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Kings learning on fly as they open season against Rockets

Kings guard Vince Carter addresses the crowd before Wednesday’s season opener against the Houston Rockets at Golden 1 Center.
Kings guard Vince Carter addresses the crowd before Wednesday’s season opener against the Houston Rockets at Golden 1 Center. jvillegas@sacbee.com

The preseason is generally when teams focus on themselves and not what the opponent likes to do.

Well, the Kings are still focused on their own path.

Sacramento opened the regular season Wednesday by hosting the Houston Rockets at Golden 1 Center. The Kings have a lot to learn with their very young roster and three key veterans added in the offseason.

That’s left Kings coach Dave Joerger wishing he had more training camp to teach. Instead, the team got a crash course on the Rockets leading up to the game.

“I would have liked to have been working on Houston stuff starting on Sunday,” Joerger said before the game. “But we have like miles and miles to go of our own stuff. So we talked about it at length (Wednesday), watched a little bit (Tuesday).”

The Rockets are a tough defensive matchup, even without Chris Paul, who missed Wednesday’s game with a bruised left knee. Paul was injured during Houston’s season-opening win at Golden State.

No Paul didn’t mean the Kings could relax. For Houston, that simply meant giving the ball to MVP candidate James Harden more and inserting Eric Gordon into the starting lineup.

Gordon is no slouch. He’s the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year and capable of big scoring nights.

But none of that really matters for the Kings, who have plenty to worry about when it comes to their own schemes.

“For opening night, generally you have two to three days before you play and you can almost play the other team’s actions live,” Joerger said. “We didn’t do that. We’re just still kind of focused in on our own.”

On the mend – Kings forward Zach Randolph missed the game because of oral surgery.

Sacramento added the veteran big man in free agency this offseason. He averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season in Memphis, where he played under current Kings coach Dave Joerger from 2013-16.

“It’ll be day-to-day to see if he can play Friday (at Dallas),” Joerger said. “We’ll see.”

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni held out center Nene on Tuesday against the Warriors in part to defend Randolph and not have to play him in back-to-back games.

That left D’Antoni with a fresh Nene and no Randolph to worry about.

“I should have called Zach and asked him first,” D’Antoni said.

Kings Rookie shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic had already been ruled out due to a sprained right ankle. He’s day-to-day.

First look – The Kings’ starting lineup for the opener was George Hill and Buddy Hield at guard, Justin Jackson and Skal Labissiere at forward and Willie Cauley-Stein at center.

Jackson, the only first-year player to start Wednesday, is the first Kings rookie to start a season opener since DeMarcus Cousins in 2010. In that game, Cousins scored 14 points in a 117-116 victory at Minnesota.

Hill was the only other player in the opening lineup who did not end last season as a Kings starter.

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

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