Point guard Rajon Rondo didn’t seem particularly shocked his team lost, considering he said, per Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, “With optional shootarounds it’s tough. ... When three or four guys show up for shootaround this morning, how can you expect to win?”
This is just another setback for the Kings, who have lost eight of their last nine games, including each of the past four. Sacramento has been a factor in the Western Conference playoff race this season, but it is looking up at the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz for the No. 8 seed following the skid.
Nate Scott of USA Today tried to add some context to the situation Rondo was describing, but realized it was an unfortunate look for the team: “Now, it’s important to note here again that the morning shootaround was optional, but if only a couple guys are showing up to get together before a game against the Eastern Conference’s best team, that’s a bad sign.”
The lackluster attendance at the shootaround could be an indication that there is a disconnect between the players and the coaching staff, especially since Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported the following Monday evening: “ESPN sources say that the Sacramento Kings are going ahead with a coaching change and plan to fire George Karl in coming days.”
Following a Feb. 5 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical noted Karl has “rapidly lost support in management and some parts of the locker room.” Wojnarowski also said owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Vlade Divac “were strongly weighing” firing Karl after the loss.
Assuming there is a chasm between Karl and various segments of the organization, the fact that Rondo called out the lack of attendance at Monday’s shootaround is noteworthy. After all, the point guard experienced some ups and downs with Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle before signing with the Kings in the offseason.
ESPN.com called Rondo’s stint in Dallas “a disaster,” pointing out a “heated on-court exchange” with Carlisle that led to a suspension in the 2014-15 season. Carlisle also pulled Rondo from the game early in a playoff loss to the Houston Rockets, and the point guard didn’t play for the rest of the series.
ESPN.com provided the details: “The Mavs announced the next day that Rondo left the team due to a previously undisclosed back injury, which sources later confirmed was a cover-up for a mutual decision for Rondo and the team to part ways.”
If this is the end for Karl in Sacramento, it is hard to call it anything but a failure. He was only 11-19 in 30 games last season and has watched a solid start for the Kings evaporate in 2015-16.
What’s more, there have been rocky moments with star DeMarcus Cousins, including a report from Jason McIntyre of the Big Lead that noted the big man “stormed into the locker room and cursed out” the coach after the Kings lost to the San Antonio Spurs in November. McIntyre said there was a meeting after that, and Divac asked the team if Karl should be fired.
There were also reports that Karl wanted to trade Cousins in the offseason, and James Herbert of CBS Sports broke down the situation:
Cousins used emojis to call Karl a snake in the grass on Twitter when the coach was reportedly trying to get the franchise player traded. Even before that, though, there were concerns—Cousins' camp was reportedly against the Karl hire in the first place, and Karl acknowledged "the skepticism of his agent" in March. Late last season, Karl declined to call Cousins "untradeable," and then Divac contradicted him in May.
Karl’s days in Sacramento may be numbered as the Kings continue to rack up losses before the All-Star break. Perhaps the next coach will get more than three or four guys to come shoot before a marquee game against one of the league’s best teams.