McConnell, Saint Mary's hold on against Broncos


McConnell, Saint Mary's hold on against Broncos


SANTA CLARA (AP) Mickey McConnell scored 25 points, Rob Jones had 10 points and a season-high 16 rebounds and Saint Mary's, Calif., overcame a long shooting slump in the second half to beat Santa Clara 65-59 on Thursday night.Mitchell Young added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Gaels, who made only one basket over the final 12:45 but made up for it by going 20-for-24 at the free throw line in the second half.That helped Saint Mary's (21-4, 9-1) stay in first place in the West Coast Conference and sets up a showdown Saturday at San Francisco. The surprising Dons are only 1 12 games back. Kevin Foster scored 25 points and broke his own school record of 85 3-pointers in a season by sinking four. Foster now has 87, but he couldn't get Santa Clara (15-11, 5-4 WCC) over the hump after the Broncos led by 10 early.

Kings aim to build solid foundation under Joerger once and for all


Kings aim to build solid foundation under Joerger once and for all

Matthew 7 verse 24-27: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Not to get biblical on anyone, but the parable above is a perfect metaphor for the the Sacramento Kings. For years, they have built their house on sand only to watch it all wash away when the rains come. And the rains always come, that is the NBA world.

The Kings have tried a new approach this season. They are counting on head coach Dave Joerger to build their new house on a rock. A foundation of defensive principles mixed with a structured offensive system built to withstand the ebbs and flows of a normal NBA season.

In order to create this new foundation in Sacramento, Joerger and his staff almost had to turn their sneakers and workout gear for loafers and blazers. This is basketball academia and the Kings are going to need plenty of time in the study hall.

“The one thing I noticed out of coach Joerger, was he was teaching,” former Kings guard turned CSN analyst Doug Christie told the Kings Insider Podcast. “He has the floor. He was going through things and talking through things and they would run through it. And all of the sudden they would stop, and he would teach again.”

What Christie describes from the first week of training camp is coaching 101. But for many of these players, they’ve never seen something like this. Center DeMarcus Cousins is entering his seventh NBA season and Joerger is his sixth head coach.

Whether the coaches before Joerger were quality or not, none of them have tried the robust task of introducing such a refined system. And so the Kings coach must start at the very beginning with a mixed bag roster that will look substantially different at the trade deadline, next summer and even the summer after that.

The hope is that the foundation will survive. A core must be developed to carry the system from one iteration of Kings players to the next. Whether the youth of the team -- Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis -- are part of that core is yet to be determined.

But what is known, is that for the first time in a while, a head coach has been brought and given free run of the house. When Joerger signed a 4-year, $16 million deal this summer after leaving the Memphis Grizzlies, it was to build a program, not just take over the reigns from the outgoing George Karl.

To make matters more complex, Joerger is trying to go from a free flowing system to something very regimented. He is a system guy. And many of his players either played with Karl last season in Sacramento or under Karl in Denver. Right or wrong, Joerger has to break his players of their previous habits and install new directives.   

“You’re just trying to keep building and we just keep working at it and guys are trying to make a change from one system to another system and it’s always difficult no matter what the system,” Joerger told CSN California.

Joerger left a veteran team where four of his core players had played together for six seasons. That is not a luxury he has in Sacramento. Outside of Cousins, no player has been on the roster more than three seasons. Continuity of coaches aren’t the only issues that the Kings players have faced.

After losing to the Clippers Tuesday night at the Golden 1 Center, Joerger pointed to this exact issue.

“We’re not saying we want to be like the Clippers, we want to be like all those teams, where we can keep our guys together long-term and build that chemistry and build your system,” Joerger said. “We’re trying to run something that we’ve been working on for two-weeks. They’re running stuff they’ve been running for six years.”

Before coming to the Kings, Rudy Gay had spent time with Joerger in Memphis when he was an assistant coach. They know each other well, but this is different. This is the first time Gay has worked with Joerger as a frontman. While the experience is new, the veteran wing appreciates the system being implemented, even if he doesn’t know how long his stay in Sacramento will be.

“It’s not difficult at all, this is what I prefer,” Gay said following practice earlier this week. “I prefer structure. My whole career I’ve had structure and that’s what I prefer and what I excel in.”

Gay has made it known that he would like a new basketball home, but it has nothing to do with Joerger or his system. He has seen the value of structure in his previous stops and he has also seen what a free flowing system can do. He even had a message for his teammates on the subject.

“Whether they like it or not, it works,” Gay said.

Joerger ran a 147-99 record in three seasons in Memphis. He led the Grizzlies to the playoffs in all three seasons, a place the Kings haven’t been in a decade. He has a tried and true system that even the Kings’ young players are drawn to.

“Joerger’s (system) is all about reading, it’s just making your basketball IQ higher,” Cauley-Stein told CSN California. “It’s really teaching me the game.”

Cauley-Stein, who just had his third-year option picked up by the team on Friday, is trying to transition from John Calipari’s style at Kentucky, to Karl’s system in his rookie season, and now to Joerger’s game plan.

“It’s not tough, it’s just different,” Cauley-Stein said of the transition. “You just have to get used to it. I like it better honestly. More structure. A reason why you’re running something instead of just free playing pickup.”

The reaction from the rest of the roster has been similar. From Cousins’, “I love it, I love it, I love it,” quote to veteran Anthony Tolliver, who is new to the team, but fully on board with the structured system.

“If you’re used to playing free-flowing and not calling plays everytime, to calling plays every time and being more organized, honestly, I prefer being in a system like this,” Tolliver said. “I just feel like things are more predictable. I feel like everyone stays involved more and the ball moves better.”

Tolliver’s experience is similar to what Cauley-Stein is seeing. Free flowing can often mean isolation or exclusionary. As role players in this system, it’s important that you are prepared to be a viable part of the offense, not just a pawn.

“You’re alway touching the ball, you always get to make a pass, you get a chance to make plays, it’s fun to play like that,” Cauley-Stein said. “You don’t get stuck in the dunkers zone or stuck in on the baseline and watch them play 4-on-4.”

For Joerger, it’s a tough transition. He is used to rolling out a small group of newbies and have his veterans there to help drive home the point. He now has a collection of players that have either played in a completely different system or are new to the team.

“I just keep telling myself - ‘stay on task, stay on task, stay on task,’” Joerger said. “That means being demanding on what’s important to us, how we go about our business, how we practice everyday. Stay on task.”

There will be good nights and bad as the Kings move through the 2016-17 season. Some nights everything will click and they will have no issues competing. Other nights they will win on talent alone. Don’t discount how dominant a players like Cousins and Gay can be. Lastly, there will be those nights when fans boo and they get run out of the gym. This is the NBA and the level of talent is incredible. Chemistry and cohesion take time. A new system will take time. The Kings will once again ask for patience. They’ll ask you to look at the big picture.

Joerger will stay on task. Cousins will roam the high post. But nothing is guaranteed. They are trying to building on rock this time and not sand. It’s not exactly a new concept, but a novel one in Sacramento.

Will it work? A look at some NBA free agent deals of note

Will it work? A look at some NBA free agent deals of note

MIAMI -- Out of the nearly $4 billion worth of new contracts that were signed this offseason, some of them seem fairly certain to benefit the team that's laying out the money.

Kevin Durant, he makes Golden State even better.

LeBron James, he's worth every penny to Cleveland.

Not every deal is a lock to work, and here's a look at 10 contracts that were executed in recent months where it could be argued there's a fair amount of risk involved.



Left: Atlanta

Signed with: Boston, 4 years, $113 million

Horford has never averaged 20 points, but he'll now average more than $26 million in salary. The Celtics have raved about this move since they got it done this summer, and Horford knows that with this kind of salary comes enormous responsibility - especially in Boston, where fans are starved for a return to the NBA's elite level.

Outlook: It only works if Horford delivers a title.



Stayed with Miami, 4 years, $98 million

He made $980,000 last season and is now assured of making 100 times that much over the next four years. The question with Whiteside throughout the will-they-or-won't-they decision process in Miami was whether he could be trusted with that kind of money. The Heat not only believe it, but ultimately they wound up needing Whiteside because of the Chris Bosh saga.

Outlook: He has a skillset like few others in the game, and $98 million was what the market bore.



Left: Golden State

Signed with: Dallas, 4 years, $94 million

Dallas missed on a number of big free-agent targets in recent years, then wound up taking Barnes this summer. There was no room left for Barnes in Golden State, and he parlayed passing on a $64 million deal in 2015 into one worth much more now. It's still Dirk Nowitzki's team and will stay that way, but Barnes will have to play at a very high level to make this seem like a win.

Outlook: He struggled in the preseason, and the money will bring big pressure. He will have show he can handle that pressure.



Left: Chicago

Signed with: New York, 4 years, $73 million

He played in only 29 games last season, had no rhythm on the floor and couldn't shoot. A change of scenery might help, but he turns 32 in February. His best game last season was 21 points and 10 rebounds - against the Knicks, which explain why they came running with checkbook wide open.

Outlook: The Knicks aren't worried about the money. They need to worry about his durability.



Left: Miami

Signed with: Los Angeles Lakers, 4 years, $72 million

When Deng came to Miami two years ago there were questions about how much more he had left in the tank. But Deng had consecutive good seasons with the Heat, and even flourished when he got moved to power forward last February when Miami lost Chris Bosh again. He can still play, and more importantly to the Lakers, he can lead.

Outlook: A young core can learn plenty from Deng, which makes that deal money well spent.



Left: Toronto

Signed with: Orlando, 4 years, $72 million

He's coming off a career year, so that's good. Alas, that career year was him scoring 5.5 points per game. He doesn't have an outside game, isn't good from the foul line and isn't exactly a dominating shot-blocker. But he can rebound, and his big games in last season's playoffs - eight double-digit board games, including a 26-rebound night against Cleveland in the East finals - revealed all his potential.

Outlook: Orlando had the money, and knows it wasn't getting a 20-10 guy. But he'll need to do more to make it all worthwhile.



Left: Houston

Signed with: Atlanta, 3 years, $70.5 million

Howard essentially replaces Al Horford and gets to go home to Atlanta. The Hawks are good but not great, and really, the same can be said about Howard now. A look at the scoring numbers - 13.7 points per game last season - suggests a decline, but that was moreso based on him taking fewer shots than at any point in the last decade.

Outlook: Losing Horford meant Atlanta had to do something, and playing in his hometown could invigorate the sometimes-enigmatic Howard.



Left: Miami

Signed with: Chicago, 2 years, $47 million

Wade cherished Miami and Miami cherished Wade. But years and years of little problems eventually turned into a mess that couldn't be solved, and Wade went to his hometown in one of the more surprising moves of the summer. He turns 35 this season and has been hearing the he's-in-decline argument for years. But he keeps silencing doubters, and has plenty of motivation.

Outlook: His jersey will sell, he'll excite the Chicago fan base and he'll probably coax more out of Jimmy Butler. Hall of Famers are worth the cash.



Left: Chicago

Signed with: San Antonio, 2 years, $32 million

The Spurs love international players, love players who can do multiple things well and love players who understand that a perfect pass means more than any highlight. It's almost like Gasol is a perfect fit, especially now that San Antonio has lost the retired Tim Duncan. (And at 36, he makes the Spurs younger.) Gasol is still a double-double machine and fantastic from the foul line.

Outlook: There's 50 or so players making more than Gasol this season. There aren't 50 better players. Spurs got a steal.



Left: Los Angeles Lakers

Signed with: Charlotte, 1 year, $5 million

Hibbert's game vanished last season, and there were 27 games in which he had at least as many fouls as he did points. But the Hornets realized they needed some help up front, and at 7-foot-2 Hibbert at least provides an imposing frame. Being on a third team in as many seasons isn't ideal, but here's why this one might work - Charlotte's associate head coach under Steve Clifford is a Georgetown guy like Hibbert, named Patrick Ewing.

Outlook: Ewing gets a project, one that comes a low financial risk for Michael Jordan's club.