Kings set sights on Warriors, Bay Area bragging rights


Kings set sights on Warriors, Bay Area bragging rights

The Golden State Warriors got the job done in their first home game in more than two weeks.

A stop in Sacramento could produce similar results.

Off to their best start in 21 years, the Warriors will try to win for the 15th time in 19 games Wednesday night against the lowly Kings.

Playing in Oakland for the first time in 15 days, Golden State (17-8) held off Western Conference-worst New Orleans on Tuesday with a 103-96 victory. The Warriors closed on an 11-4 run in their first game back from a 6-1 stretch against the East - their first trip with that many victories.

"One of the hardest games in the NBA to play is your first game back at home after a road trip," forward David Lee said after scoring 26 points with nine rebounds. "I've been through too much losing to be disappointed in a win."

The Warriors, off to their best start since the 1991-92 team opened 21-8, will now try to improve their 10-5 road record and avoid a sweep in California's capital. Going for its first 3-0 road start since 1994-95 - and trying to spoil Sacramento's home opener - Golden State lost 94-92 on Nov. 5.

The Kings (7-17) were able to avoid an 0-4 start with that victory, but they're riding a season high-tying five-game skid into this contest.

Sacramento has lost by at least 10 points each time during that stretch following Monday's 101-90 defeat at Phoenix. The Kings led by as many as 19.

"I thought this was a night to steal one on the road after a game last night (a 122-97 home loss to Denver)," Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. "I thought they did everything the right way up until things started to go haywire in the second half."

The third quarter has been especially troublesome in the last two games as the Kings have been outscored by an average of 14.5 points.

"It's kind of disheartening," point guard Aaron Brooks said Monday after the Suns went on a 26-4 run that started late in the first half.

Another concern for Sacramento is the health of Tyreke Evans, who has missed six of the last 10 games with a pair of different knee injuries. It's uncertain if he'll return after sitting out Monday's contest.

The Kings, though, should have guard Marcus Thornton back after he was away from the team for four games to be with his ill mother in Louisiana.

Thornton had 16 points in the Nov. 5 victory while Evans shot 1 of 9 to finish with three points.

Whoever is in Sacramento's backcourt could have their hands full with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who lead all NBA duos with 129 3-pointers.

Thompson hit three 3s and scored a team-high 22 points against the Kings last month, while Curry hit two from long range and finished with 12 and eight assists. Curry missed a 3-point attempt as time expired as Golden State lost for the seventh time in 10 trips to Sacramento.

Lee, who had 20 points and a season-low six rebounds in that contest, will try to start a new double-double streak after he just missed his eighth straight Tuesday. He did, however, finish with at least 20 points for a ninth consecutive game.

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins could set a career high with a fifth consecutive double-double at home. Cousins has averaged 22.8 points and 16.3 rebounds in his last four in this series after finishing with 23 and 15 last month.

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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