Kings make strides in maturity

10/28/2013 12:00 AM

10/28/2013 6:53 AM

Sunday afternoon, the Kings reviewed film and statistics from their 5-2 preseason.

There was praise for how the Kings shared the ball in averaging 22.1 assists, sixth in the league. They also held opponents to 42.4 percent shooting, 12th in the league.

A team not accustomed to winning might put a lot of weight on preseason success and assume it will carry over when the games matter. But these Kings are taking a mature approach.

"You can look at the stats, but (preseason) really doesn't count," forward Jason Thompson said. "You can wipe it away, throw it in the trash, do whatever you want to do with it."

Coming off their seventh consecutive losing season, the Kings realize they can't be content with the preseason if they hope to end that trend.

Maturity hasn't been associated with the Kings lately, but that must change to turn around their team culture and reputation.

There have been signs the Kings are maturing. No player drew a technical foul during the preseason. And unlike the past, there hasn't been noticeable griping over who will start.

Thompson, who is entering his sixth season and is the longest-tenured King, would know as well as anyone whether the Kings have grown up.

"I think it's safe to say all the years I've been here we've had immature teams," Thompson said. "The difference is you can tell from top to bottom guys, owners, coaches – no offense to the ones that I've had in the past – but I think we're all on the same page. We know we all want to make changes here."

Coach Michael Malone said the starting lineup for Wednesday's season opener against Denver hasn't been an issue with the players.

Malone used the preseason to experiment with lineups, but a pattern emerged to close the preseason.

Greivis Vasquez (point guard), Patrick Patterson (power forward), John Salmons (small forward) and DeMarcus Cousins (center) started the last two preseason games.

Marcus Thornton started at shooting guard in the preseason finale. Malone has indicated he likes rookie Ben McLemore coming off the bench, meaning Thornton or Jimmer Fredette would start next to Vasquez in the backcourt.

"The interesting thing is, no one has asked or nothing like that," Malone said. "I think most of the guys probably have an idea of who we're going to go with. I'll get into that (today) with who's starting, who's coming off the bench and assigning and defining roles for guys."

Cousins didn't credit maturity alone for the Kings' improved mindset entering the season. Cousins, like Thompson, said the new ownership group has helped foster a positive work environment.

"I just think guys believe now," Cousins said. "Previous seasons, we just never really knew – it was just like we were here and it's nothing really to look forward to. Now we feel like we have something to look forward to. Guys believe, we're all in, and we're ready to go."

The Kings have promised a unique experience for Wednesday's game. They also realize they must take advantage of their early schedule, which is heavy on home games, to prove the progress from the preseason isn't a mirage.

"I believe it's going to be bananas," Cousins said of Wednesday's game. "(Principal owner) Vivek (Ranadive has) has been saying it's going to be the craziest (home opener) in the history of the NBA, and whatever comes out of that man's mouth, I believe it. I'm extremely excited, and I can't wait to see it."

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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