Sacramento Kings

The Kings are getting praise around the league. Here’s why they ‘want to stay humble’

San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, left, drives against Kings guard Buddy Hield on Monday at Golden 1 Center. DeRozan said some positive words about the Kings after his Spurs lost 104-99.
San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, left, drives against Kings guard Buddy Hield on Monday at Golden 1 Center. DeRozan said some positive words about the Kings after his Spurs lost 104-99. AP

After the Kings snapped a long drought against the Spurs on Monday night, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich shared a light moment on the court with Vlade Divac that included laughs, hugs and handshakes.

He didn’t divulge exactly what was said in the brief conversation with Sacramento’s general manager, but Popovich did have positive words about the Kings and coach Dave Joerger after Sacramento’s 104-99 victory ended a 14-game losing streak against the Spurs that dated to Nov. 15, 2014.

“I was really impressed. Their culture is changing – it’s changed drastically,” Popovich said after the game. “Guys are committed, guys are physical, taking some pride in defense. I think Vlade and the team have made some good moves, and I think Dave’s done a great job of bringing that group together. They look really good. It’s impressive.”

Joerger called the comments “classy.”

“From a guy like that who we all have as our No. 1 mentor and idol in coaching, that was very nice of him,” Joerger said Wednesday in the Kings’ first off-day media session since the victory. “It shows you what kind of guy he is because it’s easy for dudes to do that stuff and say nice things when they win. That’s how classy he is and that’s how classy their organization has always been.”

Popovich isn’t the only person around the league who has had positive things to say about the Kings this season. Opposing players have raved about the team’s play throughout Sacramento’s 8-6 start.

“You have to give those young guys credit, they are playing at a high level,” All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan said Monday. “They are playing extremely free and you see the experience. ... They play well together.”

Toronto Raptors swingman Danny Green said his team was fortunate to escape with a victory Nov. 7 in Sacramento.

“We were lucky to come out with this one,” he said. ‘‘You look up and down the line, the only thing we beat them in was rebounding. ... They’re obviously a great ball club. They can get up and down, push the pace.”

Coaches around the NBA are taking notice, too.

The pace the Kings are playing with caught the attention of Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford, whose team lost to Sacramento on Oct. 30.

“There are always a lot of teams that run the ball hard on misses, but after made baskets, literally, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team play this fast,” he said.

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was impressed after taking a home loss Oct. 29.

“They just kept on coming,” he said. “The speed, the pace and the quickness just wore us down in the second half.”

Even a former assistant praised the Kings’ style of play. Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks was on Sacramento’s staff in 2006-07.

“This team plays fast, they play hard and they’re young and athletic,” Brooks said after his team lost at Golden 1 Center on Oct. 26.

Kings players appreciate the kind words from outside the organization, but don’t want to get too caught up in it.

“You want people to take notice, but for us as a young group you can’t get too high,” guard Buddy Hield said Wednesday. “The league is 82 games and anything can happen. ... We want to stay humble and just keep winning and just keep growing and growing as a group. We’re just trying to change the culture around here.”

That comes with winning and positive play. So far, the Kings are doing that. Next up for the Kings is a back-to-back set in Memphis and Houston that tips off Friday.

The nice words will likely continue as long as the team takes care of its business.

“It’s always good to have some good press and people are taking notice,” guard De’Aaron Fox said. “But, like I’ve said before, we’re worried about us.”

Noel Harris: 916-321-1602, @SacBeeNoel
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