If there's any team that can relate to rumors of a coach being on the hot seat currently circling the Sacramento Kings, it's the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If there's a coach who can take the heat, it's probably George Karl.
The Kings try to avoid an eighth loss in nine games Monday night in Cleveland, where Karl was fired long ago by a Cavaliers organization that's still finding its footing after its latest coaching change.
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Reports emerged after Sacramento's 128-119 loss at Brooklyn on Friday that Karl might be dismissed before the All-Star break, a fate that wouldn't be unfamiliar for a coach who's been let go by Cleveland, Golden State, Milwaukee and Denver over a nearly four-decade career on the sidelines.
The Kings (21-30) haven't really refuted them, but they may be saying all they need to with the way they're playing. Sacramento has followed a five-game winning streak with one victory in the last two weeks, though Karl himself wasn't completely discouraged after Sunday's loss in Boston by the same score from Friday.
“We're in a losing mode,” Karl said. “We're losing games, but our basketball has not been bad basketball. It's been not good enough to win basketball, which happens in the NBA every night. Just because you lose doesn't mean you don't play good basketball.”
The numbers don't really back him up, especially defensively. Sacramento has allowed 111.3 points per 100 possessions during this 1-7 stretch, 6.4 more than it was giving up in its first 43 games.
“Biggest thing, I guess we've got to find a better energy and effort as a team,” said DeMarcus Cousins, who said after Friday's loss that the team had a “bigger issue than just energy and effort” but wouldn't elaborate.
“We've got to find a solution, because right now whatever we're doing isn't working.”
The Cavs' solution to being in first place in the Eastern Conference was to fire David Blatt after a season and a half of reports of locker room tension, and the jury is still out through nine games since Tyronn Lue has taken over. They're 6-3 after bouncing back from back-to-back defeats with Saturday's 99-84 win over New Orleans.
“We need to win every time we play, but coming off those two losses we had to show our mental toughness and understand we have to take care of home floor,” said Kyrie Irving, who had 29 points to bump his average over the past six games to 24.7.
Saturday's victory came without Kevin Love, who suffered a bruised left thigh a night earlier against Boston but will return for this one. Matthew Dellavedova has missed the last three with a sore left hamstring, and his status is unclear.
The Kings have their own injury concerns heading into Monday's game. Rudy Gay missed Sunday's loss with a left ankle sprain and Ben McLemore sat with a sprained right wrist.
Sacramento might not be the only team disillusioned by Karl these days. The coach provided the Cavaliers a bit of bulletin-board material before Sunday's loss, saying that he thought Boston – which bested Cleveland on a buzzer-beater Friday – could “have a chance” against the Cavs in a playoff series.
Cousins had 26 points, 13 boards and four steals in a home win over Cleveland last season that LeBron James missed, while James, Love and Irving combined for 63 in a 101-90 victory at Quicken Loans Arena.
James-led teams have gone 14-1 in their last 15 against the Kings.