SAN DIEGO If the Kings aren't a good defensive team this season, it won't be for lack of effort from the coaching staff.
Since Media Day on Oct. 1, the coaches have preached defense, and the Kings hope that message carries over to the regular season.
On Thursday night, the Kings wrapped up their preseason with a 94-82 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Valley View Casino Center.
The Kings were the worst defensive team in the NBA last season, allowing opponents to shoot 47.6 percent and score 104.4 points per game.
It was a big reason why the Kings finished last in the Pacific Division and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
"I knew that in order for them to stay focused on (defense), me and my staff would have to stay on it daily," said Kings coach Keith Smart.
That's been the case. Smart introduced his defensive rating system and made it clear the Kings have enough players who can score.
"The first and last thing he says everyday is about defense: 'We're not going to be the last defensive team in the league,' " guard Isaiah Thomas said. "And I think that's changed people's minds. We can be a good defensive team if we put our effort and our mind to it."
The Kings finished the preseason with an energetic defensive showing. They forced 21 turnovers (leading to 28 points) and held the Lakers, who played without Kobe Bryant, to 42.4 percent shooting.
Smart said the Kings are more aware of their defensive mistakes now. That's been a big reason he sees growth defensively.
"Our guys have retained a lot of the stuff we're doing," Smart said. "When we see there are things we haven't been doing, it's quickly identifiable and, right away, corrected."
That accountability was badly needed.
"Last year, it was if you make a mistake it was, 'Well, it's all good,' " Thomas said. "This year we know, and people are talking to each other."
Though there has been improvement, Smart is far from content.
Heading into the regular season, he wants to see improved defensive rebounding.
"A lot of them are long rebounds from the free-throw line and a little bit out," Smart said. "We're not getting to those balls, 50/50 balls, second-chance points that we've got to get to and take away."
Those effort plays are the kind that could lead to second-chance points and to more transition offense.
The Kings will open the season Wednesday at Chicago, a team known for it's hustle for the 50/50 balls.
"We've got to come up with those," Smart said. "A lot of those we didn't come up with last year. The good teams get to those. We've got to find a way to get to those balls."
The Kings (5-2) won their fifth preseason game Thursday, the most since winning five in 2006.
DeMarcus Cousins finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Thomas had 20 points before leaving the game after rolling his ankle in the fourth quarter. He said the injury was not serious.
Tyreke Evans had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Dwight Howard had nine points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes for the Lakers (0-8). Steve Nash had six points and three assists in 16 minutes.