Randy Pench rpench@sacbee.com Kings coach Michael Malone (back to camera) is preaching cohesiveness as he determines everyone's role on this season's team.

Cohesion, learning new system trump learning starting lineup with Kings

Published: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013 - 6:25 am

SANTA BARBARA – The Kings began training camp at UC Santa Barbara last Tuesday with four starting jobs undetermined and rotation uncertainty under first-year coach Michael Malone.

The Kings still don't know their lineup for the regular season, but that's not a concern. Malone said he'd decide the starters this morning for the preseason opener tonight against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

Team cohesion and learning the new system trumps who starts at this stage of Kings camp.

"Yes, we want to win every one of our seven preseason games," Malone said. "But more importantly, we're still evaluating all the players on our roster. ... Not necessarily the five best players but what's your best lineup, who your best bench players are, who complements each other and, more importantly, who gives us the best chance to win a basketball game."

The rotation and starting lineup frustrated most of the players last season. They often questioned their roles.

The Kings seem content that Malone has yet to define roles.

Instead, they've focused on competing and making each other better.

"We're all about winning this year," forward Carl Landry said. "I think sometimes you get caught up in, 'Who's starting? Who's coming off the bench?' But at the end of the day, it doesn't mean anything because you're not getting anything out of that.

"I think if coach puts whoever out there on the floor, we're still going to go out there, compete at a high level and do the best we can."

Malone said no player has been a clear standout to open camp.

Beyond the starting lineup and rotation, the Kings also are learning what Malone expects from them. The only players who have experience with Malone are Landry and Marcus Thornton.

Thornton spent part of the 2010-11 season with Malone when he was an assistant with New Orleans.

Landry, whom the Kings traded to New Orleans for Thornton that season, was also with Malone last season with Golden State.

The Kings understand that learning Malone's system is an ongoing process.

"Training camp, people think it's over after this week, but it lasts the rest of the month," center DeMarcus Cousins said. "Guys are competing at a high level, which is what we wanted."

Malone said it would be unfair to decide starters or the rotation until players fully understand his expectations.

Cousins is the only unquestioned starter at his position, and Malone is happy with Cousins' effort in camp.

Malone said he would probably settle on his starting lineup and rotation in the final two preseason games.

He said that would give him a chance to prepare for Denver and allow the players to know what to expect heading into the regular season.

Malone will not hurry into those decisions.

"I don't want to be premature in assigning those roles and asking guys to buy into something that might not be their role for the season," Malone said. "As we go on throughout October, we'll have a much better understanding of who our guys are, who our rotation players are. And with roles, not what's best suited for them, but what's best suited for this team moving forward."

THREE THINGS TO WATCH TODAY

• Defensive mindset – The Kings were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season and have been for several seasons. It's time for the players to show their intent to change that.

• Playing well with others – The Kings can't rely on one-on-one play if they want to improve their offensive efficiency. They need multiple passes to find good shots.

• Inside-out – The Kings want to feature DeMarcus Cousins in the halfcourt offense. Cousins has impressed with his post play and passing to start training camp.

– Jason Jones

Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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Read more articles by Jason Jones



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