Sacramento Kings

Kings’ Dave Joerger emphasizes ‘pressure and trust’ on defense

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger reacts as his team takes on the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Milwaukee.
Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger reacts as his team takes on the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Milwaukee. AP

The basic tenets of the defensive culture Dave Joerger is working to establish in his first season as the Kings’ coach, he said, are “pressure and trust.” He said that is a delicate balance.

Joerger wants his players to “get after people” pressuring the ball in one-on-one defense. And fully committing to that means each player knowing where his help is coming from if he gets beaten one-on-one and those help defenders executing their jobs.

All that entails a lot of movement and a lot of energy expended over the course of a 48-minute game. Joerger said he thought the Kings did a good job staying active deeper into defensive possessions during the second half of their win over New Orleans on Tuesday. The Kings’ task is to maintain that effort every night.

“It’s a mindset of trying to do it over and over,” Joerger said. “Now when you play really, really hard, when you have a real lock-in focus on the defensive end, it is hard. And when you lay that down and that’s who you are night in and night out, that’s your standard.”

Kings guard Ty Lawson said it’s the responsibility of the perimeter defenders, normally the first to pick up the ball, to establish that tone. He also said doing so isn’t easy.

“Especially with the new rules where you can’t touch nobody, it’s harder to stay in front of other guards,” Lawson said. “We’ve got to try our best just to pick up point probably a little bit higher.

“I think we’re the leader of the defense. When (other defenders) see us like we’re laying back, I feel like everybody else is going to lay back. But when we’re out pressuring and getting to the ball, I feel like everybody else is going to do the same.”

New life – While the Kings try to turn their franchise around under Joerger, the Los Angeles Lakers hope to do the same under first-year coach Luke Walton.

The Lakers hired Walton after posting declining win totals of 27, 21 and 17 in the last three seasons. Entering Thursday’s game, the Lakers were one of the league’s early surprises at 4-4, including a win over Golden State, where Walton was previously an assistant.

“They play like they’re energized,” Lawson said. “They don’t seem like the same Lakers team. They’re moving the ball, getting up and down. I see a lot of smiles. It feels like they’re having fun out there.”

Walton said before Thursday’s game he hopes the Lakers’ young roster – they have eight players with two or fewer years of experience in the NBA – is buying into his teachings. Joerger said winning games early helps reinforce the message.

“They’re confident,” Kings guard Garrett Temple said. “Luke has them playing very free offensively, so they have a lot of confidence.”

First look – Walton had ties to the old Sleep Train Arena. He played there as a Laker and also won a state championship in high school at then-Arco Arena. He got his first glimpse Thursday of the new Golden 1 Center and didn’t sound wistful for the Kings’ old home.

“There’s some good history between these two teams in that old building,” Walton said. “But you’ve got to keep up with the times. It’s nice to be in a modern building, too.”

Same lineup –Darren Collison looked comfortable in his season debut Tuesday, recording nine points and four assists in 28 minutes off the bench. Lawson has struggled with his shot recently, going 0 for 15 from the floor in three games entering Thursday.

Lawson, though, remained in the starting lineup Thursday night. Joerger was asked before the game if Collison might soon claim that spot and said, “Just wait and see, I guess.”

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