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' Buddy Hield blames headband after missing first six 3-pointers

Kings' Buddy Hield blames headband after missing first six 3-pointers

The mental game often can weigh on an athlete's performance. But what if it has to do with a headband?

Kings guard Buddy Hield missed his first six 3-point attempts during Wednesday's 107-99 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. His initial reaction was this ...

Later, after he lost the headband and drilled 2 of his next 5 threes, he admitted to NBC Sports California's Kayte Christensen-Hunter that it was more of a mental issue.

Hield then said it still wasn't an excuse.

Nonetheless, Hield managed to get 20 points by the end of the game. Don't be surprised if you see him without a headband for a while ... or ever.

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are not accepting condolence cards.

Despite an atrocious 0-5 start to the season and major injuries to both forward Marvin Bagley and point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings refuse to give up on the final 70-plus games of the season. The Portland Trail Blazers learned that lesson on Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center.

It took a full 48 minutes, but the Kings staved off the Blazers late to come away with a 107-99 victory in front of an appreciative home crowd.

With two of their top scorers on the shelf, the Kings need more from every member of the rotation. Against a Portland team that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, it was a pair of Serbian national team teammates that came to play.

Nemanja Bjelica was the only Kings player that could find the bottom of the net in the first 8:41 of the first quarter. The 31-year-old forward scored seven of the team’s first eight points, with Richaun Holmes putting in a lone free throw as Sacramento fell behind 18-8 early.

“Bjeli started off well and everybody is staying together as a group and just connecting with each other and supporting each other,” Buddy Hield said.

Bjelica posted his first double-double of the season, finishing the evening with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes.

The veteran big started the game well and then came to the rescue late with a 26-foot three-pointer to give Sacramento an eight-point lead with 2:37 remaining in the fourth.

“Great win, especially in front of our fans,” Bjelica said. “I mean, we’re always talking about is we want to make the playoffs, we need to win every game at home, so it is very important for us.”

Needing a spark to wake up the offense, coach Luke Walton turned to the Kings’ other Serbian-born player, Bogdan Bogdanovic. The third-year wing changed the entire momentum of the game with his defense, scoring ability and playmaking.

Bogdanovic picked up three steals in just under six minutes of play in the first quarter and matched his career-high with four steals on the night.

On the offensive end, Bogdanovic hit Portland with a team-high 25 points, including 15 in the first half while the Kings were struggling to keep up.

“He’s fun to watch, man,” Hield said of Bogdanovic. “Playing with him, he’s such a good passer. He’s a good playmaker and he’s always about team. You see him making shots and scoring, but he’s always a team-first guy.”

With Fox sidelined, Bogdanovic took the reigns of the offense. He finished with 10 assists in 32 minutes of action and during crunch time, he made the right plays when it mattered.

“I think I’m an experienced player and I can adjust to any role here,” Bogdanovic said. “I’m just trying to help the team to get these wins and tonight it was 10 assists. I’m more happy with the win.”

It was Bogdanovic who fed Bjelica for the open three in the fourth. He had another pass to Cory Joseph for a three at the 2:01 mark of the fourth and he found a cutting Harrison Barnes with 1:30 remaining to help seal the win.

Bjelica and Bogdanovic put up the big numbers, but it was a team effort for Sacramento.

Hield struggled with his shot, but still managed to post 20 points on the evening. Barnes went scoreless in the first half but finished with 16 after a strong final 24 minutes. Joseph played solid defense on Damian Lillard and Richaun Holmes chipped in the team’s third double-double with an 11-point, 10-rebound, two-block performance.

[RELATED: What we learned as Kings take down Blazers without Fox]

The Kings have a long road in front of them, but they are playing a better brand of basketball after a tough start and they are starting to show improvements on both ends of the court. With the win, Sacramento is now 4-1 over their previous five games and they’ve climbed to 4-6 on the season.

They’ll have a much tougher test on Friday when they fly to Los Angeles to face LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the 8-2 Lakers.