Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lessons learned part of process for young Kings

The Sacramento Kings are in the midst of an overhaul and coach Paul Westphal realizes keeping life real is more important to their growth than worrying about their feelings.

Tuesday night, they open the 2010 preseason at home against the Phoenix Suns, so things are about to get real. Well, as real as the preseason can get.

Reality comes in different shapes and forms to different people. The Kings will open the regular-season as one of the NBA’s youngest teams.

They’ll also be one of the most inexperienced. Only six of the current Kings were here for 2009 training camp.

Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi were rookies last season. Now they are relative Kings veterans just because they’ve been here before – once.

Westphal said Saturday he read a quote from Utah coach Jerry Sloan describing his Jazz players. Westphal liked the message, so he brought the sentiment to his players.

Sloan told the Salt Lake Tribune, “At this stage, they’re probably a little but tired, but I don’t really care. From that standpoint, they should be in better shape when they get here. If you’re going to spend your time getting conditioned in training camp, then you’re probably going to be trying to play catch-up the biggest part of the time.”

Westphal was not dogging his team in any manner. In fact, following Saturday’s long afternoon workout, he spoke of how his team had been fortunate to have few players miss practice.

He was asked how his team was holding up physically.

“Pretty well, really,” he said. “Five days of training camp, a lot of times you can expect more missed practices than we’ve had. They are tired and they are sore, but that’s to be expected.”

Said Westphal of Sloan's quote, “I read that and told that to our young guys today. That’s the way it is. If you don’t come (into camp) in great shape, don’t complain about being sore. It’s time to pay the piper.”

The NBA season is a long, long journey and it’s conceivable the Kings will begin the regular season with seven players (possibly more) with fewer than three seasons of experience.

Center Samuel Dalembert, acquired this summer from Philadelphia, is the most experienced with eight NBA seasons. Beno Udrih is next with six and Francisco Garcia is entering his fifth season.

Conversely, Boston’s Shaquille O’Neal has 18 years of NBA experience all by his large lonesome.

So, many of the team’s key performers will balance the positives of younger legs against on-the-job education.

One of the lessons Westphal hopes his players acquire is respect for the game. All the players truly need to do research the fervor and aggression with which Westphal and assistant coaches, Mario Elie and Leonard (Truck) Robinson played the game.

Check out the sideline antics of 80-year-old assistant coach Pete Carril. He could be a veritable mad man when his passion and competitive nature was unleashed.

Sloan’s Utah teams usually display his intensity. It’s one reason why Sloan ranks among Westphal’s most respected coaches.

“There are a couple of coaches that I think really respect the game in a way I admire,” the Kings coach said. “(Those are) Larry Brown and Jerry Sloan.

“Both of them, I think, would rather have a game called correctly than in their favor. At the same time, they’d fight for every advantage they could get. They love the game and they have a good perspective about competition.

“I don’t want to slight anybody else, but those guys have been around for a long time and I think it’s because they have such a great love for the game.

They’d do anything to win, but at the end of the game, they’d shake your hand and mean it.”


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