Being a point guard for the Kings means knowing two basketball dialects.
Sometimes, Ray McCallum speaks Michael Malone’s language. Other times, he speaks George Karl’s jargon.
It’s all part of the transition for the Kings and Karl.
“I think it’s difficult for the coach,” McCallum said. “He comes in with 30 games left to try to change the terminology, and you don’t have much practice time. He’s kept it kind of both ways.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“He’s slowly adding his own stuff, but we’ve kept some of our old concepts. But I think we’re adjusting to it just fine. Eventually, I think we’ll move on and get to all his concepts and his style of play.”
There was no sign of confusion Tuesday night as the Kings dismantled the New York Knicks 124-86 at Madison Square Garden.
McCallum said it’s not easy with all the changes the Kings are making, and Karl would agree. It’s one reason Karl wants to practice as much as possible.
“I told the team at shootaround I need the shootaround more than they do probably,” Karl said. “We have calls; we have plays. Some plays are my calls; some plays are Mike Malone’s calls. So it’s tough.”
It’s easier on nights like Tuesday. The Kings never trailed and led by44 points to end a two-game losing streak overall and a four-game slide on the road.
Karl said the Kings’ passing Tuesday was the best he had seen in his six games with the team. Sacramento had 26 assists, and 10 of the 11 Kings who played had at least one.
“As a coach, you’ve got to be happy with the game,” Karl said. “I think they’ve got to know what I think is a good shot, what I think is good execution, and I think we’re still working on that.”
A lot worked against the Knicks. The Kings shot 49.4 percent and made 10 three-pointers, shots that were available, Karl said, because DeMarcus Cousins was back after missing two games because of a sprained left ankle.
Cousins said the transition is coming along.
“There’s still some confusion just with terms used,” Cousins said. “He has his way of using terms, and we have a way that we’re used to. We’re still getting on the same page. It’s just going to take some time.”
Because Karl is treating the rest of the season partly as a training camp, confusion is expected. When fall camp arrives, Karl’s system should be firmly in place.
“It mixes us up every now and then, but everybody’s going through a transition,” Rudy Gay said. “It’s been a long season, but we’re still out here playing hard, trying to get these wins.”
Tuesday’s victory began an eight-game trip, the Kings’ longest this season. By the end of the trip, Karl should have a better feel for the team.
“As a coach, my job is to help them, assist them, make the game easier for them,” Karl said. “And at times, I feel like I’m lost a little bit. I feel like I’m in exhibition season, like that didn’t work, that rotation didn’t work, that lineup’s not working.”
Karl’s goal is to make the Kings independent and not rely on him to call many plays, McCallum said. Until that happens, McCallum said the Kings still have plays from earlier in the season they can turn to and run well.
“(Karl) really makes it free,” McCallum said. “He wants us to go out there and make basketball plays without really calling a set.
“But over the course of the game, we’re going to have to execute down the stretch, and that’s something that we’re learning to do. But we have some plays for guys that we know if we execute them correctly, we’ll get some nice looks.”
Karl believes the Kings are doing everything they can to learn what he wants.
“The attitudes have been great. The practices have been first-class,” Karl said. “I think if we go out here and get some wins on this trip, we’ll be in a good place.”