Why Kings remain focused on improving defense as preseason continues


Why Kings remain focused on improving defense as preseason continues

SACRAMENTO -- Defense. Defense. Defense.

Sometimes you have no choice but to reuse an opening line from an earlier piece. For the Kings, the focus was  -- and will be -- on the defensive side of the ball from now until the point where the team starts to improve.

“It didn’t look very good, did it,” coach Luke Walton said Tuesday when asked about the Kings’ defense last week in India. “That’s why we’re addressing it. It’s something that we as a group have to get much better at. There’s no reason to panic. It’s two and a half days of prep work before we flew out there and Indiana is a very good team.”

Walton is correct when it comes to the Pacers, the Kings' opponents in a pair of preseason games last week. Nate McMillan’s crew finished last season 48-34, earning the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

While the Pacers added a few new faces in free agency, they still have a core group of players and coaching staff that has been together for a few years. That is not a luxury that the Kings have at this point.

“It’s just about continuing to put in work and getting reps at our coverages and then the want to from out guys,” Walton said. “Our guys want to become a good defensive team, so it will happen. It just takes time.”

With two new starters and plenty of additions to the rotation, the Kings are trying to jam as much as they can into a short amount of time. A week-long trip to India didn’t help matters. 

Walton and his staff now have two weeks to install both an offense and a defense before Sacramento opens the regular season on Oct. 23 against the Suns in Phoenix. 

“We’re working on it, we’re working on it every day,” Marvin Bagley said. “We’re getting new calls in, we’re just figuring it out.”

In their two preseason games in Mumbai, the Kings allowed 132 points in an overtime loss and 130 the next night. Sacramento allowed Indiana to shoot 51.6 percent from the field in the first game and 52.1 percent in the second.

“We’re on the fly with it,” Bagley added. “We’ve got to keep going, keep getting better, keep continuing to lock in these practices we have and we’ll be alright.”

The Kings hope to improve on its 39-43 record from last season and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2006. But first. they’ll need to find chemistry on defense.

“Both of those games we let them score way too many points, too many fouls, too many straight line drives, layups, open threes,” De’Aaron Fox said. “It’s something we know we need to work on. We know offense isn’t a problem.”

The Kings scored an average of 118.5 points in the two contests, but they struggled just about everywhere defensively.

Both Bagley and Fox pointed to now having game film to work with. It’s one thing to practice against teammates. It’s a completely different feeling to face another NBA team.

“We have a foundation of it now, it’s just getting better at everything, getting all the terminology down, communicating," Fox said. "I think that’s one of our main aspects, we need to communicate. Kind of just taking it personal on defense, being able to keep guys in front of you, that’s the name of the game.

“... You can have all of these concepts and all the team defense, but at the end of the day, you have to have guys that can stand their ground."

The Kings are going to be a work in progress on defense for the foreseeable future. They’re still installing their base defense and haven’t even started building in some of the more crucial sets. With everything new, this process likely will stretch through the preseason and into the first quarter of the season.

[RELATED: Why Fox thinks 'Air Drake' could help Kings in free agency]

The defense has another test coming up Thursday when the Suns roll into Sacramento for the preseason home opener at Golden 1 Center. While Phoenix won just 19 games last season, Devin Booker is a big-time scorer and his team can go on runs in a hurry.

Sacramento will be without Harry Giles (sore left knee) and Tyler Ulis (hip) for a third straight game, and veteran guard Cory Joseph (calf) is unlikely to play as well. 

Kings unveil new 'City Edition' uniforms with red as primary color


Kings unveil new 'City Edition' uniforms with red as primary color

The Kings are having a lot of fun this season and it starts with what's happening on the court.

Yes, the team is creeping back toward the .500 mark and the court itself has received a retro look with the red and blue color scheme on their "Classic Court." Now, the team has alternate uniforms that will match with red as the primary color to compliment the floor.

The team tweeted out an awesome promotional video highlighting each of the colored jerseys they've sported over the years from purple to blue to gold and crispy whites:

The new Nike City Edition uniforms will feature red, baby blue, white and gray as the colors with "Sactown" written across the chest. This will be the first time in Kings history to have red as the primary. 

“The City Edition uniforms were made to represent the Proud Past and Proud Future of our Kings here in Sacramento,” Kings president of business operations John Rinehart said on their website. “With red as the primary color, they represent that passion and energy that has echoed through our arena and helps celebrate the team’s 35th year in Sactown.”

And what do fans think?

One told NBC Sports California there is only one color they think of when it comes to the Kings.

"Purple is the best," he said. "The answer is always purple."

Carmichael Dave, a staple among Sacramento sports and a true Kings fan, admitted change with something as uniforms could be off-putting, and the colors for a team "should be sacred." But he hated the baby blues so let's just get that out of the way right now.

"As long as the babies are gone I’m OK," he said to NBC Sports California. "Red has never been anything for us but trim. And if the fans had their say, though there isn’t anything unanimous, it would be purple, black, Royal blue, and white. That's it -- maybe red as trim."

Dave added these are the least popular alternate jerseys, since "the horrid gold ones."

[RELATED: How Kings Serbian connections make Bogdan feel at home]

Glancing at some of the responses to the original tweet it appears many are torn on the colors. But for now, we can confirm Marvin Bagley pulls off the uni well:

Here's a schedule for when the Kings plan to sport the new uniforms. 

Kings' accumulated depth paying dividends as team creeps back to .500

Kings' accumulated depth paying dividends as team creeps back to .500

SACRAMENTO -- Coming out of a busy summer of additions, the Kings looked like one of the deeper teams in the Western Conference. 13 games into the 2019-20 season, that depth is paying dividends and Sacramento is scrambling back towards the .500 mark.

In a 120-116 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday evening, head coach Luke Walton’s crew almost blew a 26-point lead, but it somehow managed to pull together and win as a team in the final minute.

“That’s what Luke says -- a lot of teams, they lose these games and then maybe they learn,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “We are lucky enough to learn and smart enough to learn from this game and get a win.”

Players stepping up is a trend in Sacramento, and it’s a big reason the team has bounced back after a brutal 0-5 start.

When Marvin Bagley broke his right thumb on opening night, Nemanja Bjelica stepped back into a starting role and he has flourished. When Dewayne Dedmon struggled with his shot, Richaun Holmes took over the starting center job, and he is making a huge difference for the Kings. And after De’Aaron Fox severely sprained his ankle, Cory Joseph has come to the rescue.

Balancing out the roster once everyone is healthy and playing to their potential won’t be easy for Walton, but on Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center, his team picked up its sixth win in eight games and did it with a rotation that has constantly been in flux.

With Buddy Hield under the weather and missing his 3-point attempts, Bogdanovic was the star of the evening. The reserve shooting guard notched a career-high 31 points on 7-of-9 shooting from long range to lead all scorers.

The seven makes from distance also a career-high for Bogdanovic, but he wasn’t the only difference-maker for the Kings.

“Bogi is crazy, he’s good,” Hield said of Bogdanovic. “You never know who’s going to go on a run. It could be Bjeli, it could be me, it could be Bogi. Those are guys that can hurt you at any second.”

Joseph hasn’t looked for his own shot since taking over for Fox at point guard, but he has played spectacular defense and managed the game like a pro against Phoenix.

In his ninth NBA season and first in Sacramento, the veteran guard set a new personal best with 14 assists to go with six points, five rebounds and just two turnovers in 39 minutes of action.

“Obviously we have a couple of guys down, which is unfortunate,” Joseph said. “It’s the next man up mentality. Everybody that stepped up played good.”

After playing with the Suns a season ago, Holmes looked like a man possessed. He attacked a depleted Phoenix front line, scoring 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go with a career-high 15 rebounds.

“Every time I’ve coached against him, he’s killed us.” Walton said of his experience with Holmes before this season. “But he’s never really played major minutes, at least from what I’ve seen. We were excited to get him. He’s been as solid and steady as anyone that we’ve had on our team.”

Bjelica continued his strong play for the Kings as well. The 31-year-old veteran finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, a block and a steal. His 28-foot 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining in the fourth momentarily helped stem the tide and put the Kings back up by 12.

“He's able to stretch the floor so we've got more of a lane when I'm going down the lane on the rolls," Holmes said of Bjelica. "He can pass the ball, he can play-make, he can just do so many different things. He's very important to this team.”

The Kings still are developing an identity, but they were solid on defense again and there always seems to be someone new stepping up to help carry the load.

[RELATED: How Kings' Serbian connections help make Bogi feel at home]

“That’s what’s so fun about us -- we enjoy everybody’s success and we love that about everybody,” Hield added. “We love to share the ball, we love to play together. That’s great for us and that’s going to help us keep growing and help us win ball games down the stretch.”

Sacramento flies out to New York on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for a Friday matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. The Kings will play a tough four-game road trip heading into Thanksgiving, but after a rough start to the season, they seem to be back on the right track.

Injury Note

After posting a career-high in scoring, Bogdanovic was forced to leave the game with 1:22 remaining. Following the win, Bogdanovic said he had a cramp in his left hamstring and thought that he would be okay for Friday's game against the Nets. We will have an update on his hamstring as more information becomes available.