Play faster and get stronger.
The first part of that is the Kings’ mantra for the new season and was discussed Monday during Media Day at Golden 1 Center. From coach Dave Joerger to some of the players, it’s evident the team wants to turn up the tempo.
Joerger talked about how the Kings can achieve that goal. It all starts with point guard De’Aaron Fox, who is regarded as one of the fastest players in the NBA.
“The best thing you can do for him is play fast and give him as much room as possible,” Joerger said.
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He also discussed lineups that could help the team play at a high pace.
“Last year our fastest lineup was playing Justin Jackson at power forward next to (Bogdan) Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield,” Joerger said. “That group, I think analytically would have been the fastest-paced team in the NBA.
“That serves to De’Aaron’s strength. ... He’s our franchise guy. I think everybody kind of agrees on that.”
Fox is ready.
“I’ve always played for a team that gets up and down, high school college, AAU, all of that,” Fox said. “I’m excited to see what happens.”
Jackson is also up to the challenge.
“Coach wants to play faster this year,” Jackson said. “Playing at the four, I don’t mind it at all. ... If that’s a faster lineup, then cool, I’d love to do that. I think it adds some versatility to the team.”
Point guard Yogi Ferrell, who enters his first season with the team, spoke about Fox’s pace.
“He’s probably the fastest I’ve played against in the league,” Ferrell said.
This season will be Ferrell’s third in the NBA, but he has the most experience on the team at the point guard position. Fox and Frank Mason III were rookies last season.
“I’ve played with and against some great points guards already, so I’m just going to tell them what I see on the court, and try to make them as efficient as possible,” Ferrell said. “Even if that’s going at them in practice, just to make them tougher so when we go up against some tough teams in the West, it’s just that much easier for them.”
And now for the second part. Several players showed up in better physical shape than last season, most notably forward Skal Labissiere, who said he put on nearly 20 pounds of muscle this offseason.
“The people in my inner circle, they see the work I’ve put in every day,” said Labissiere. He credits a change in both his diet and mindset, trying to get more sleep and “attacking the weight room” for his stronger physique.
He hired a personal chef and didn’t travel much to build himself up.
“I feel like it’s an investment,” he said, adding that the work will help him stand his ground against bigger guys while also being able to guard smaller players in pick-and-roll situations.
As for his role in the rotation, he’s comfortable to do whatever is asked of him.
“We’ve got a great group of guys and we just need to push each other,” Labissiere said. “We all need to be leaders.”
Jackson also said that part of his offseason focus was to grow stronger.
“There are some guys that are already kind of built and ready to make that jump,” Jackson said. “Then we have guys that, including myself, are still in progress.”
Fox also talked about spending time in the gym this summer.
“I didn’t work on handles, I didn’t run, nothing. I focused on shooting the ball and getting my body right,” he said. He added that he wanted to be ready for that “grown-man strength” many veterans possess.
And maybe there’s a third part: Get strong and still be fast. Fox said he was careful about adding weight and muscle. “I wanted to put on weight without sacrificing my speed,” he said.
Veteran forward Zach Randolph likes what he sees from the team.
“I can go down the line and speak something about these guys,” he said. “You’re going to see the work we put in.”
Kings’ key dates
Tuesday: Training camp begins
Oct. 1: Preseason opener at Phoenix Suns, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7: Fan Fest and open practice, 1-2:30 p.m.
Oct. 15: Roster finalized by 2 p.m.
Oct. 17: Regular-season opener vs. Utah Jazz, 7 p.m.