In a defense of Theus, one of my favorite writers, Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie, wrote the following:
The Kings are horrible. The team is a mismatched batch of parts that shouldn't fit, couldn't fit, and (eventually) won't fit. The team competed like mad all last season. The squad's offense, while iffy, is at least innovative and trying new things. The team is fun to watch. The team entertains the fans. The team works hard. The team is injured. The team has no singular focus off the court. The team has a singular focus on the court. The team should be worse than it is. And you want to fire the coach of this team?These are really strong points ... except for the one I bolded, which seems arguable. After the jump, I'll show you why the team's on-court focus can be questioned.
The Kings have gone 1-3 in the team's last four games, winning once on the road and losing three straight in ARCO Arena. The margins have been slight, though: Sacramento was defeated by eight against Detroit, two against Phoenix, and two against San Antonio, and vanquished the Clippers in L.A. by five. Honestly, any of the four games could have gone the other way -- all were close in the final minutes.
A focused team would close these games out strong, win or lose. It can be argued that the Kings did not close any of these matches out strong (even the win in L.A.). Of particular concern is the team's turnover woes. Sacramento finds itself among the worst protectors of the ball for the second straight season as the team's centers (Miller and Spencer Hawes) toss the ball around like uranium and the point guard (Beno Udrih) came into the season with a severe case of the yips.
But even by Sacramento's standards, the late game composure has been completely absurd. The following chart provides a chronological display of each of Sacramento's offensive possessions in the last four games. A black dot indicates the possessions ended with a FGA (missed or made) or free throws. A red dot indicates a turnover. The first two displays show an expected output. For instance, the average NBA team has 14 turnovers per 100 possessions. Thus, one out of every seven possessions ends in a turnover. The Kings have one-of-six rate. But these things aren't evenly distributed in practice, as you'll see.
During the Detroit game, the Kings had a few marvelously long stretches without a turnover. In the fourth quarter, Sacramento turned out six, including a stretch of four in five possessions which murdered the team's chances.
Against L.A., the team struggled to close out the victory thanks to two bad turnovers late.
In the loss to resurgent Shaquille O'Neal and the Phoenix Suns, the Kings totaled a whopping 11 turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime. For perspective, if you averaged that out over an entire game, you'd earn 31 turnovers.
The turnovers were more problematic in the first and second quarter against San Antonio. However, a bad dip with two turnovers within three possessions in the fourth allowed the Spurs to take a lead it would not renounce.
Now, this isn't all on Theus -- he's not the dude firing passes into the second row or charging into defenders blindly. But the coach has had 93 games with this bunch (for the most part -- Jason Thompson excepted). The errors (which include a few indefensible 24-second violations) come because the team lacks apparent direction on the court. Only in the most scripted endgame plays (which in the past two games have been Quincy Douby jumpers) does the team look like it knows exactly what it wants to do.
To try and to fail is normal. But to try and to flail repeatedly is discouraging. (This is not to say some other coach could make these players focus. I think Theus deserves to play out the year. Honestly, the Kings shouldn't be in some of these games. The mere opportunity to wet the bed is progress.)