Patience is a virtue lost on most sports teams and their respective fanbases. That's especially true if you're the Sacramento Kings or a Kings fan and your team hasn't made the playoffs in six seasons. But despite the team's early struggles this season, that's exactly what the Kings must do—stay patient.
When a team is sporting a subpar record like the Kings are, the first inclination is to focus on the negatives. With Sacramento, there are plenty of negatives. There's the lackluster offense, the apathy towards rebounding and the ridiculous two-game suspensions garnered by DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson.
There are some positives, however, and that's why the Kings must stay patient. Just as the lack of offense has been a glaring weakness through the early part of the schedule, the exact opposite can be said of the team's defense, which has markedly improved.
After finishing the 2011-12 season as the worst defensive team in the NBA—both in terms of points allowed per game and opponent's field-goal percentage—the Kings have started to show some serious signs of life.
Statistically speaking, the Kings are 19th in the NBA in points allowed per game. But in terms of opponent's field-goal percentage, which is a better barometer of defensive performance, the Kings are 12th in the NBA at 43.2 percent. It's also worth noting that if the team starts rebounding better, it will reduce second-chance opportunities, and its points allowed per game will decrease.
While the results are certainly showing up in the stat book, they're also visible when watching the team play. The Kings are rotating much better than they were last season, with the exception of their most recent game against Portland.
They're also doing an excellent job of preventing dribble penetration, which was a major problem last season. And when opponents do get into the paint, the Kings are doing a much better job of contesting shots.
The offensive end is a completely different story altogether. So far, the Kings have been terrible in nearly every aspect.
Sacramento's ball movement has been non-existent. There are way too many possessions where the Kings just come down the floor and play one-on-one basketball. That's not the way to win in the NBA, especially when your team doesn't have an elite scorer. Maybe Cousins will become one eventually—he's certainly got the skills for it—but he's not there yet.
It also shows up in the statistics. The Kings are 29th in the NBA in assists per game at 16.88. That's an area that really needs to improve going forward.
What may be an even bigger problem, however, has been the Kings' inability to consistently make shots. Sacramento ranks 28th in field-goal percentage at .408. Even worse is the team's three-point percentage, which is tied with the Wizards for worst in the NBA at 27.9 percent.
Now, one could argue that the Kings' poor shooting percentages are a reflection of a lack of quality shots due to substandard ball movement. There's certainly some merit to that argument, but the Kings have flat out missed too many open opportunities.
The same can be said of Sacramento's rebounding—it's terrible. The Kings rank 28th in defensive-rebound percentage at 68.6 percent. They also get out-rebounded by an average of 6.13 rebounds per game. Only the Detroit Pistons are worse at 7.50.
By improving solely on the glass, the Kings can turn second-chance points in their favor. That's a big deal, especially when your field-goal percentage is as bad as Sacramento's.
Just looking at it, there's no denying that Sacramento has a lot of work to do on offense and rebounding if it wants to see better results on the court. But there's no reason the Kings can't start getting there with time.
Case in point: Consider that during training camp, the main focus was improving on the defensive end. The Kings have done just that. Now all they need to do is put in similar focus on offense and rebounding.
Ultimately, the reason why the Kings need to stay patient is because there's no reason not to. It would be one thing if the team came into the season with championship aspirations like the Lakers. In that case, it makes sense to make drastic changes so early in the season.
This Kings had no such aspirations. The main goal was to return to respectability. And that's not going to happen overnight, especially when you don't acquire a big-name player during the offseason.
When you build a team like the Kings have—one with solid players but lacking any real superstar—you have to rely on teamwork to win games. It takes time to build the chemistry needed to do that.
They've already seen that chemistry manifest itself on one end of the court, so they know it can start occurring on the other end.
If it doesn't start happening soon, then they can start making some changes to the roster and consider starting over. But given how early it is in the season and the fact that expectations weren't very high to begin with, the Kings need to stay the course a bit longer.
The time may come to go back to the drawing board and blow it up; now is not that time.