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Kings remain focused on defense in preparing for Clippers

Video: Energy picks up in practice as opener approaches

Coach George Karl says his team is excited about preparing to play a game that means something, referencing Wednesday's home opener against the Los Angeles Clippers. "I think by Wednesday we'll be ready to play," Karl said. Video by Jason Jones, j
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Coach George Karl says his team is excited about preparing to play a game that means something, referencing Wednesday's home opener against the Los Angeles Clippers. "I think by Wednesday we'll be ready to play," Karl said. Video by Jason Jones, j

Kings point guard Rajon Rondo made the NBA’s All-Defensive first or second team in four consecutive seasons with the Boston Celtics.

“I was a decent defensive player,” he said.

One of the Kings’ goals this season is to be a better-than-decent defensive team. Defense was one of coach George Karl’s biggest concerns entering training camp and remains so as the Kings prepare to host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday in the season opener.

“I think defensively we do a good job of controlling the basket,” Karl said. “I’m concerned about the transition (defense).”

Rondo said his “decent” defensive play had a lot to do with his teammates, so he spends plenty of time encouraging the Kings to be more vocal defensively.

“It was our team concept,” Rondo said. “If I can get our team to buy into that, they’re going to make me a better defensive player and vice versa.”

Rondo said the Kings have focused on transition defense, which will be tested by the Clippers, who excel at running the floor. Point guard Chris Paul directs the transition attack, looking for fleet big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and spot-up shooters.

I think defensively we do a good job of controlling the basket. I’m concerned about the transition (defense).

Kings coach George Karl

“You’ve got a great point guard, maybe the best point guard in the NBA, who knows how to play the game,” Karl said. “He’s seen every defense; he’s seen every concept.”

The Kings can improve their transition defense by reducing their turnovers. Rondo said the offense’s proficiency affects the defense.

“Getting into a great defensive situation is getting a great shot,” Rondo said, “(with) the floor being balanced, being able to get back in transition.”

Getting into a great defensive situation is getting a great shot (with) the floor being balanced, being able to get back in transition.

Kings point guard Rajon Rondo

Karl also said better shot selection is a priority. Bad shots will expose the weakness in transition defense.

Rondo said the challenge on defense has evolved.

“It’s easier to get offense down,” Rondo said. “If defense was easy, then there wouldn’t be a lot of points scored – 120, 115 a game. But that’s the way the NBA has transitioned this game. It’s the way they make the game go now.”

Sacramento Kings head coach George Karl tells the media in an interview that, "he (DeMarcus Cousins) is ready to break that mold, ready to change that path, ready to go down a different path...ready to sacrifice for the team, to do what it takes t

Family duty – Forward Rudy Gay missed Monday’s practice because his wife, Ecko, went into labor with the couple’s second child.

Because of Gay’s absence, Karl wasn’t ready to name Wednesday’s starting lineup. If Gay is unavailable, the coach will have to shuffle his rotation.

Remembering Flip – Karl, a two-time cancer survivor, was shaken after learning longtime NBA coach and executive Flip Saunders, 60, had died Sunday. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ coach had been battling cancer.

“It’s just hard to explain,” Karl said. “Cancer, it’s hard, when it takes anyone’s life that you have love and respect for. It’s surprising.”

The Timberwolves, who named Sam Mitchell as the interim coach while Saunders underwent treatment, announced Saturday that Saunders would not coach this season.

“Some people said that in August he was doing OK,” Karl said. “And to go that fast, so quickly, is crazy.”

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

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