Kings

Kings focused on improving communication, chemistry on defensive end

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USATSI

Kings focused on improving communication, chemistry on defensive end

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings have a tall task in front of them. During a condensed training camp that has included a 17,000-mile round trip adventure to India, head coach Luke Walton and his staff have had to install a new base offense and defense while learning personnel and finding combinations that work together on the court.   

“It’s a new group, there’s new terminology to learn, there’s new play calls to learn, new concepts to learn and we get that, so it’s going to take time,” Walton explained following practice on Saturday afternoon.

The Kings have plenty of scoring options and they will continue to play an uptempo style, so the coaching staff has prioritized the defensive side of the ball. In addition to preaching concepts, Walton and his staff have placed a heavy emphasis on communication during every practice.

“Off the court, everybody is fine with each other, but on the court, everybody is starting to talk a little bit more and that communication is the big difference from we had last year,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said.

Communication was a huge issue for Sacramento last season when the team allowed 115.3 points per game and finished 20th in the league in defensive rating. To combat the issue, the coaching staff is using some old-school methods to drive the point home.

“They’re always stopping the practice when we are not communicating well and when we are not loud,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said.

The Kings made defensive upgrades at crucial positions, including at the backup point guard, backup small forward and starting center spots. The added size and length will allow them to expand their defensive playbook to include a switching defense.

“We are really big athletes and we have length, speed and we can guard -- one through four -- anyone in the league,” Bogdanovic said. “I think we are pretty talented to switch and I like it.”

In order to run a switching scheme, Walton first had to install a base defense and then expand from there. Communication and chemistry are imperative when handing opponents off from one player to the next, and the team is working on those areas every day. 

“I think it’s definitely building,” Fox said. “We have a lot of new guys this year and an entirely new coaching staff, so the chemistry is definitely building, but I don’t think it’s at a bad place right now.”

[RELATED: Fox on Hield-Kings extension: 'Hopefully they get it done']

It’s going to be a work in progress, which the team learned in the back-to-back games against the Indiana Pacers in India. Sacramento gave up a combined 262 points over the two games before heading home to face the Suns earlier this week.

“Obviously the first two games we didn’t play defense the way we wanted,” Bogdanovic added. “We showed improvement in the game against Phoenix here and that’s the way we want to play.”

Sacramento held the Suns to just 88 points on 31.4 percent shooting. The Kings also outrebounded their opponent 59-43, which was another tremendous improvement.

It should be noted that the Suns won 19 games last season. They are nowhere near the quality of opponent of a team like the Pacers, but they are still an NBA team with plenty of scoring options.

The Kings get another shot to test how far they have progressed on Monday when they travel to Utah to face a very difficult Jazz team. They aren’t expecting to be perfect, but it’s another opportunity to improve.

“Are we anywhere close to where we need to be?” Walton said. “No, we’re nowhere close. But to me, that’s to be expected. We don’t want to speed up the process and try to rush anything. We know we’re on a journey as a team.”

Following the game against the Jazz, the Kings close out their preseason schedule at Golden 1 Center with a game against Melbourne United on Wednesday. They’ll then have an additional week to further work out the kinks in preparation for the season opener against the Suns on Oct. 23.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in nail-biting 100-99 win vs. Celtics

Kings takeaways: What we learned in nail-biting 100-99 win vs. Celtics

BOX SCORE

Every once in a while, the Sacramento Kings get a roll to go their way. That was the case Sunday as Marcus Smart’s buzzer-beating floater sat on the rim for an eternity, before falling out. 

Golden 1 Center went crazy as the Kings stunned the Boston Celtics by a final of 100-99.

Buddy Hield starred in the game, but it was a rebound and a pair of free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining from big man Richaun Holmes that set up the final dramatic play.

On the final possession for Boston, the Kings stopped Kemba Walker on a drive. He found Smart at the elbow and the Celtic’s guard made a break for the rim. In a rare moment of luck for the home team, the shot didn’t fall and the fans exploded with cheers. 

Here are three takeaways as the Kings shocked the best team in the Eastern Conference to improve to 5-7 on the season.  

Buddy came to play

The Kings leading scorer didn’t disappoint during Sunday’s matinee. Needing a boost in a tough defensive matchup, Hield got hot from behind the arc to help keep his team in the game throughout the night.

Hield dropped in 16 points in the first half, backed that up with 11 in the third quarter to give him 27 heading into the fourth.

Boston made a concerted effort to limit him in the final frame, but Hield still finished with a game-high 35 points on 7-of-12 shooting from long range. He also grabbed six rebounds and picked up four steals in 38 minutes of action.

Set em’ up, knock em’ down

Bogdan Bogdanovic created for others early, matching his season-high of 10 assists. Once his teammates were properly fed, he went to work on his own game.

After scoring just two points through three quarters, Bogdanovic hit the Celtics for 10 in the deciding fourth quarter. 

Bogdanovic has a really good feel for the game. He seems to know what his team needs every game and then fills the void. 

You gotta Bjelica

Where would the Kings be without Nemanja Bjelica?

There were questions coming into the season whether Bjelica would be in the Kings’ rotation. 12 games into the season, he’s one of the team’s most valuable players.

[RELATED: NBA admits LeBron contact on decisive Lakers-Kings play]

Against Boston, Bjelica notched his second double-double of the season, finishing the night with 12 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and a block.

He’s not going to win any footraces and there are times when he struggles on the defensive end, but the 31-year-old sharpshooter continues to give Luke Walton’s club solid minutes.

NBA admits LeBron James fouled Harrison Barnes on decisive Lakers-Kings play

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AP

NBA admits LeBron James fouled Harrison Barnes on decisive Lakers-Kings play

The Kings' 99-97 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night was too close for comfort. It also created a controversial call -- a call in which we recently received some clarity.

With 5.5 seconds remaining in the game, Harrison Barnes was called for blocking a foul against LeBron James. This allowed LeBron to sink a couple of free throws to get the Lakers to 99 points.

Barnes would later say contact was made but was waiting for the replay to decide.

The NBA Officiating Last Two Minute Report would confirm James did indeed foul Barnes with 5.5 seconds remaining. 

"James (LAL) extends his elbow into Barnes's (SAC) chin before any contact is initiated by Barnes on the perimeter," the report stated.

“Who initiated that, that’s for replays to decide," Barnes said after the game. " And they chose to call that a foul on me and that’s something you have to live with."

[RELATED: No timetable for De'Aaron Fox return]

Buddy Hield spoke to NBC Sports California's James Ham about the play and said it was a game-changer.

“One call changed the whole game, it could have gone either way,” Hield said. “It be like that sometimes. When the home team is favored, especially you know, in LA.”

In a game that close, he could be right.