Brick by brick, the Sacramento Kings are building a foundation for the future. It started in the offseason with plenty of additions to the infrastructure of the team, but Tuesday afternoon, the on-court work began.
Instead of the sound of basketballs bouncing and sneakers squeaking, the Kings practice facility was empty, except for a ring of media members. After a loaded media day, only Dave Joerger, followed by his team leaders of Garrett Temple and Vince Carter, spoke as cameras rolled.
“Mostly, just what we want to be about,” Joerger said when asked what day one of training camp was like. “What do we want to be about now, what do we want to be about four months from now, what do we want to be about three years from now? And that needs to be the same so there is consistency. What you allow, you encourage. What you demand is hopefully what you get on a daily basis.”
It’s about basics. Joerger and his staff are tasked with bringing along a young core that includes 10 players with two years of NBA experience or less. He will rely heavily on his five veterans to help develop the squad, but eventually, the kids will have to see minutes.
“These guys are asking a lot of questions,” Carter said. “Very attentive and that’s what you want from young guys - willing to listen. What you ask of young guys (is to) humble yourself, sit back and learn, ask questions and I think that’s how you get better faster.”
Carter came into the league with the Toronto Raptors. They had established veterans in Charles Oakley, Kevin Willis, Dee Brown and Doug Christie. Despite his billing as a star in the making, Carter had to start at the same place that the Kings rookies find themselves today - the bottom.
“If I wouldn’t know it, I asked a lot of questions,” Carter said of his early experience in the league. “That helped me. That slowed the game down and I was able to catch on rather quickly. It’s different for every player, so it’s all about understanding who they are and what makes them tick.”
In his 20th season, Carter still expects to play. But he also knows that his role is to mentor and bring up a new generation of NBA players.
Temple sees a lot of the same things that Carter does. The young players are all ears and they’ve been in Sacramento for a while working together to develop chemistry.
“This is the youngest team I’ve ever been on, but it’s fun,” Temple said. “The biggest thing is, we have a group of guys that are good guys. Nobody has any hidden agenda that I’ve seen. When you have teams like that, especially when the guys are young and they’re yearning to learn, it makes basketball fun.”
Temple didn’t have the same path to the league as Carter. He came up in the San Antonio system, but he bounced in and out of the league for years before finally finding a home in Sacramento.
He spent last season as the defacto leader of the team as the franchise hit the reset button. Now he has massive reinforcements in Carter, George Hill and Zach Randolph. Along with veteran Kosta Koufos, this group of veterans will not only play, but they will aid in the development of the team’s young players.
After a wild season of ups and downs, Temple is looking forward to sharing some of the load and even taking some tips from his fellow veterans.
“I’m going to learn from Vince Carter on how to be a better leader,” Temple said. “I’m going to learn from Z-Bo, I’m going to continue to learn from Kosta and George - we have other guys, it’s not just me.”
With the NBA pushing the season up 10 days, Joerger gets an abbreviated training camp. Day one is in the books, but a season of building is just around the corner.
A new face in the crowd:
Veteran point guard Marcus Williams signed with the team early Tuesday. He joins former Duke Blue Devil, Matt Jones, as the only two non-guaranteed contract players on the squad.
Williams, 31, hasn’t played in the league since 2010. The former 22nd overall selection in the 2006 NBA Draft has played in Puerto Rico, Russia, China, Spain and Serbia over the last few years.