The lessons of training camp were reinforced Thursday during practice following the Kings’ dreadful offensive effort to open the season.
After his team shot 30.8 percent and committed 27 turnovers in its 95-77 loss to the Warriors on Wednesday night, Kings coach Michael Malone said practice was about re-emphasizing the fundamentals of offensive execution and trusting the system.
The Kings were put through drills with limited or no dribbling. The team ran sprints for turnovers. And they were reminded again to move the ball and to play unselfishly.
The Kings host the Portland Trail Blazers tonight, another playoff team from last season, who will exploit them if they fall back into a hold-the-ball offense.
Malone recalled a conversation with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich when discussing what the Kings need to do to avoid sputtering as they did against the Warriors.
“(The Spurs) have what they call a 0.5 mentality,” Malone said. “When you catch the ball, you have 0.5 seconds to shoot, pass or drive. If you’re holding it, you’re wrong. And right now we have a five-second mentality. Instead of 0.5, we’re at five seconds where each guy thinks they have five seconds to hold it, jab, dribble to make a play, and that’s killing the flow to our offense.”
The Kings are supposed to be all about flow on offense this season with much of the offseason spent discussing how they could generate more efficiency and fluidity on the court.
The theme of Malone’s offense is to make a play for a teammate, and he demands his team stick to the plan. But it’s hard to make a play when the ball is not passed. There is no rhythm when four players watch one player dribble-down the clock.
“If you don’t have a shot or pass or drive right away, just get off the ball; and we did a poor job of that (Wednesday), obviously,” Malone said. “If you’ve got to take five, six, seven dribbles to get a shot off, that’s a bad shot.”
The Kings had only 13 assists against the Warriors – eight from point guard Darren Collison, with no other player having more than one.
Collison has said the Kings are trying to play a more pass-first style, even if that wasn’t the case overall Wednesday.
“The biggest thing is our spacing, screening and executing,” Collison said. “It’s the little things. If our spacing’s not not there, if we’re not screening right, guys will just go one-on-one. I don’t think nobody wants go one-on-one basketball, I think we’re all forced to go one-on-one because there’s no other options.”
That’s been a problem for years with the Kings.
Inevitably someone ends up with the ball late in the shot clock, hoisting a contested shot.
Collison said that’s no one’s intention, but when players do not stick to the game plan, that’s what happens.
“Anytime you go to the end of the shot clock and you’re stuck with the ball with five seconds to go, you’re trying to create, and it’s generally a bad shot,” Collison said. “You’re not trying take a bad shot, no one’s trying to force a bad shot. So we have to continue to trust the offense, continue to move the ball. If we continue to screen better, trust the offense and move the ball, we won’t have to put ourselves in that position. It’s a lot easier to guard us when we’re in that predicament.”
Malone is hoping the Kings buy into positive basketball karma – that playing the right way will generate more opportunities and harmony for all.
“If you make a play for somebody, it’s going to come back to you,” Malone said. “That’s the way the game works. If you hold it, hold it, hold it, it’s not going to come back to you because that kind of play is contagious.”
The Kings know the latter all too well.