Like most who follow basketball, Kings coach Michael Malone was impressed with how the San Antonio Spurs’ pass-happy offense and efficient defense carried them to the NBA championship last season.
The Kings finished last in the league in assists last season, and Malone could show his players video of the Spurs or other teams to demonstrate how to move the ball. But he has another plan.
“I want to show clips of us,” Malone said. “We didn’t do it much last year, but show clips of us when we did do the right thing and made the extra pass.”
The process of the Kings becoming a team known for ball movement began Sunday in a 99-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors in a preseason opener at Rogers Arena.
When he took over as coach last season, Malone was determined to make the Kings better defensively, and he admitted he might have neglected the offense too much in practice. So Malone and his staff spent the offseason looking at different ways to energize the offense. That meant talking to other coaches and studying play sets of teams for which Malone has worked.
“When you’re in the league for 14 years and you’ve coached against some of the great coaches in the NBA, you know what’s a movement offense instead of an overdribbling-type offense,” Malone said. “We talked about it as a staff. I had our coaches bring stuff to the table from other coaches, whether it’s Rick Adelman, whether it’s Jerry Sloan where (Kings lead assistant) Tyrone (Corbin) came from. So we’re going to look to employ different things, putting in new offenses that we did not employ last year to promote ball movement and player movement.”
The Kings have six more preseason games to get comfortable with the sets Malone wants to add. He said that during the exhibition season, there will be no bland sets intended to disguise what the Kings want to do in the regular season.
“We have 13 new faces in this year’s training camp, and we’re trying to implement a new offensive system,” Malone said. “We can’t wait until opening night and try to say, ‘Hey, we fooled everybody,’ because we won’t be ready to play. We have to slowly do what we do, and if we show our hand, so be it.
“In the NBA, everybody knows what everyone else is running. It’s just a matter of how effective and disciplined you are doing it.”
There’s still plenty to work on. The Kings committed 29 turnovers Sunday, with DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson recording five apiece. Ramon Sessions and rookie Nik Stauskas had four turnovers each.
“We can’t have 29 turnovers for 28 (Toronto) points and expect to beat anybody, especially on the road,” Malone said. “But it was to be expected, though. First game, a lot of new players playing together.”
New point guard Darren Collison had 13 points and six assists and was the only starter to play in the fourth quarter.
Sessions led the Kings with 14 points, Cousins scored 13, and Stauskas had 12.
“The mistakes that we had I think were just first preseason game jitters,” Collison said. “Just trying to get aware for each other’s games and the spacing. But for the most part, I think in the second half we really came out and played. We showed signs we could do something good this year.”
Malone was most pleased with the third quarter, when the Kings outscored the Raptors 33-21. But with his reserves playing for most of the fourth quarter, Toronto outscored Sacramento 31-19.
The coach is focused on being ready for the season opener against Golden State on Oct. 29.
“Hopefully, we’ll have some examples after seven preseason games where we’ve actually started to play the right way,” Malone said.