The Minnesota Timberwolves are also in the midst of an awful season, but their future appears to be far more unclear as they seem to be a team in disarray.
A pair of disappointing clubs that appear to be heading in different directions square off when the Kings host the Timberwolves on Sunday night.
It’s been a rough first season in Sacramento for coach Paul Westphal, as his Kings (22-44) have already been eliminated from playoff contention with the Western Conference’s third-worst record. Sacramento, though, has been encouraged by the play of Evans.
The No. 4 overall pick from Memphis has emerged as a top contender for Rookie of the Year, leading all first-year players with 20.1 points per game while averaging 5.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals.
Evans recorded his first triple-double in a 113-90 win over Toronto on Wednesday and had 10 points and 10 rebounds in Friday’s 110-94 loss to Portland. The Trail Blazers didn’t make it easy on Evans, keeping constant pressure on him defensively.
“Square your shoulders and try to shadow him in transition because he is really good going coast-to-coast,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said of guarding Evans.
While the Kings have a legitimate scoring threat that demands the attention of opposing defenses, the conference-worst Timberwolves (14-52) have no such leader.
After falling 110-102 to Denver on Wednesday, the team’s two best players - Al Jefferson(notes) and Kevin Love(notes) - questioned coach Kurt Rambis’ defensive game plan. Love, who sat out Friday’s 103-85 loss to San Antonio with a sprained left foot, also said he was still confused about his role in the offense.
Rambis said he recognized the losses - eight in a row and 14 in the last 15 games - are starting to take their toll.
“They need a win is what they need,” Rambis said. “Guys establish winning attitudes and losing attitudes and right now, our guys feel when things go bad, it’s here we go again.”
Defensive letdowns have been a big problem for Minnesota, which has allowed an average of 111.6 points in the last seven games and is 3-35 when giving up at least 104.
Things haven’t been any better on offense, as Jefferson, who averages a team-best 17.3 points, has been limited to 13 or fewer in six of the last nine games.
The Timberwolves have lost 15 of 17 away from Minnesota and play six of their next seven on the road. They’ve been outscored by an average of 15.7 points in losing three straight in Sacramento, falling 120-100 on Dec. 12.