SACRAMENTO -- Defense, defense, defense. That is the name of the game for the Sacramento Kings as they delve deeper into their inaugural training camp at the Golden 1 Center under head coach Dave Joerger.
“We do defense in the morning and defense at the end of the morning and defense at night and defense at the end of the night,” Joerger said with a smile following Wednesday’s practice. “I hope, I hope it shows. But that’s the mindset. You come and out and ‘what are you about?’ and the first thing we want to be about is, ‘what are we doing defensively?’”
It’s a foreign concept to many of the Kings players after last season, but it’s something they are welcoming with open arms.
Last season the Kings finished dead last in defense, allowing 109.1 points per game. That was partially related to the speed of play, but make no mistake, the Kings were bad at slowing their opposition.
While injuries depleted his roster, Joerger’s Memphis Grizzlies team still managed to hold their opponent to 101.3 point per game, good enough for 11th best in the NBA. They played at a slower pace, but when healthy, they made life extremely difficult on their opponents.
Coach Joerger isn’t coming into this season blind. He’s played against all but the Kings four rookies during his time in the league and there are even a few of his former players on the team’s revamped roster.
[HAM: Kings Camp Day 1: Sacramento flying under the radar]
“For me, it’s just evaluating our crew,” Joerger said. “We’ve got seven new guys, some of the, I’ve known before. I’ve coached Rudy (Gay), I’ve coached Kosta (Koufos), Jordan Farmar and Matt Barnes. But how it all fits together. It’s just a puzzle of who can play well with others in a group and what style best suits that group.”
There are plenty of veteran NBA level players fighting to fit into that puzzle. Versatility might be the hallmark of this roster, but with so many interchangeable piece, the competition for minutes will be fierce.
“It’s going to be a fight, for positioning, for minutes,” Gay said. “That’s what you want out of camp. You want guys to go out there and be competitive.”
Joerger is looking for cohesion and players that buy into his system on both ends of the floor. The Kings are deeper than they have been in a while which opens the door for an intriguing camp.
Free Willie - In his rookie season under George Karl, Cauley-Stein was the team’s designated rim runner. But in the offensive scheme, he was the odd man out. That all changes under Joerger.
For years in Memphis, the Kings new coach relied heavily on big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to run his entire offense through. If Cauley-Stein is going to fit in, he’ll have to show that he can be more than just an ally-oop specialist and put back machine.
“Basically at that position, you have the green light to do whatever,” the second-year big out of Kentucky said. “They just want you to make plays and make the right plays. So that could be anything - shoot, drive, kick, post up. You’ve really got free reign to do whatever.”
Free reign is one thing, but Cauley-Stein has no option. Either he is part of the offense or he will struggle to find minutes in Joerger’s high-post scheme.
“Yeah, it’s not rocket science,” Cauley-Stein said when asked if he was ready for a bigger role. “It’s just being able to make reads and be athletic, so that kind of goes with my strengths.”
Darren Collison still in limbo - The Kings are bracing for bad news, but they have no idea when it’s coming. Joerger was asked again about the impending suspension of point guard Darren Collison and he has no update. He’s hoping to know sooner rather than later, but the fate of Collison is strictly in the hands of the NBA at this point.