SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings resumed practice on Monday after taking Sunday off to rest. They will squeeze in another practice on Tuesday before hosting the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
There was a welcome sight when the screen lifted at the practice facility. Veteran forward Omri Casspi was back in uniform and working with his teammates. Casspi has missed the team’s previous four games with upper back soreness, but by all accounts, he should be ready to go against New Orleans.
“Everyday that goes by it’s better,” Casspi said. “Hopefully no setbacks tonight or tomorrow morning. I had a good practice, I feel good.”
The Kings have tried just about everything to get the Casspi back on the court sooner, but the soreness in his upper back and shoulder is just now working its way out. Casspi said he received treatment early in the morning before practice and he expects to play in the crucial set of games in front of the Kings.
“It’s part of an NBA season,” Casspi said. “We have a lot of games left and I feel like it’s our time now to take a big step forward. We have a big test on Wednesday (and) Thursday, this week in general.”
Casspi leads the Kings in 3-point shooting and is fourth overall in the NBA at 47.7 percent. Since jumping into the starting lineup, he has excelled, averaging 15 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and the Kings are just 2-3 on the season without him.
Sacramento is preparing for a week that includes games against team they hope to compete against for a playoff spot. After a showdown with New Orleans on Wednesday, the Kings travel to Utah to face the Jazz, who currently sit two games ahead of them in the standings, on Thursday night.
“We have some teams that we think we can beat and we have to take advantage of our schedule right now,” Rudy Gay said.
Following the trip to Salt Lake City, the Kings travel to LA to face the Clippers on Saturday before another nice break leading to a contest with the Lakers at Staples Center next Wednesday.
It’s a spot in the schedule where the Kings are playing winnable games, but they are also getting a chance to practice and heal up for the stretch leading to the All-Star break.
“I told the team today, every season comes down to a tiebreaker, every season comes down to a one-game situation,” Karl said.
The Kings are 8-7 over their last 15 games, including two losses to the nearly unbeatable Golden State Warriors.
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They have dropped a few close games in that stretch as well to teams like Minnesota, Portland and Philadelphia, but since the turn of the new year, you can see confidence building in the club.
“It’s part of the business,” Karl said. “Struggling teams or teams that are trying to become winning teams usually find ways to lose games instead of find ways to win games. You learn how to change that and I think that’s where we’re at.”
The Kings have had some encouraging performances as well. A victory on the road over the Thunder snapped a 14-game losing streak in Oklahoma City and the the double-overtime loss to the Mavericks in Dallas the next night showed that the Kings are growing.
“We’re playing hard, we’re playing competitive against some great teams,” Gay said. “We’re getting over the hump. There were times where we thought we were stuck playing one way and now we’re all learning to play with each other.”
It’s early in the season to circle one week on the schedule and call it a make or break, but this is a big opportunity for the Kings to climb in the standings. At 15-22, they shouldn’t be in the playoff conversation, but that is the position they find themselves. It’s time to take advantage and jump into the race with both feet.