If Monday night's win over the Los Angeles Lakers was the early flash of raw potential for the Kings, Tuesday night's loss at Portland was the reminder that there is still learning to be done.
Coach Paul Westphal said Wednesday the Kings' offense stalled in the second half of their 101-79 loss to Portland after the Trail Blazers began taking away the first option in their offensive sets.
Westphal said the Kings haven't fully grasped how to adapt to that kind of situation.
The team's practice session on its off-day was light on action and heavy on instruction, with coaches taking an active role in demonstrations.
"It's not that the team doesn't want to run the offense, it just isn't second nature to them yet," Westphal said. "They don't quite know what to do (when a play breaks down), so the default position is, 'I've got to take my man one-on-one.'
"We understand that, and some times it's better than others," he said. "But once we understand where the backdoors are, and that if they take away this it means they're giving us something else, it'll be beautiful to watch. But in the meantime it can be ugly."
The learning curve, of course, must be navigated on the fly. After struggling against Portland's stout defense, the Kings turn around tonight and play one of the league's best defensive teams in the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls (1-1) led the league last season in opponents' shooting percentage, and were the NBA's second-best team in terms of points allowed. They return four of their starters, plus the addition of 6-foot-7 Richard Hamilton at shooting guard.
Kings players agree they resorted too quickly to one-on-one matchups when the Trail Blazers knocked them out of their offense. Guard Tyreke Evans, who was held to just four points against Portland and had five turnovers, was candid when asked what the preferred reaction would be.
"I mean, you're supposed to screen and cut and pass, but like I said, training camp, I think guys, we don't really know the plays that well," Evans said. "So it's something we've just got to worry about keep getting better at."
Forward John Salmons said it's hard to develop a timeline for players to absorb the offense.
"It depends on individuals, each individual how fast we pick it up," he said. "Just got to continue to keep working on it in practice every day."
The Kings are certainly not alone in exhibiting growing pains following the short training camp.
The Bulls, who lost 99-91 to the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, have allowed their two opponents this season to shoot a combined 47.1 percent from the field and needed a game-winning runner from guard Derrick Rose to beat the Lakers on Christmas.
The Kings had 20 turnovers and just 11 assists against the Trail Blazers, and they shot 9 of 38 from the field in the second half.
Guard Marcus Thornton, though, said he doesn't see reason for concern this early in the season.
"I think we just got away from what we were doing the second half," Thornton said. "We have to stick together even more, trust each other even more, and run the offense. It's early, but that's no excuse."