Practice time in the NBA is invaluable, an opportunity to break down the game to the basics, working on such things as spacing, moving parts and defensive shifts.
But practice time, particularly back-to-back sessions, is rare during the season because of the crunch of games and travel.
“It’s nice to have these,” Kings coach George Karl said after practice Tuesday. “(For a couple of days), you don’t feel the nervousness and the stress of the NBA season. Also as a coach, you’re paranoid that you don’t have enough time to get things fixed, or improve on the things you want to improve on, so this is nice.”
This is the time to put the leg on the gas and press it. It’s time to be hungry, have a good performance in L.A. and build momentum.
Kings forward Omri Casspi
Wednesday is the season’s midpoint, and in a change from recent seasons, the Kings are in playoff contention – a half-game behind the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final Western Conference spot. They last made the postseason 10 years ago.
As the Kings prepared to play the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Wednesday, hoping to win a third consecutive road game for the first time this season, they stressed the need to be consistent and build momentum.
“Right now is a really important time,” guard Darren Collison said. “It’s an important time to lock in mentally and not have any slippages. We have inconsistent breakdowns. It’s the breakdowns that hurt us.”
Added forward Omri Casspi: “We’ve proven that we can beat anyone and we can lose to anyone. We’ve got the talent to beat the best and to lose to the worst. This is the time to put the leg on the gas and press it. It’s time to be hungry, have a good performance in L.A. and build momentum. Now is the time to push the pedal and go.
“I like practices, especially for a team that’s only been together for three or four months. We need practice. Those days are valuable to us to get better.”
After Karl pointed out the Kings “have 42 games left, 84 days left,” he was asked what grade he would give his team.
“I’d say I’m encouraged, definitely. Fortunate. We are in a season where we have a chance to play late into April (the playoffs). I’d give us a Montessori school score more than a grade.”
The point being the Montessori system doesn’t use traditional letter grades.
The Kings would have received favorable grades for their last two efforts, a 103-101 victory at Utah and a 110-103 win over the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Now it’s back to Staples Center to play the Lakers. On Jan. 7 at Sleep Train Arena, the Kings held off the Lakers 118-115 after leading by 27 points in the second half.
A victory over the Lakers will improve the Kings’ record in January to 6-3.
“My gut says we should be proud to play a team that almost stole a game from us,” Karl said. “Our personality has been somewhat ... (that) we fail to meet the level of competition against the weaker teams.
As a coach, you’re paranoid that you don’t have enough time to get things fixed, or improve on the things you want to improve on, so this is nice.
Kings coach George Karl, on back-to-back practice days
“It’s great that we won two games on the road. We definitely played at a good level. This month, everyone feels there’s success on our team. It’s 82 games. It’s not what you did yesterday. It’s what you do today, and tomorrow, and in the future.”
Karl said he isn’t asking much of his players.
“Defensively, we don’t have to be spectacular,” he said. “I don’t want us to be bad. I want to be solid. We had that in the Clippers game. Defensively, against Utah, the first quarter was our best defensive quarter of the season.”
Karl also said Wednesday’s game is a good opportunity for the Kings to build confidence.
“The Lakers game to me is psychological,” he said. “You should inspire yourself to take on a team on a court that’s traditionally a great court (for the home team). Not a lot of us have won a lot at Staples Center against the Lakers. We have a chance to go and win two in a row there.”