SACRAMENTO -- The Kings paid handsomely for veterans during the summer months with two ideas in mind. First, most experienced NBA players understand their roles. Secondly, the can help steady the ship during difficult times.
Four games into the regular season and the Kings have hit difficult times.
Harrison Barnes hasn't shied away from speaking his mind on the struggles of the Kings during their 0-4 start. On Tuesday afternoon, 16-year veteran Trevor Ariza made his opinion known as well.
"We just lacked effort the first three games, that's all there is to it," Ariza said,
It's a simple statement. It also points fingers at everyone in the room.
Effort is the one thing that a player can control. They can't will a shot in. They can't make a coach play them a certain number of minutes. They can't predict when an ankle will roll or a thumb will break.
"It shouldn't (an issue), but it happens, it happens with everybody, no matter how long you've been in the league - short time or long time," Ariza said. "There's always a switch that turns on at some point where you tell yourself, okay, the thing that I can control is the effort. When you figure that out, everything else just falls into place."
With over 1000 regular season NBA games under his belt, Ariza knows about the ebbs and flows of an 82-game season. While it's not unusual to struggle during a long campaign, to see it come out in the first few games of a regular season is jarring.
Head coach Luke Walton can try to light a fire under his squad, but it's players like Ariza that need to step up and make an impact with the team behind the scenes. Sacramento needs the voice of a veteran leader and Ariza is the elder statesman of the team.
"I'm comfortable in my skin anywhere and everywhere," Ariza said about speaking up behind the scenes.
While he has no problem speaking out, his personality might be to have more one-on-one conversations, instead of making an impassioned speech to rally the team.
"I'm a laid-back dude, period, but I can be vocal, if need be," Ariza added. "I'm a chameleon of sorts."
Like most of the team, Ariza has struggled to find his game early in the season. He's taking a step back in minutes played, but he's also shooting just 31.3 percent from the field through four games.
Walton needs Ariza's presence off the bench, both as a scorer and defender, regardless of the number of minutes he plays.
After playing 34 minutes per game last season between stops in Phoenix and Washington, the 34-year-old wing is averaging just over 22 minutes so far with the Kings. In those minutes, he's averaging just four points and 3.5 rebounds a night.
Although winless, the Kings played better against a very good Denver Nuggets team on Monday evening. They looked more like the team that shocked the league last season and won 39 games.
"I think we're at a point where we know what we have to do as a team," Ariza said. "We have to continue to keep each other accountable and continue to go out and execute our game plan."
Walton needs his veterans to play better. He also needs them to keep the young core on the straight and narrow as they navigate a difficult earlier season schedule that has not gone well so far.