Turnovers handicapping Sacramento Kings offense

Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas as the Sacramento Kings get blown out by the Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo: Tobin Halsey)

The Sacramento Kings are suffering from a debilitating disease that’s plagued them for much of the 2013-14 season. Their head coach may not be a doctor, but he has the diagnosis.

“Right now what I see on the floor is a disease of me,” Michael Malone told media in Brooklyn after the Kings’ 104-89 loss to the Nets yesterday evening. “We’re becoming a selfish basketball team on both ends.”

A major cause of the Kings’ “disease of me” has been their turnovers. Taking care of the basketball was an area that they excelled at during the first month of the season, but have rapidly deteriorated in ever since.

Through five games in March, the Kings are ranked second worst in the NBA in turnovers per game. As a team, they are averaging 17.8 miscues a contest, which is a far cry from where they started the season. Through the first month of the 2013-14 campaign, the Kings committed the second-fewest turnovers in the league, averaging just 13.1 miscues a night.

“Turnovers have been hurting us for most of the season,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said to media gathered at the Barclays Center last evening.  “We have to stop with the turnovers and the slow starts.  I feel like we need to come out with some type of sense of urgency.  Sometimes we come out and we’re too comfortable and lackadaisical, which carries over into the game, so we just got to come in with a better focus.”

Granted, the team the Kings are fielding today is completely different from the squad they fielded in October/November. Due to the complete facelift the Kings have undergone this year, only six players remain from the team that averaged an impressive 13.1 turnovers per game.

However, the Kings are not using personnel changes as an excuse. Instead, Malone believes his team’s issues with turnovers begin the simple idea of trust.

“When I talk about trust, it’s not just in each other but also trust in the offense and not trying to make ‘the play’”,” Malone said last week before the Kings hit the road for their current seven-game trip. “I think sometimes we get caught with bad spacing. I think we get caught trying to over-dribble the basketball instead of just making the simple play. If you’re not open, make a play for a teammate without any hesitation. I think whether we have new faces or not, that’s something we can do a much better job of.”

Unfortunately for Malone, the biggest culprits in the Kings’ turnover woes have been his three best players.  Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas may all be averaging at least 20 points a night, but they’re also each committing roughly three turnovers per game. With Cousins, Gay and Thomas each using up at least 25 percent of the Kings’ possessions, their turnover woes have put a damper on their contributions on offense.

The Kings are well aware that their problems handling the ball have been their fault and their fault alone. According to Thomas, many times the Kings have committed turnovers, they’ve come unforced. That has been a tough fact to swallow for the Kings starting point guard.

“It’s just our own turnovers,” Thomas said to Cowbell Kingdom last week following a win over the New Orleans Pelicans. “Like my turnovers, I’m pissed off at myself because a lot of my turnovers are just losing the ball or telegraphing my pass – just things like that. And I think things like that, as a team, that’s a lot of our turnovers.”

Thomas put together a forgettable performance in Sunday’s loss in Brooklyn. The 25-year-old guard tied a career-high seven turnovers, which he’s done four other times in his three seasons in the league. When the Kings have nights like that from their starting point guard, wins become harder to come by.

The “disease of me” has been a sickness that’s plagued the Kings for the last eight years. Malone has his work cut for him, but the first-time head coach is hoping to find some sort of remedy before the season comes to a close.

“In these last 19 games, I have to find five guys who are willing to play the right way every night,” Malone said yesterday. “This is so we can get something out of these last 19 games and not develop bad habits and play bad basketball because I have a hard time sitting through that.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.