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Kings look to increase assists, decrease turnovers and continue to stress defense

“Things are coming along good,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “We’re learning one another better, and the chemistry is better. We’ve still got some stuff to clean up as far as executing the right way at all times, but I think we’re coming along fine.”
“Things are coming along good,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “We’re learning one another better, and the chemistry is better. We’ve still got some stuff to clean up as far as executing the right way at all times, but I think we’re coming along fine.” hamezcua@sacbee.com

Much of the Kings’ offseason was dedicated to offense.

From drafting Nik Stauskas, to bringing in two point guards, the Kings were open to any way to increase their offensive production.

Consider that mission incomplete.

The Kings like their additions but acknowledge they have a lot of work to do on offense.

Sacramento enters Tuesday’s game in Dallas averaging 103.7 points, tied for seventh in the NBA, but still ranks near the bottom in some key areas.

“We’re finding a way to score, regardless,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “So if we can ever get our offense clicking, valuing the ball, making plays for each other, step up and make shots, we have a lot of potential to put points up on the board.”

The Kings are shooting 43.8 percent, 20th in the league, and rank last in three-point shooting at 27.1 percent. They also average the ninth-most turnovers (15.4) and are 28th in assists (18.4).

Sacramento compensates by defending better than it has in past seasons while making 80.8 percent of its league-high 37.3 free throws per game.

To get more from their offense, the Kings continue to stress ball movement, player movement and using their defense to set up the offense for easy scoring chances.

When Sacramento plays in the halfcourt, it doesn’t want to be predictable.

That means more motion and flow, and not simply giving the ball to DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay and watching them operate.

The Kings see progress from the start of training camp in those areas.

“It’s definitely progressed,” said point guard Darren Collison. “We understand that when we run we get a lot of good things out of our offense. We don’t just want to be a post-up team or a pick-and-roll team. We want to have a variety of different options on offense.”

The Kings also acknowledge that seven games into the season is too early to assess their offensive potential. Collison is new to the team and still getting accustomed to playing with his teammates. Key bench players Ramon Sessions, Omri Casspi and Stauskas are also additions, slowing the learning curve a bit.

Carl Landry is a trusted scorer off the bench, but he’s essentially new, too. He played only 18 games last season because of injuries.

“Things are coming along good,” Cousins said. “We’re learning one another better, and the chemistry is better. We’ve still got some stuff to clean up as far as executing the right way at all times, but I think we’re coming along fine.”

Malone said the Kings’ shooting woes are not his biggest offensive concern. He’s more concerned about assists and turnovers.

Malone is encouraged by Sacramento’s game Sunday evening in Oklahoma City. Even though the 101-93 loss ended the Kings’ five-game win streak, they had 23 assists and only 12 turnovers.

Malone said the Kings can’t afford to abandon their identity “to defend, gang-rebound, run with discipline and value and share the ball” because the defense can set up the offense and generate fast breaks.

If the Kings can accomplish that, it will cover up their shooting struggles and boost their offensive statistics.

But for Malone, it always go back to defense.

“It’s tough to play a halfcourt game in the NBA where you play against a set defense all night,” Malone said. “If you can get out and run and score easy baskets before they get set and Ben (McLemore) can see the ball go through on a layup or a dunk or Nik, and our big guys are rim running and get rim catches, good things are going to happen. But we’re not going to run at the expense of our defense.”

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

TONIGHT’S GAME

KINGS AT DALLAS

▪ When: 5:30 p.m.

▪ TV: CSNCA

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