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Kings look to play faster on offense, avoid working vs. shot clock

Portland’s Damian Lillard, right, dribbles past the Kings’ Ty Lawson. Lillard scored 36 points.
Portland’s Damian Lillard, right, dribbles past the Kings’ Ty Lawson. Lillard scored 36 points. The Associated Press

It’s probably not a good thing when the point guard can say his team “trots” down the floor to get into its offense.

Sprinting down the court sounds so much better.

But the Kings do have a tendency to mosey down the court, and bad offense ensues.

“Every time we trot down and we’ve got to figure out what spots we’re in, we don’t get good shots that way,” said Kings point guard Ty Lawson. “When we come down, play with pace and swing (the ball), keep it moving, we get whatever we want.”

The Kings continue to try to figure out their offense, one that ideally has plenty of ball and player movement and flow.

But Sacramento hasn’t had enough of that this season. The Kings entered Friday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center averaging 97.8 points, 25th in the NBA. Sacramento was 29th in pace at 95.34 possessions per 48 minutes.

The Kings’ offensive rating was 19th at 101.2 points per 100 possessions.

When the Kings’ offense slows down, they’re prone to rely on isolation basketball. DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay can excel one-on-one, but it’s not ideal, and even then, they have to take tough shots against a set defense.

Gay did not express concern over how to get easier looks for himself and teammates.

“That’s coaching,” Gay said. “They’ll get it together, and we have to execute. That’s how it is.”

Early-season excuses for struggles could be tied to players being unfamiliar with each other or insufficient practice time. Kings coach Dave Joerger, however, said it’s his responsibility to get more out of the Kings on offense.

“I don’t think it’s a practice time issue,” Joerger said. “We struggle when Rudy or DeMarcus aren’t on the floor. We’ve got two guys averaging 20 (-plus points), and we need contributions from everybody. I’ve got to find ways to get guys involved and do a better job at that.”

There are kinks to work out in that plan. As Joerger has noted, guards Arron Afflalo and Darren Collison can be scorers, but like Cousins and Gay, need freedom to go to their strengths, which can be in isolation situations.

Having four players like that on the court together is not ideal for ball or player movement. Joerger is experimenting with the best combinations, which probably means having Cousins or Gay on the floor at all times.

Lawson said the Kings just need to play faster and move the ball to maximize their offensive potential and not take bad shots that lead to scoring chances for opponents.

Lawson added that getting into offensive sets faster is not a matter of familiarity among players.

“It’s just a mindset,” Lawson said. “We can’t just take our time down the court. We get into our sets at 13, 14 (seconds on the shot clock) and actually get the ball to who we want to get it to at eight. Then there are double teams, no movement, Cuz is trying to make a move, and he’s got two or three people on him. He tries to throw it out, and it’s a rushed 3, then boom, they get the rebound and they’re out.”

Lawson said with a quicker pace, the offense will look better immediately. He noted that in all of the Kings’ losses they have had a tendency to show a lack of urgency.

“If we get in our plays quicker, we get good shots,” Lawson said. “When we take our time, play against the shot clock, we don’t get good shots, and it leads to easy breaks.”

Notes – The Kings assigned rookies George Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson and Skal Labissiere to their NBA Development League affiliate in Reno on Friday.

None were in Joerger’s regular rotation, so their best chance to play is with the Bighorns.

Papagiannis, a center, and Labissiere, a forward, had appeared in only one game this season, last Saturday’s blowout loss at Milwaukee. Richardson, a guard, had appeared in two games, at Milwaukee and late in the season-opening rout of Phoenix.

▪  Friday’s game concluded Sacramento’s rough early schedule with 11 games in 17 days to start the season. The Kings had four sets of back-to-back games in that span and played seven of the games on the road.

The Kings’ next game is Wednesday, when they host San Antonio at Golden 1 Center.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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