SACRAMENTO -- Chaos is no match for the Kings.
After surviving this season’s first negative bout from outside forces last weekend, the team went out and ignored the noise to hand losses to both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz. The next challenge: Saturday night's road meeting with the back-to-back defending NBA champion Warriors.
The Kings aren’t bulletproof, but they have shown an ability to take a punch and come back for more. At 10-8, they have completely baffled the oddsmakers. They expect to win, and they don’t really care what folks on the outside think.
There is a naivety to the group. Or maybe there isn’t. It’s possible that when you lump a bunch of players together who have won at every level, they expect to continue that trend.
“I love it,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac told NBC Sports California. “It’s a team that plays the way that I like and enjoy as a fan. This is basketball -- when the whole team is involved in some way. They all share the ball, they cheer for each other, they all move around. Dave [Joerger] is doing a great job.”
In a candid conversation with the Kings' coach, he described some of the things that make life in Sacramento so different this season. Despite rumors that Joerger was on shaky ground last week that shook the veteran coach, there is a joy that comes with working with this young group.
“Our guys are so young, they kind of don’t know what they don’t know,” Joerger told NBC Sports California.
Joerger pointed to the Kings' win over the Jazz as a major teaching point. After getting smashed by the Jazz during the preseason and then losing again to them on opening night, the Kings had a short memory Wednesday. They walked into Vivint Smart Home Arena and beat a team that won 48 games last season.
The Kings will host the same Jazz on Sunday, which again will present another moment for Joerger to gauge where his team is. How will the upstart Kings play on the second night of a back-to-back against an angry team looking to get even?
As a young team, there are things about the Kings that drive Joerger mad and others that bring a smile to his face.
“I get a kick out of some things. When the other team scores, I never get a kick out of that,” Joerger said. “What I do get a kick out of, though, is when we run it back in less than 2 and a half seconds later and score back on them. The look on people's faces, like, 'What just happened right there.' "
The Kings are getting a lot of those looks. With second-year point guard De’Aaron Fox leading the way, Sacramento currently ranks second in the NBA in pace and ninth in scoring.
As a group, the Kings make mistakes, but they cover for those errors by playing at breakneck speed. During training camp, Joerger ran the team like crazy to prepare them for this pace of play. Now in the regular season, the focus has shifted to X's and O's, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
"I get a kick out of the innocent fun things at practice, that dudes will say or do, that they just have no experience” Joerger said. “It just makes you smile. Man, we’re teaching from ground zero. Not to say that they aren’t talented, but ground zero of experience."
Joerger isn’t doing it alone. He’s surrounded himself with a team of experienced coaches, many of whom he’s known for years. They are a tight-knit group, which helps when working with a team that has 12 players with four years of NBA experience or less.
“My coaching staff is incredible,” Joerger said. “We’ve been together five to eight years in different places. And the development and the relationships that all of our guys have with the players -- the culture is really positive.”
Joerger spoke of continuity, both with his staff and the players. It’s clear he’s having a good time with the current collection of people surrounding him.
The Kings are winning. They are playing a style of basketball that has people around the NBA taking notice. The drama has come and gone and, like the players, the court is a refuge for Joerger.