The Kings’ focus in training camp has been to adapt to first-year coach Dave Joerger’s offensive and defensive systems.
With the regular season opener Wednesday in Phoenix, no one expects perfection. So the Kings remain more concerned with practicing what they’ve learned rather than obsessing over how to beat the Suns, or the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday in the first regular-season game at Golden 1 Center.
Joerger eventually will turn his team’s attention toward beating the Suns, but even then, he will focus on what the Kings need to do to get used to his system. Joerger has acknowledged that it will take more than just a month of training camp for players to be comfortable.
“You want to start getting through your NBA concepts as far as there’s 29 other teams running 19 different things,” Joerger said after Friday’s practice. “It starts to become standard to you as far as defending against actions, guarding against teams that play small and teams that play big, which isn’t many of them anymore, and what kind of actions they’re running. We have the opportunity to start working on some of that stuff, as well.”
Joerger said the Kings have had “their brains full a little bit” during the past two days of productive practice, so they’ll have Saturday off.
They’ll practice Sunday and Monday, and go a little lighter on Tuesday before departing for Phoenix.
“We’re going to worry about ourselves up until (Wednesday),” said Kings forward Anthony Tolliver. “… You don’t have much time until the playoffs – in the playoffs you obviously can lock in on one opponent. Until then, you just focus on yourself until maybe the day before the game, and then you go out there and try to execute the game plan as good as possible.”
Joerger noted that the Kings’ schedule at the start of the season is not conducive to focusing on a particular opponent. That’s why becoming sound in the concepts is a priority.
“With 11 games in 17 nights, you get too mired in a game and which team you’re playing,” Joerger said. “Yeah, we have to find that fine line of working on our own stuff and making sure we’re prepared for the game and what the other teams are about.”
Having played for eight teams, Tolliver said adapting to a new team and system is not complicated.
It’s not as if each team is running a unique system.
“Basketball’s a simple game,” Tolliver said. “There’s not going too be many different nuances. It’s going to be different language. You might call a certain coverage a different name, but basketball is basketball.”
Until the Kings are sound in what Joerger wants, there will be moments the team will have to rely on its talent to make the best of a tough situation.
Expecting the Kings to execute precisely at this stage might be too much.
“It just takes time,” Joerger said. “To run some continuity stuff, it does take time. But we’ve got a couple of bailout players in Rudy (Gay) and DeMarcus (Cousins), guys that can go get it at the end of the shot clock.”
Note – The Kings exercised their third-year contract option on center Willie Cauley-Stein, the team announced Friday. Cauley-Stein is now under contract through the 2017-18 season.
Cauley-Stein was drafted sixth overall in 2015 and earned second-team All-Rookie honors. He averaged 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 21.4 minutes per game.