The last time the Kings talked this much about defense, Michael Malone patrolled the sideline in Sacramento.
As training camp began Tuesday, the defensive talk is back with Dave Joerger now at the helm.
“I’m excited for this,” All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins said. “I think that’s something that we need. Coach is bringing a quality that we need. I think he’s going to get us on the right path.”
In Joerger’s three seasons as the Memphis Grizzlies’ coach, the team was known for its gritty defense. Despite numerous injuries last season, the Grizzlies held teams to 101.3 points per game, 11th best in the NBA.
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You want to do what’s best for the group that you have. Generally, we were playing with two bigs in Memphis with Marc (Gasol) and Zach (Randolph), so we’re trying to do some things there. I anticipate us playing a lot more small ball this year.
Dave Joerger, Kings coach
The Kings have a reputation as a soft defensive team. Last season, many players complained about former coach George Karl’s system, which allowed a league-high 109.1 points per game.
The players said they were asked to switch too much on defense, often leaving them at a disadvantage. They also said the defensive philosophy was too passive, leading to career-high performances for opponents.
Forward Omri Casspi described Joerger’s style as “really aggressive.”
“Obviously we protect the basket first and the ball,” Casspi said. “There won’t be a lot of switching like we did last year. Most of the defensive teams are very aggressive, attacking the ball and putting pressure on the offense.”
Joerger said he will install basic defensive principles while tinkering with some aspects to fit the Kings. He also believes his roster is versatile.
“You want to do what’s best for the group that you have,” Joerger said. “Generally, we were playing with two bigs in Memphis with Marc (Gasol) and Zach (Randolph), so we’re trying to do some things there. I anticipate us playing a lot more small ball this year.”
Rookie scale – Two easy observations came out of summer league in Las Vegas in July: Rookie center George Papagiannis needed to get in better shape, and rookie forward Skal Labissiere had to add bulk to his lanky frame.
So far, both players are on track.
“Skal’s put on 10 pounds,” Joerger said. “He’s worked extremely hard all summer. He’s been really great. Papa the last four weeks has worked his tail off in the weight room and on the court. I think he’s down seven or eight pounds.”
During the summer, the 7-foot-1, 240-pound Papagiannis dealt with a leg injury, which slowed his progress.
Labissiere, 6-11 and 225 pounds, said his work with Kings strength and conditioning coaches, plus a big appetite, were keys in his buildup.
109.1 League-high points allowed per game by the Kings last season
“Shakes and food,” Labissiere said. “I eat a lot more than anybody else. I try to at least.”
Two-a-days – Tuesday’s morning practice was a noncontact session. Full-contact drills were scheduled for the evening.
Joerger said it would be better physically not to practice twice a day. But with a new coaching staff and system, that schedule works best for teaching. On some days, the team will hold only one practice, the coach said.
“I prefer to (practice) once, but mentally, it’s better to go twice,” Joerger said. “You can only take so much in at one time. Physically, I think one is better.”