Dec. 28, 2011
Predicting what to expect from the Sacramento Kings at this juncture of an abbreviated NBA season is a sucker's fantasy.
An improved product is not too much to expect from a young, talented squad led by head coach Paul Westphal. The Kings finished the 2010-11 season with a 24-68 record for a .293 winning percentage.
Westphal admits he doesn't know what to expect from his young squad. His assistant coaches say the team has worked and played hard, but how that translates to the regular season is an unknown.
Initially, the Kings have to create an identity. Who are they? On what are they going to hang their hats? They talk of establishing a defensive focus, but that comes possession by possession, not sentence by sentence.
Heading into tonight's home game against the Chicago Bulls, the Kings (1-1) have shown that improved defensive focus. Actually, the Kings scrambled offense againat Portland Tuesday night consistently put the defense into a trick bag.
Certainly, the re-acquisition of veteran strongman and leader Chuck Hayes has helped.
Hayes brings an understanding of the game's nuances. He has a willingness and know-how to do all the little things most young players will not.
Kings center/forward DeMarcus Cousins said before Hayes had returned that the veteran had begun to support the defense by talking and helping the younger players recognize the need for improved communication.
As much as defense represents an individual devotion to slow your personal assignment, ultimately it's about a team-wide ability and commitment to protect the basket and contest shots.
Currently, the Kings have shown they'll play hard. Now, can a young team also play smart? One without the other breeds inconsistency.
Westphal said Wednesday his team's offensive woes stemmed from a lack of patience and a failure to execute the offense's second and third options. It seems simple to move the ball from one side of the floor to other.
However, teams, not only the Kings, consistently fall prey to defensive pressure early in the possession and quickly jack up shots. Good offenses make opposing defenses work to guard.
Yes, the Kings are virtual neophytes, but back when Sacramento was hanging out atop the Western Conference and had one of the league's most potent offenses, former coach Rick Adelmsn's major lament was his team's offensive impatience and unwillingness to move the ball from side to side.
That was a veteran crew known for its team-wide ball movement. Today's edition is exactly the opposite - young and without an established offensive presence.
These Kings, like their predecessors, play without a traditional pass-first point guard. The two starting guards, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton, are more scorers than playmakers.
However, more of the league's teams have gone that route in recent years. There is more than one way to run an offensive attack.
In order for the Kings to quickly approach their potential, moving the ball to the open man must become an offensive staple. Everybody can get their shots - and good ones, at that - without selfish play.