|Kings host Lakers following narrow loss to Thunder|
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- With about seven weeks left, the Sacramento Kings are settling in for more of what figures to be too many nights of losing. They knew they'd have a lot of them even before they embarked on year one of their ground-up rebuild.
More important to the organization is the progress they make toward winning, and players, coaches and management agree that it starts with effort.
To that end, head coach Dave Joerger wouldn't mind seeing 24 more games with the intensity Sacramento showed in its first game after the break. He'd just rather see it for all four quarters.
"Really proud of our guys," Joerger told reporters Thursday after the Kings resumed their season with a 110-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on a Russell Westbrook 3-pointer at the buzzer. "Went toe-to-toe with one of the premier teams in the league."
On Saturday, Sacramento (18-40) hosts the Los Angeles Lakers (24-34) at the Golden 1 Center. Los Angeles, coming off a 124-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, snapped a three-game losing streak but is not considered as lofty a bunch as Oklahoma City.
Which is why the Kings will pay as much attention to whether they can carry the momentum of their final three quarters Wednesday -- when they erased a 44-21 deficit dug in the first 12 minutes -- as they will the result.
"We fought," center Zach Randolph told reporters after the game. "We've got to come out like that to start the game."
Slow starts have been a problem all year at home, and it's been especially costly lately. The Kings have lost 10 of their past 12 on the home floor and have won only eight times in 26 contests there all season. They play their next two and seven of their next eight at home.
The Kings have not said whether they will have rookie point guard De'Aaron Fox back after he missed Thursday's contest with pink eye. He's averaging 11.3 points and a team-best 4.3 assists.
The status of center Kosta Koufos (illness) is also iffy. The Kings did welcome back forward Skal Labissiere (10 points in 27 minutes) and guard Frank Mason (six points in 16 minutes) after lengthy absences.
The Lakers returned to action surrounded a bit by controversy. According to Yahoo, rookie Kyle Kuzma emerged in documents tied to an FBI investigation that alleges several current and former college basketball players received money from an agent while in college. Kuzma, the Lakers' second-leading scorer (15.6 points per game) had not commented before the Lakers resumed action against Dallas.
"Everybody knows everybody is getting paid. That's just how it is," rookie Lonzo Ball told the Los Angeles Times before the contest. "Everybody is getting paid anyway, you might as well make it legal. ... (Kuzma is in the NBA now. He really don't care. Whatever happened is in the past. Now he's just living the life."
Kuzma finished with 12 points in the Lakers' victory over Dallas. Ball also played for the first time since Jan. 13, adding nine points in 17 minutes off the bench.
Guard Isaiah Thomas finished with 17 points and four assists against the Mavericks in his first home game since being acquired from Cleveland on Feb. 8. Thomas is averaging 19.4 points and 6.6 assists in seven career games against the Kings, the team for which he played three seasons after being drafted by them in 2011.