There's a good chance it's eating at you more than it is some of the players themselves, which isn't good. One of the regular beat writers who covers them called them out Tuesday for how blithely they are handling a spate of ugly outcomes.
"To be honest with you, I'm seeing a lot of laughing and joking after losses, and it's something that really confuses me," Darnell Mayberry of the Athletic told the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 the Score. "They can go out there and lose to Cleveland -- and I was there for that game and in the locker room -- and it just seems like it doesn't affect these guys the way it should when they are losing to teams they are clearly better than."
Before you argue that such reactions don't matter, keep in mind that caring deeply is central to the philosophy of their coach. Jim Boylen is less about tactics like taking timeouts or substituting personnel or managing specific in-game situations than he is concepts of heart, soul and spirit, always pushing his players to want it more and care more, as would a college football strength coach.
"And I'll give you another example," Mayberry continued. "The Indiana game, when they're missing three of their starters, three of their four best players in Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. They go out there and lose that game, and you just don't get the sense that it really affects them. When you drop games the way that they're dropping them, when you lose to the teams that they're losing to, that's when it seems like it should hurt these guys way more than it appears to be hurting them, and that's where there seems to be a disconnect between the results and their reaction after the games."
You demand that he name names? He named names. And he even broadened his assertion to include how a blasé attitude then also manifests on the floor.
"You've got certain guys who you can see are really hungry, who are really passionate and really care and want to try to get the thing right," Mayberry said. "And then there's certain other guys, and I'll start with the two most talented players -- Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. There are moments when you see them try to do the right thing and play the right way, and there are other times when they kind of look disinterested. Until everyone is on the same page, it's going to be a struggle, and I don't know how the coaching staff fixes that problem."
The coach who literally installed an actual punch-clock at the practice facility has already burned his call-out-the-players card too, publicly decrying their lack of preparedness, effort and readiness to play after just the seven-game mark. You really shouldn't do that ever at this level of the game, but if you do, it's a desperate breaking of the glass in case of emergency, and there's no trying to come close to it again. So that's where we are, with Thanksgiving still two weeks out. To say such warnings are ominous is to put it mildly.
"This is mid-November," Mayberry said. "We still have 72 games left. So if you're not getting it now and these losses continue to pile up, how are these players going to respond if they are 6-14 and the losses keep coming at this same pace? It's going to be hard to keep this group of guys together. It's a slippery slope at that point."