The Kings don’t consider Bogdan Bogdanovic a rookie – a stance they’ve taken since he first stepped foot in training camp.
Bogdanovic, a first-year NBA player with big-time overseas experience, reinforced that notion after Thursday’s 121-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Golden 1 Center.
He sounded like a concerned veteran, unimpressed by his career-high 22 points amid a loss that resembled many for the Kings this season. Their defense yielded a season-high 43 points in the second quarter; matched their season high for points allowed in a half (72); and made another non-star look unstoppable, as forward Montrezl Harrell scored a season-high 25 points on 11-for-12 shooting.
“The first thing we need to do here is, it’s not about me,” Bogdanovic said. “It’s about the team and it’s about the culture. If we create a culture, everyone will be better 50 percent or more. If that day I score, or Buddy (Hield), I don’t know, if we grow as a team, that’s the most important thing.”
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The lack of fire to start games is a team-wide issue that has persisted through 18 different starting lineups this season.
“I don’t know,” Bogdanovic said. “There’s nothing special to say. Whoever starts, starts slow so it’s about the team inside, it’s not personal.”
Because of that, the Kings (13-28) are accustomed to playing from behind, even against a Clippers (20-21) team that played a night earlier at Golden State.
“We can’t let those teams have a 10-point or more advantage,” Bogdanovic said. “It’s really hard to trail them all game, and especially when they’re playing back-to-back games. We’re the team that’s supposed to show energy on the court. But there’s another chance in two days,” when the Kings play the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Bodganovic’s words did not come across as a stern rebuke, more like concern and the desire to see the Kings do the work to create a winning culture.
That he spoke up is not surprising. He’s established himself as a player teammates talk to about issues on the court. They trust his basketball IQ.
“He’s not a rookie,” said Kings point guard George Hill. “To you guys he is, but to us, he’s a seasoned vet. He’s been battle tested and been playing high-level basketball his whole life now. He just knows how to play the game the right way. We feed off that. He plays with that edge, that grit, he just wants to win.”
That mindset has to become contagious, especially to start games, and it was lacking Thursday as the Kings trailed 72-60 at halftime.
“We’ve got to start games and play with a lot more effort, a lot more aggressiveness, a lot more motor,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “Those things are what makes defensive players and defensive mindsets and we did not do that.”
Joerger called an early timeout after two quick 3-pointers from Lou Williams, who was coming off a 50-point game in a 125-106 win over the Warriors.
Logic would dictate the Kings would be aggressive and ready for Williams early, but it didn’t look that way.
“We also had the conversation between halves and you could see the different energy,” Bogdanovic said. “I could tell.”
Hill, who scored 21 points after missing three games for the birth of his daughter, said things changed with more energy, too.
“As we start to see as we pick our intensity up, deny things, get into guys, turnovers, things like that, the offense got easier,” Hill said. “We’ve got to continue to learn how to build our offense off our defense and start out a little more aggressive on defense and make them do what we want them to do instead of what they want to do.”
Bogdanovic said it much simpler.
“As a team we have to start better,” he said. “Be more hype.”