The first external test for the new look Sacramento Kings takes place today in Vancouver versus the Toronto Raptors.
With DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay as the only pieces clearly locked in on the depth chart, many questions remain for Sacramento.
"It’s not always about the five best players. It's about the group that plays best together,” second year head coach Michael Malone said.
He added, “This group has done a much better job of policing each other and holding each other accountable.”
Delivering quality minutes for 18 guys is impossible and Malone indicated he would meet with his staff to discuss the rotation for tonight’s tilt to see how different combinations perform.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Malone’s goals for tonight - “Compete and execute.”
To ensure the Kings are executing, the coach cited Sacramento being 23rd in the NBA last season with over 15 turnovers per game and Charlotte as the best with just under 13 TO.
Therefore, under 13 turnovers is the goal.
Defensively, holding the opponent to below 44% shooting will land a team in the top six or seven in the NBA, and from January 1st to the end of the season, the Kings were 12th in the NBA at 45%.
Malone would like to keep opponents to 43%, which could lead the league.
“It’ not just the X’s and the O’s, it’s also the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s.”
With only five returning players from last year’s training camp, the Kings are simultaneously developing an identity in addition to performing on the floor.
“I coached Darren Collison before (in New Orleans)… Ramon Sessions, Nik Stauskas, Omri Casspi, Ryan Hollins - we have so many new faces," Malone said. "It’s not just about offense, defense and X’s and O’s, the more importantly thing is relationships, building a bond and a trust.”
After playing Toronto twice in 48 hours in Vancouver and Sacramento, the Kings will play Brooklyn twice in international fashion. “China is long trip but a great opportunity for the team to bond,” according to Malone.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
Toronto is coming off a 4-3 first round playoff series loss to Brooklyn last year. DeMar DeRozan was a Team USA teammate of DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay on the FIBA World Cup Gold Medal squad.
Clearly tonight and the six exhibition games are more about the Kings establishing an identity than it is about the opposition.
DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum are the five returning players from last year’s Kings training camp.