Kings look to brush eight-game skid against Celtics


Kings look to brush eight-game skid against Celtics

Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics had been playing well even with the distraction of the trade deadline looming.Now that it's come and gone with his team still intact, Garnett will try to lead the Celtics to another win over the struggling Sacramento Kings on Friday night.After scoring 21 points in a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, Garnett had a team-leading 24 in a 105-103 win over Golden State on Wednesday, including the tiebreaking jumper with 5.1 seconds left.Brandon Bass added a season-high 22 points as the Celtics improved to 2-1 on their eight-game road trip, which ends March 23 in Philadelphia.Garnett scored 12 in the fourth quarter while finishing one shy of his season high. He's averaged 17.6 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 56.4 percent in 11 games since taking over as the starting center for the injured Jermaine O'Neal."He's been unbelievable this run," coach Doc Rivers told the league's official website. "Since he's been at the 5, he's been absolutely sensational for us."Rivers' team overcame 18 turnovers and a 52.6-percent shooting performance from the Warriors on Wednesday to win for the eighth time in 10 games."It's good for the team. It's good for our confidence," forward Paul Pierce said. "It shows we can win when we don't play well. We played defense when it mattered. That's what was most important."Boston (23-19) will get to build on that effort with its top players still on the team after the team stayed quiet at Thursday's trade deadline. Point guard Rajon Rondo was one of those who was in trade rumors, most notably with the Los Angeles Lakers.Rondo has averaged 11.3 assists over his past 10 games and has totaled 41 in the last three meetings with Sacramento, loser of three in a row after a 2-0 start to its nine-game homestand.Boston has prevailed in eight consecutive matchups with the Kings, winning by an average of 17.0 points, but the past two in Sacramento were decided by a combined eight.The Kings (14-29), though, were beaten by a combined 38 points in their last two games. They gave up 40 in the third quarter during a 124-112 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, the most in any period this season."You're not going to win a game if you give up 40 points," rookie guard Isaiah Thomas said.Three Sacramento players topped 20 points in that defeat, including Jason Thompson with a season-best 21 and 15 rebounds. Thomas also scored 21, three shy of his career high.Tyreke Evans had a team-best 23 points but left in the fourth quarter after injuring his ankle on a hard fall. He's listed as day-to-day.His potential absence could be a big problem for a Sacramento team which has averaged just 84.1 points in the last eight meetings with Boston.The Kings have allowed an average of 115.0 points during their three-game skid after giving up 98 or fewer during wins over New Orleans and Dallas to start their homestand.

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.

Kings exercise option on Willie Cauley-Stein


Kings exercise option on Willie Cauley-Stein

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings announced today the team has exercised its third-year option on center Willie Cauley-Stein, according to Kings Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Vlade Divac. 

Cauley-Stein is entering his second season with the Kings after being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. An All-Rookie Second Team honoree last season, Cauley-Stein registered 7.0 points (.563 FG%, .648 FT%), 5.3 rebounds and 1.00 blocks in 21.4 minutes per contest over 66 games played (started 39) in 2015-16.

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