As this season ends for the Kings, Keith Smart is relishing something that he hasn't had in previous stints as an NBA head coach certainty.
The Kings in March picked up Smart's contract option for 2012-13, meaning Smart can use this offseason in a way he sees fit to prepare the Kings for next season knowing he will be back.
"That's why I'm excited," Smart said before the Kings' season finale Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers. "I'm excited because I can hit the ground running with ideas, ideas that I know are going to help our basketball team."
Smart said he already has begun meeting with players to present them with offseason plans for improving their skills and conditioning. He will spend the first 10 days of the offseason watching film of this season and making notes that can be presented to players during offseason visits.
"I can go into any environment now with our guys saying this is what we need to do, this is what I need your conditioning to be by this date, have you been working on your shot, let me take a look at you and see how the shot looks, all those little things," Smart said.
Players will have several weeks before coaches begin getting in touch with them to schedule the visits, Smart said.
"The question for us is, are you committed to what we're going to do?" he said. "If you're committed to what we're trying to get done, then you're going to be where you need to be when we come down and see you."
Priorities straight Smart said he wasn't surprised by Kobe Bryant's decision to sit out Thursday's game, thereby conceding the league scoring title to Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant.
"What does he need a scoring title for?" Smart said. "He doesn't care about that anymore. He's a bigger-prize guy."
Bryant would have needed to score 38 points against the Kings to overtake Durant for the scoring crown.
With the Lakers starting their playoff run this weekend, Los Angeles coach Mike Brown said Bryant made the decision to sit out.
"There was no question in his mind," Brown said. "Not one time did he even hint to me that he was going to play."
Ambi-passer Kings guard Isaiah Thomas said that chief among his projects for the offseason is working on passing with his right hand.
"Steve Nash and (Rajon) Rondo, they come off picks and they can pass with either hand, pocket-pass, behind the back, over the top of the head," said the left-handed Thomas.
"I'm OK at it, but I want to be to where they are, where it's instant I'm going right and I can no-look pass with my right hand."
Thomas was averaging 4.1 assists per game in his rookie season before Thursday, including 5.3 assists in his 36 starts.