There’s been an obsession with speed around the Kings.
From ownership to some in the media, there’s been a cry for the Kings to play fast, even when the best players on the roster did not benefit from operating at breakneck speed.
The 2017-18 Kings can and should run. It’s a shift that began last season after trading away DeMarcus Cousins started a youth movement.
So if you’ve wanted a prettier style of basketball from the Kings, you might be happy this season. Unlike in previous attempts to make the Kings a running team, this squad is equipped with the right personnel to be a speedy bunch.
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The Kings’ first crack at it comes Monday night, when they host the San Antonio Spurs in the preseason opener.
“We’ve got to play fast, I’d like to play fast,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “I think we get it up and down the floor, we’ve got some guys that can push it. We’ve got some guys that can run both from the wing and as big guys. I think we’ll play faster than we have in the past, that one year (2016-17).”
In Joerger’s first season with Sacramento, the Kings started as a physical, power team. For the final 25 games, Joerger had to change the playstyle.
Cousins was gone, as was Rudy Gay, who’d been lost to an Achilles injury, leaving the Kings with a collection of speedy, young players to find their way the rest of the season.
The Kings were 16th in the NBA in pace, possessions per game, (97.80) post-All-Star break after ranking 27th in pace before the break (96.74). Sacramento’s offensive rating was 104.8 points per 100 possessions, ranked 17th before the break. Sacramento fell to 21st in the second half of the season at 104.1.
The added hustle makes sense, given the Kings did not have a player like Cousins to rely on. Without an All-Star to turn to, running, and running often seems logical.
Joerger plans to use at least a 10-man rotation and has plenty of players available for the running game.
“It’s not much of a challenge,” said guard Garrett Temple. “It’s just that we’re getting it from the get-go and since they’re younger it’s actually easier. They have young legs, they can run all day.”
The offseason overhaul added more pieces to fit into the running plan. All four of the Kings’ draft picks fit into a fast-paced game to go with the holdovers from last season.
The guards can get up and down the floor, and most of the big men should be at their best when they can play in the open court.
“It’s not even an adjustment,” said rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox. “I’ve been playing like that my whole life. Now the court’s bigger, you have better athletes, bigger and longer players so that hasn’t been an adjustment for me.”
However, running just to run does not guarantee success. The two teams that led the NBA in pace last season were Brooklyn (20-62) and Phoenix (24-58), the two worst teams in the league.
Both of those teams also had many young players, so the transition to the fast-paced game does not mean the growing pains of youth are skipped. It just means there might be some high-scoring losses.
“Early on it’s not going to look great,” Joerger said. “It does take some time. We all know games are won in the halfcourt in the last six minutes and you want to be able to execute and lay that down too. Guys are learning. It’s a little bit different for some guys.”
Probably the key player it’s most different for is free-agent addition Zach Randolph, who’s entering his 17th season and has made a career of beating up opponents in the post.
Sprinting? Not so much.
“Zach is fired up about running,” Joerger joked. “We just tell Z-Bo you get the rebound, you (pass it up), we’ll run like heck and if we don’t have anything, we’ll bring it over to the big fella.”
KINGS PRESEASON OPENER
Kings (0-0) vs. San Antonio (0-0)
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Where: Golden 1 Center