Kings coach Dave Joerger understands his players will not have mastered his defensive schemes after four days of practice.
But that’s no reason for them to take a shortcut in effort.
The new Kings coach isn’t just teaching defense, he’s emphasizing it. There can’t be enough talk about defense, and the players are learning that the quickest route to Joerger’s good graces is giving their best effort.
“The spirits are good,” Joerger said. “You might not know everything that’s going on, but if you communicate and fly around, you can get a lot of stuff done, defensively. They’re buying into that, and then we’ll add the technique, knowing exactly what we’re trying to do, and hopefully we’ll get better.”
The Kings certainly need to improve upon their communication and effort on defense from last season. There were plenty of questions about the scheme last season, but at times the communication and effort were so poor that it was difficult to assess if the scheme was the real issue.
What cannot be disputed are the results. The Kings gave up a league-high 109.1 points per game last season.
The Kings are listening to Joerger and the coaching staff as they drill in the basics, knowing there is a lot more to learn.
Joerger sarcastically said practices have made him very popular with the players.
“They love me, they love me,” Joerger said. “I’m joking. Obviously, it’s very early. Some of this stuff is new ... just having the emphasis on the defensive end. Every action we have hopefully has an answer or idea of how we want to cover it.”
Guard Malachi Richardson said “it’s a lot” to digest, especially as a rookie.
“I just watch a lot,” Richardson said. “Whenever I’m on the sideline, just making sure I’m paying attention.”
Veteran Ty Lawson said he’s “pretty much got everything down” thus far, noting some of he concepts aren’t too different from what was stressed by his former coaches in Denver – George Karl (the Kings’ coach last season) and Brian Shaw.
Joerger believes that with Lawson and Darren Collison he has two quick point guards who can make an impact by pressuring opposing point guards. Joerger said that kind of tenacity can be contagious.
Lawson can see that happening, as well.
“I feel I’m the first line of defense,” Lawson said. “Everybody’s looking at me because the point guard is bringing the ball down. So I feel like if I’m pressuring up or just making it a little bit harder, it’s contagious. If I’m doing it, why can’t nobody else do it? I might as well get into a passing lane and try to make it harder for somebody else.”
Joerger said he likes to teach defense in “non-live” settings on the court before going full speed.
Going “live” is the prize for picking up on what’s being taught.
“We all want to play; we all like to play,” Joerger said. “If you do the technique properly, then you’re rewarded with the chance to play live from there. ”
Preseason focus – The Kings open the preseason Tuesday against the Lakers in Anaheim.
Joerger said he’ll dial back giving the team more things to learn for now.
“Their brains are full, so we’re about full of putting stuff in for about three days,” Joerger said. “Let’s get good at it, let’s work on it, let’s review it, let’s evaluate, let’s play our game on Tuesday, and then we’ll go from there.”
Fan Fest – The Kings will hold an open practice at their annual Fan Fest at Golden 1 Center on Saturday beginning at 6 p.m., the team’s first event in the new downtown arena.
“It’s a fantastic event, and I’m looking forward to being out there with our fans,” Joerger said. “Sounds like there’s going to be a lot of people, so I’m getting nervous.”
Lawson said he looks forward to seeing Kings fans for the first time as a member of the home team.
“It’s a change of pace, and also it’s a new city, so the fans are new to me,” Lawson said. “So I just want to see how they react to the arena on fan day.”
All seats for Fan Fest were reserved within the first hour of availability last month.