SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento Kings have a tall task in front of them. During a condensed training camp that has included a 17,000-mile round trip adventure to India, head coach Luke Walton and his staff have had to install a new base offense and defense while learning personnel and finding combinations that work together on the court.
“It’s a new group, there’s new terminology to learn, there’s new play calls to learn, new concepts to learn and we get that, so it’s going to take time,” Walton explained following practice on Saturday afternoon.
The Kings have plenty of scoring options and they will continue to play an uptempo style, so the coaching staff has prioritized the defensive side of the ball. In addition to preaching concepts, Walton and his staff have placed a heavy emphasis on communication during every practice.
“Off the court, everybody is fine with each other, but on the court, everybody is starting to talk a little bit more and that communication is the big difference from we had last year,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said.
Communication was a huge issue for Sacramento last season when the team allowed 115.3 points per game and finished 20th in the league in defensive rating. To combat the issue, the coaching staff is using some old-school methods to drive the point home.
“They’re always stopping the practice when we are not communicating well and when we are not loud,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said.
The Kings made defensive upgrades at crucial positions, including at the backup point guard, backup small forward and starting center spots. The added size and length will allow them to expand their defensive playbook to include a switching defense.
“We are really big athletes and we have length, speed and we can guard — one through four — anyone in the league,” Bogdanovic said. “I think we are pretty talented to switch and I like it.”
In order to run a switching scheme, Walton first had to install a base defense and then expand from there. Communication and chemistry are imperative when handing opponents off from one player to the next, and the team is working on those areas every day.
“I think it’s definitely building,” Fox said. “We have a lot of new guys this year and an entirely new coaching staff, so the chemistry is definitely building, but I don’t think it’s at a bad place right now.”
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It’s going to be a work in progress, which the team learned in the back-to-back games against the Indiana Pacers in India. Sacramento gave up a combined 262 points over the two games before heading home to face the Suns earlier this week.
“Obviously the first two games we didn’t play defense the way we wanted,” Bogdanovic added. “We showed improvement in the game against Phoenix here and that’s the way we want to play.”
Sacramento held the Suns to just 88 points on 31.4 percent shooting. The Kings also outrebounded their opponent 59-43, which was another tremendous improvement.
It should be noted that the Suns won 19 games last season. They are nowhere near the quality of opponent of a team like the Pacers, but they are still an NBA team with plenty of scoring options.
The Kings get another shot to test how far they have progressed on Monday when they travel to Utah to face a very difficult Jazz team. They aren’t expecting to be perfect, but it’s another opportunity to improve.
“Are we anywhere close to where we need to be?” Walton said. “No, we’re nowhere close. But to me, that’s to be expected. We don’t want to speed up the process and try to rush anything. We know we’re on a journey as a team.”
Following the game against the Jazz, the Kings close out their preseason schedule at Golden 1 Center with a game against Melbourne United on Wednesday. They’ll then have an additional week to further work out the kinks in preparation for the season opener against the Suns on Oct. 23.