Preps Talk

Sutter keeps Kings grounded, focused

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Sutter keeps Kings grounded, focused

NEWARK, N.J. Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter demands a lot from his team. And those demands, sometimes, come in higher decibels.

He said, Its your guys job to play and mine to coach. So if you make mistakes, Ive got to coach and that means yelling, Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said of Sutter, with a laugh. Youre supposed to play, so play well.

The Kings have been playing very well, as evidence by their meteoric trail through the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Final. And much of that credit goes to their coach. The former Blackhawks player and coach has said the right things, pushed the right buttons and found the right formula to get the most of this talented Kings group.

A coach is like a CEO: you need to teach people to develop, right? And he does that really well, Mitchell said. Its not, just do this or that, run your routes, turn your brain off and youre done. Hell say, Were doing this and this is why itll be successful. Is that going to work for you guys? It empowers his players a lot.

And his players say that Sutter is great at knowing when to command and when to commend.

His timing on both sides is good: When you need a kick in the butt he gives you a kick in the butt. When you earn a pat on the back he gives you a pat on the back, said Colin Fraser, who added that Sutter allows players to spread their wings and play to their strengths. He shows that the way he goes four lines. For a fourth liner like myself, having been on the other side and not playing much, that gives you confidence. As long as youre playing well and doing your job, he lets you go.

The results speak for themselves. The Kings were a talented group from the start this season but sputtered under former coach Terry Murray. Sutter was hired in mid-December and the Kings starting putting things together.

The Kings landed the eighth place spot in the West, finishing third in the neck-and-neck Pacific Division. But they quickly learned how to defeat the rest of their conference by focusing on their game, not their seed. It would be easy for the Kings to buckle under the pressure of their amazing run, to revel in their accomplishments and lose sight of the big prize. But Sutter doesnt let that happen. Its all about the next game, not the previous ones.

Its already worn off, even though it was a big win, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said of the Game 1 victory euphoria. We have to go into the next game like the series is starting all over again. Darryl will make sure (that focus) doesnt slide.

Sutters focus has been especially critical for the Kings younger players.

Hes intense on game days. Hes into it. And when you see that, what are the young guys going to do? Theyre going to fall in line, said Mitchell. Its been huge for our younger players. Guys who have been around a little bit, youre prepared for this. But sometimes, young guys dont understand that, or you just dont get it at that point. Hes a guy who makes you get it.

The Kings are three victories away from their franchises first Stanley Cup, but they wont be thinking past Game 2. Their coach demands that level of focus. The Kings have responded with a higher level of game.

Hes a motivator, defenseman Matt Greene said. He does a lot to get the best out of guys, get guys going. He makes sure you know how important each shift is, every second of each shift. He demands a lot from you and demands a lot of respect coming back his way. Hes got it.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”