Friday, October 9, 2015

Kings, Rondo use preseason as learning experience

After watching NBA training camps and preseason games for more than 30 years, it remains a struggle to totally capture the true value of this annual exercise.

Surely, the major goal for all teams, first and foremost is to survive with good health. The comes season preparation on both mental and physical levels. However, a breakdown of those goals are different for players and franchises.

Players want to find and develop a rhythm to their individual games, while coaches basically hope to find upon whom they can depend to perform in given situations. That can mean who will execute offensively and defensively. The preseason also provides opportunities to learn how close a team's off-season player projections are to the ability to perform in a given system.

Thursday night at Sleep Train Arena, in the first of only two home preseason games, veteran Kings coach George Karl used 12 players in a 95-92 victory over the representatives of the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs were playing their first preseason game and were without Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and coach Gregg Popovich. The players reportedly remained in San Antonio for rehabilitation and rest.

These guys must have had exemplary off seasons.

Three games into the six-game preseason schedule, Karl likely knows to whom he'll turn in the regular season. He used 10 of those last night and also gave a little run to David (son of John) Stockton and Seth (brother of Stephen, son of Dell) Curry.

Given the option, Karl would take the performance levels of Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Darren Collison, Marco Belinelli right now. Each appears on schedule to provide consistent production.

If point guard Rajon Rondo consistently provides anything close to the eight-point, eight-rebound, 10-assist, two-steal, 25-minute night he had Thursday, Karl and the organization will feel exceptionally well about paying him less than $10 million this season,

Rondo is a natural playmaker and I'm interested in watching him on a nightly basis in part because of where he's been, what he's gone through and what has been said about him in the media.

While covering the NBA since 1978, Rondo is the only player, much less an integral piece on a championship team, to my knowledge about whom it's been said he played selfishly to build his assist total. I didn't believe it then and don't believe it now.

Rondo has a knack for getting to the basket and helping to create shots for players. His penetration draws defensive attention and his first thought is to pass to the open man.

Rondo tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Jan. 25 in 2013. So we're talking less than two years since the surgery. Only now is he likely approaching whatever his peak physical condition will become.

At his best, Rondo thrived on quickness and his ability to disrupt defensively. If he can approach that form, the Kings will have a steal.

In the minds of many, Rondo must overcome last season's stink. He was traded to Dallas and then sent away from the Mavs after two playoff games and a beef with coach Rick Carlisle. I haven't yet spoken to Rondo about the situation, however, I'm not as high on the coach as most. I believe he's lacking in the player relation category.

Like Rondo, many facets of the Kings must be developed and learned. The educational process should be quite enlightening one way or the other.

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