Trail Blazers-Kings Preview
There seem to be more questions than answers when it comes to the Sacramento Kings' future in California's capital.
There is no question that the Kings need to start playing better.
Sacramento will try to end a season-high seven-game losing streak Sunday when it hosts a Portland Trail Blazers team nearing elimination from the playoff race.
Although a tentative agreement was reached last month that would keep the Kings in Sacramento and have them open a new arena for the 2015-16 season, team ownership has since raised issue with some of the costs involved in the project.
"It just feels like they were coming up with reasons of why not to do the deal," Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson said of a Friday meeting with the Maloof family.
George Maloof has mentioned that it may be possible to renovate Power Balance Pavilion, but league commissioner David Stern has said he didn't know if such a plan would work, and Johnson has been clear that he wouldn't support this option.
"We just focus on the games. We can't control that part," coach Keith Smart said Friday after the Kings lost 115-89 at Oklahoma City. "That's really with our management side and our ownership group and the city.
"As far as myself and the team, I've got to focus on keeping them prepared and ready to play. They have to focus on preparing to play and playing."
The Kings (19-41) haven't looked prepared lately, giving up an average of 106.4 points during the team's longest losing streak since an eight-game slide Dec. 11-27, 2010.
If Sacramento can't beat Portland (28-32) for a second straight time, that skid could get even longer as its three-game homestand concludes with matchups against the West's top two teams - San Antonio and the Thunder.
The Blazers are 11th in the West and 4 1/2 games back of eighth with six games left, mathematically still in the playoff hunt but with even less of a chance after learning All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge (hip) is out for the season.
Aldridge averaged team highs of 21.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in this season series to help Portland win two of the first three meetings.
Forward J.J. Hickson was on the Kings' side for all three of those games, including Sacramento's 95-92 home win Feb. 2, but he's set to make a third consecutive start for the Blazers.
Since being waived by the Kings on March 19, Hickson is averaging 14.0 points and 7.4 rebounds in 13 contests for Portland.
He'll go for a fourth consecutive double-double after scoring 13 points with 10 boards Friday when the Blazers' rally attempt from 24 down in the third quarter came up short in a 97-94 loss to Dallas.
"It all started on the defensive end," Hickson told the Blazers' official website. "That's something I love about (interim) coach (Kaleb) Canales, he always takes the positive things from games, whether we win or lose and moves forward."
Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins has mostly struggled since scoring a career-high 41 points against Phoenix on April 3, reaching double figures just twice in six games and shooting 6 of 26 from the field over the last two.
The Trail Blazers, whose five-game winning streak in Sacramento ended Feb. 2, have won 11 of 13 overall in this series.