 or less?  I doubt it.  But the reality is the Kings put themselves in a situation to lose, and they know it.

“It had nothing with the tip-in, it had nothing to do with the missed free throws,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said following the game. “It had nothing to do with that last-minute segment. It had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with the second, third and fourth quarter.”

Cousins’ acknowledgement shows growth.  Or maybe Michael Malone lost his voice in the post-game meeting making sure that his team pointed its angst where it belonged.

The fact is, like my sixth grade son, the Sacramento Kings are young.  Maybe they aren’t 11-years-old young, but by basketball standards, they are.

This team has been together for the better part of six weeks.  Sure, a few of these pieces were leftover from last season’s 28-win team, but five of the 11 players that took the court Thursday night are new to the roster.  And that’s not including Carl Landry, who played just 18 games last season due to injury, Reggie Evans who came over at mid-season or Rudy Gay who joined the club in December.

Sacramento lost to a team whose core has been together for years.  The Grizzlies team that beat the Kings is virtually the same rotation that won 106 games over the last two seasons and lost in the Western Conference finals following the 2012-13 season.

These aren’t excuses.  The Kings still should have won; they were up by 26 points on another NBA team.  But there is a reason why the Memphis Grizzlies are riding an 18-game home win streak and there are reasons a team like Sacramento loses close games.

A 5-1 start does two things for a club.  It builds confidence, and it also heightens expectations. While the Sacramento Kings are a much better team than we have seen in past seasons, they still need time together to create chemistry – chemistry that Memphis has already established, and the same goes for Dallas.

Sacramento will learn how to finish off opponents in games like this.  And if the Kings weren’t playing against seasoned, playoff-caliber teams, they likely would be 7-2 right now.

The early-season schedule lends itself to pitfalls like this, but you have to play the schedule in front of you, and the Kings know that.  There are plenty of teams that would have folded up shop and let the Kings walk away with a win, but that is not how the upper echelon of the league plays.

The NBA is very different from other professional sports leagues.  There is a map for success that is rarely deviated from.  Teams don’t go from bad to great, unless they add LeBron James to the roster.  They typically take incremental leaps, often times over a series of years.

Memphis has already paid their dues and in doing so, they have learned how to keep their composure in situations like Thursday night’s debacle.  The Kings have yet to fully grasp the value of a 26-point lead, but after two straight losses in similar fashion, they may be learning.

Disappointment is understandable.  I am disappointed that my son failed a test, as is he.  But there is something to be learned from each of these experiences.  I doubt my son will take his grade for granted, like I doubt the Kings will take a giant lead for granted.

In the long run, it’s one test and one grade in a long scholastic career.  It’s two losses in an 82-game schedule over a two- or three-year rebuild.  Mistakes happen. It’s what you learn from them that matter in the long run.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is the senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news since 2010. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also contributes to ESPN.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".