SACRAMENTO -- For the past decade the Sacramento Kings reach a point in the season where wins and losses mean absolutely nothing except position in the upcoming draft. With another loss on Thursday, this time to the Minnesota Timberwolves by a final of 105-97, the Kings remain tied with the New York Knicks for the seventh spot in the lottery standings.
In a sense, the mission was accomplished.
It’s an unfortunate development for a team that started with such high hopes. What few players remained in the locker room when the media arrived in post game gave very little.
“I’m super shocked,” Rudy Gay said. “Obviously it’s not something that before the season I would have thought would happen.”
What exactly happened to derail the positive vibe to start the season? How did this team go from 20-23 and in the playoff picture to an 11-25 finish and another early summer?
“I think you can go in there and get a bunch of players,” Gay said. “But I think at the end of the day you have to mesh personalities, you have to mesh talent, you have to do all of that. It’s not just getting a bunch of people on a team - it’s not that easy.”
Despite cresting the 30-win plateau for the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Kings are 8.5 games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference. The loss to Minnesota, like so many others this season, showed that the Kings are still nothing more than a collection of players and not a team.
“We can’t make excuses,” big man Kosta Koufos said. “We have a very talented team but it’s one of those things that stuff does happen, whether it comes through injuries or even trades through the business aspect. For us, we have to look at ourselves as individually and just continue to play hard and be professional whatever the scenario may be.”
The scenario that is playing out is that the team’s season will end, win or lose, on Wednesday of next week in Houston following game 82 of the season. This is not the outcome that this franchise hoped for when this team assembled last summer.
SOME LOVE FOR ACY
Quincy Acy returned to Sacramento as one of ten new faces last summer. He had spent time with the Kings during the 2012-13 season, but after a season in New York, he came back to Sacramento on a two-year deal.
Acy has earned the trust of coach George Karl, although it took a while to earn minutes with this Kings team. Before the game against the Timberwolves, Sacramento honored the 25-year-old forward with the Oscar Robertson Triple-Double award which is given to the player with who exemplifies excellence on the court and in the community.
“I look at the position I’m in as a blessing,” Acy said. “There’s only 300-400 people in the NBA. I know there’s people dying to be in my position. I know if I was on the outside looking in and I saw somebody not giving their all, I’d have something to say. I’d be mad.”
Acy has carved out a niche in the NBA as a player who does the dirty work. He doesn’t always fill up the stat sheet, but that doesn’t stop him from having a tremendous impact on a game.
“There are so many players who don’t know who they are in the NBA, Quincy knows who he is,” Karl said of his energizer off the bench. “He’s not a highly skilled player, but he works extremely hard on his game. He is improving on his game. He’s a better player today than he was in November.”
After playing sparingly early in the season, Acy has managed to play in 55 games and even start 29. He’s averaging 4.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in 14.2 minutes, but those stats don’t tell the whole story.
Despite shooting a career-best 56.8 percent from the field and 43.6 percent from 3-point range, the Kings don’t look for Acy in the offense, but they are better when he is on the floor. He has an offensive rating of 127 and a defensive rating of 109, making his one of the most effective players the Kings have on the roster.
While Acy has been a solid contributor on the court, you don’t get the Oscar Robertson award for your play on the floor alone. You have to bring something more, which the reserve big man does everyday he shows up to work.
“His character and his substance in the locker room, in practice and off the court is important for us,” Karl added. “There’s a strength that comes from the character of your locker room - the substance and savvy of a teammate and Q gets and A+ in all those areas.”
Acy always has a smile on his face, although it’s often obscured by his overgrown beard. He is a rock in the locker room and a player that is cherished by his teammates.
“I owe it to mother,” Acy said. “She’s really helped me from the beginning as far as planting a seed for having a good heart. I don’t really want recognition for the award, but I am honored to have it.”
Acy has a player option for next season at a little over $1 million and he would really like to stick around in Sacramento. He loves the city and with the way he plays, a lot of fans have fallen in love with him.