The Kings have been criticized in recent seasons for lacking maturity on the court and professionalism off it.
James Johnson might have fit in with those Kings when the Chicago Bulls drafted him in the first round in 2009.
Johnson, acquired by the Kings from Toronto in July for a second-round pick in 2014, admitted he lost his motivation as a rookie.
"It was a combination of not playing and having more money than I ever had in my life," Johnson said. "I didn't know what to do, didn't know how hard I had to go. I worked tremendously hard to get here, and I should have been working harder to stay. Instead, I was satisfied. But then my next year, I realized I hadn't done anything in the league to be satisfied; I just got here. So that's when I got on it."
If Johnson is "on it" this season, he could be the solution to the Kings' unsettled small forward position.
Entering his fourth NBA season, Johnson believes he has figured out what he needs to do to be successful: play defense, be the hardest worker in in practice, share the ball and critique his play after games.
The Kings have tried several players at small forward since trading Ron Artest after the 2007-08 season. Last season, guard Tyreke Evans started there, but it was considered a stopgap move until the Kings could find a replacement.
Kings coach Keith Smart is intrigued by Johnson's size 6-foot-9 and 248 pounds and skills and how they'll fit on offense and defense.
"He's a worker," Smart said. "That's the story that's always followed him is that he is a worker."
Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie said he hopes Johnson's acquisition will be much like the 2011 deal that brought guard Marcus Thornton to the team. Petrie wants players who have some experience but are young enough to grow with the Kings' nucleus.
"Some of the benefits of his experience are now his growth might really start to flourish," Petrie said. "I know that's what he wants to see happen. Now he's another player that's just beginning what should be his prime years."
After being traded in his second season from Chicago to Toronto, Johnson started his first game with the Raptors and helped them beat the Bulls.
But coach Jay Triano was replaced by Dwane Casey before last season, and Johnson said he felt restricted by a system in which roles were defined early.
Still, he averaged career highs of 9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots.
Johnson learned he had been traded to the Kings during a layover in Dallas while returning from his honeymoon in Jamaica.
"When the situation came about and I found out I was moving, I wasn't mad about it," Johnson said. "I can honestly say that."
Johnson's experience under Casey could be valuable in Sacramento. What Casey asked Johnson to do is what Smart hasn't seen enough of from his team.
"I helped, I blocked shots, I switched, I worked hard on those things," Johnson said. "That's why I played so hard on defense. I wanted to stay in the game, and I knew that's what it took for the coach (to keep me) in the game."
If he does that for the Kings, it will help keep him on the court this season, too.
Last season, the Kings allowed a league-high 104.4 points per game and a 47.6 opponents' shooting percentage.
"I'm not going to lose my defensive mindset coming here," Johnson said. "I'm not an offensive player, I'm not a defensive player I'm a basketball player, and I'm going to play the whole game."
Johnson plans to be a diplomatic teammate.
"When four guys are working hard and one guy messes up and they score, you don't have to yell at him or tell him 'Oh you've got to do that,' " Johnson said. "Just pull a man to the side and hold him accountable. You're not a coach; you're a teammate. A teammate's not supposed to make another teammate look bad."
Johnson said he liked the "heart" he saw from the Kings in Toronto on Jan. 11 when Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins led the team to a 98-91 win.
Johnson believes if the Kings show that effort every night and rebound well, they will be much-improved.
And he's glad to be asked to be a part of the growth of the team.
"Whenever you feel like you're wanted somewhere, it always makes you feel better," Johnson said. "It made me feel like when they picked me up, it wasn't just to have another guy on the team or another body. They picked me up to help us win more games. I'm just happy, more confident and ready."