Oklahoma City Thunder (-7.5, 207.5 o/u) at Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings (11-13, 6-7 home) have surprised the NBA twice this season: first, when they roared to a 5-1 start; second, when they fired head coach Michael Malone after falling two-games below .500.
“It wasn’t about wins and losses,” general manager Pet D’Alessandro said. “I don’t really care what our record was. It’s really about who we want to be, what we want our identity to be as a team.”
Apparently the last straw for D’Alessandro came this weekend when the Kings shot only 35.5% from the floor and turned the ball over 16 times in a 95-90 home loss to the lowly Detroit Pistons (who are only ahead of the laughable 76ers in the NBA Title futures).
Kings star DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 23.5 PPG and 12.6 RPB, feels some responsibility for Malone’s termination. Prior to Cousins’ recent illness, the squad was 9-4; but they picked up just two wins over the last nine while he was on the shelf.
Cousins said, “I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel that it was partially my fault. In reality it isn’t, but me personally I feel like it is.”
Now the Kings are left with interim coach Tyrone Corbin, who previously coached the Jazz (going 112-146 in his tenure with Utah).
“It’s difficult for players to change mid-stride,” Corbin said. “You have to not confuse them and get them thinking.”
The Corbin-era begins with a stiff test tonight, as Sacramento faces one of the hottest teams in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder (11-13, 4-8 away). With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook healthy, the Thunder have won eight of nine games, including six in a row.
Durant, last year’s NBA MVP, is scoring nearly 21 points per game and shooting 51.1% from the floor since his return. Westbrook has been even better, pouring in more than 27 points per night on 50.3% shooting.
Durant said, “We’re just focused on playing good basketball, and everything else after that takes care of itself.”
While the Thunder are playing great, don’t regard the Kings as a rebuilding project. Instead, look for Sacramento to respond to the coaching change. That’s why the Kings’ moneyline (+302) is the play.
(Photo credit: Mike (Flickr: (2013-12-21) Kings at Magic 66) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)