Kings Blog

Kings seek improvement as regular season approaches

Ben McLemore loses the ball against Maccabi Haifa of Israel during a preseason game on Saturday, October, 18, 2014 in Sacramento.
Ben McLemore loses the ball against Maccabi Haifa of Israel during a preseason game on Saturday, October, 18, 2014 in Sacramento. hamezcua@sacbee.com

If you’ve been underwhelmed by the Kings’ performance during the preseason, you’re not alone.

The players and coaches say a lot of work needs to be done before the regular-season opener Oct. 29.

The Kings (2-3) have had their moments of good play but usually have looked like what they are, a team with a lot of new players trying to figure things out.

The defense has been spotty, and the offense has been plagued by turnovers. And with two exhibition games left, the Kings seek a consistent player rotation and better results.

“Be a lot more disciplined on defense – talking, covering for each other and executing our game plan,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “And offensively, continue to really try to stress pace. If there’s nothing there early – player movement, ball movement – pass up good shots to get great shots. And every time we’re on the floor is an opportunity to really try to establish that identity.”

Part of finding that identity will be settling on a starting lineup and rotation to start the regular season.

The Kings began to finalize the roster after Saturday night’s victory over Maccabi Haifa of Israel by releasing center Sim Bhullar, point guard Deonte Burton and power forward David Wear, putting the roster at 15. Sacramento figures to release at least one more player, likely shooting guard Trey Johnson, before the regular season.

“We have to start narrowing it down and getting our normal group the minutes it needs together and come up with a rotation that we feel gives us the best chance to have success to start this season,” Malone said.

Doing so should help the Kings establish more synergy on defense and a better flow on offense.

The Kings’ defense looked great against Maccabi Haifa but has been underwhelming against NBA teams.

In two games against Toronto and two more against Brooklyn, Sacramento allowed 107.7 points per game and 47.2 percent shooting, including 40.2 percent from three-point range.

Even against a non-NBA team, turnovers were an issue. The Kings committed 25 against Maccabi Haifa to increase their average to 20.8 in five exhibition games.

Center DeMarcus Cousins had nine turnovers Saturday.

“Horrible game,” is how Cousins described his play, even though he also scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 26 minutes. “Nine turnovers, so got a lot to fix. Can’t have that same type of effort (on Monday night) in San Antonio.”

The hope is the turnovers will be reduced as Malone goes away from experimenting with different lineups and uses a regular rotation.

Four starters figure to be the same as they were for much of last season: Cousins, small forward Rudy Gay, power forward Jason Thompson and shooting guard Ben McLemore, whose contract option for 2015-16 was picked up Sunday, the Kings announced.

But there will be a new point guard in Darren Collison, and the rotation off the bench will be different with the addition of point guard Ramon Sessions, small forward Omri Casspi and rookie shooting guard Nik Stauskas.

Collison said the Kings’ problems are to be expected.

“The years since I’ve been in the league, the preseason has never been a smooth transition for any team,” Collison said. “I think you’re trying to get familiar with each other; spacing is off. Our spacing is not as good as it needs to be. I think when guys start to play with each other a lot more, our spacing will be a little bit better, and that will cut down on our turnovers.”

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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