The Kings have been indoctrinated in the ways of Dave Joerger’s defense for more than a week.
So what better way to see if the players are absorbing the information than to play the Golden State Warriors early in the preseason, right?
Well, not quite, Joerger said.
“They’re kind of a special case, so you’d rather not play them, preferably,” Joerger said Wednesday after the Kings’ practice at UC Irvine. “I’d like game prep and plan for something more special than Game 2 of the preseason. You’re not going to change and make adjustments.”
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The Warriors won an NBA-record 73 games in the 2015-16 regular season but lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals. They dealt with defeat by adding superstar forward Kevin Durant, giving them four All-Stars in the starting lineup and the league’s last two MVPs (Durant in 2014 and Stephen Curry in 2015 and ’16).
You can’t get flustered. They’re a team that has a lot of bail-out players. They take a lot of tough shots and they make them – they’re great players. No matter what, we’ve got to focus on us and try to get better as a defensive team. You can’t get worried about if they miss and if they make.
The Kings’ Rudy Gay, on the Warriors
But this is still the preseason, so the Kings are more worried about themselves and not what the Warriors might do Thursday night at SAP Center in San Jose. So instead of figuring out how to slow what could be a record-setting offense, the Kings are focused on what they need to improve.
“You want to work on your foundation and your base package, so that part’s difficult,” Joerger said. “But from the standpoint of they’re very individually skilled, the individual things of your closeouts and being physical and staying on the floor when you need to stay on the floor and not fouling shooters. I think we fouled (Los Angeles Lakers guard) Lou Williams a couple too many times (Tuesday) night.
“So those kind of things you can get better on the individual things, but I’m not going to play them and try to do something different for now. But in the regular season, maybe we try to.”
DeMarcus Cousins said the Kings must concentrate on their performance. He was not pleased with his three turnovers in the 103-84 preseason loss to the Lakers in Anaheim.
“Can’t focus on the Warriors right now,” he said. “We can only focus on ourselves with each and every practice.”
The Warriors present plenty of challenges. As Joerger said, the Kings can key on their individual responsibilities, whether they’re boxing out Draymond Green or not biting on a pump fake by Curry or Klay Thompson.
And if the Warriors score, just keep playing.
“You can’t get flustered,” Rudy Gay said. “They’re a team that has a lot of bail-out players. They take a lot of tough shots and they make them – they’re great players. No matter what, we’ve got to focus on us and try to get better as a defensive team. You can’t get worried about if they miss and if they make.”
Joerger was unhappy with Tuesday’s result, even though primarily young players were on the court at the end of the game after his regulars controlled the first half. The coach noted defensive progress his team can build on in the preseason.
4 All-Stars in the Warriors’ starting lineup
“It’s not the score as much as we felt really good about some of the things we were doing defensively,” Joerger said. “At the end of the second quarter, we finished the quarter with 10 stops in a row. That stuff goes a long way. So that’s the stuff you hold on to in the positive.”
Cousins pointed out another building block: He and Gay accounted for seven of the eight assists by the Kings’ starters Tuesday. Ball movement is being stressed almost as much as defense.
“It also shows how much attention me and Rudy are receiving,” Cousins said. “Just trying to make players around us better. In the system that we’re in, the ball is going to be moving a lot, so just taking advantage of that.”
Regardless of the final score against the Warriors, the Kings will maintain their mindset: take the positives and negatives and move on.
“We know it’s all about us getting better,” Gay said. “No matter the outcome of the game, no matter if we win the game, we still have to focus on getting better as a team. We have to work on it. It’s practice, but that’s what the preseason is all about.”