Hey, not bad: Kings finish preseason at 5-2

Published: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 - 3:20 pm

LOS ANGELES – The Kings had a lot to digest in October.

New coach Michael Malone was implementing a new offense and defense. There were new players to integrate and labels of selfish, lazy and undisciplined to shed.

All the learning won't end with Friday night's preseason finale, a 110-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

Nor will all the bad habits be gone because the Kings posted a 5-2 record in exhibition games.

But the Kings had to start somewhere after seven consecutive losing seasons in their quest to change that losing culture.

"I think we closed out the preseason pretty well," center DeMarcus Cousins said after scoring 20 points while playing just 19 minutes against the Clippers. "We came back and got a good lead and kept it at the end. I thought it was a pretty positive preseason, so let's carry this momentum into the regular season, get hot early and make a run."

Malone believes the Kings are on track to ramp up their level of play this season.

"I give our guys a lot of credit," Malone said. "The buy-in has definitely been there. There have been some ups and downs throughout, and we're not close to being a team that can do it for 48 minutes, which is the challenge in this league."

That was a challenge for the Kings during the preseason. They trailed big early in each of their last three exhibition games, including 14 points to the Clippers. In the last two games, the Kings managed to rally for wins.

That kind of inconsistency won't work in the regular season, when opposing rotations are set and the best players play regular minutes.

The Kings' bad habits from past seasons showed up during the preseason. There was the poor defense that saw the team allow a league-worst 105.1 points per game last season that helped contribute to big deficits. There also were moments when over-dribbling became a problem and the one-on-one style of play on offense surfaced.

Malone, however, liked how the Kings showed resolve and a desire to fix those problems. When the ball stopped moving, they were aware of the mistake. When defensive rotations were missed, there was an effort to fix the problem and less of the finger pointing from recent seasons.

The Kings have to do those things every game, because many nights, especially in the Western Conference, they'll be underdogs against teams with All-Stars, more talent and proven veterans.

"We're not going to out-talent anyone this year," Malone said. "That's just the facts. So we have to buy in and be a defensive-minded team, a low-turnover team, an unselfish team, a work team for as close to 48 minutes as possible."

The Kings still have to sort things out before they host the Denver Nuggets in the season opener on Wednesday. Malone said he's still undecided about his starting lineup. Four starters were the same for the last two preseason games.

Cousins started at center, with Patrick Patterson and John Salmons at forward. Greivis Vasquez started again at point guard and has started all five of his preseason games since returning from offseason ankle surgery. The only change was at shooting guard, where Marcus Thornton started and scored 17 points.

Shooting guard has been the toughest position to sort out between Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and Ben McLemore.

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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