The Sacramento Kings know who’s starting at center come opening night. But every other position, according to Kings head coach Keith Smart, remains up for grabs.
“I’m gonna move guys around all throughout camp, all throughout this month to make sure we get the right fit of a group that functions well together,” said Smart after the Kings’ first practice back in Sacramento yesterday evening. “As opposed to putting too many of the same type of guys together and (finding that) they’re not working.”
The biggest question remains the Kings’ dilemma at small forward. According to Smart, the battle between his crop of wings is currently even. However, one of the Kings forwards may have a slight edge, thanks to regained confidence and health.
“I will say Travis Outlaw is shooting the ball better from the small forward position than probably any of our threes right now,” said the Kings head coach of last year’s amnesty waiver pickup. “I’d say he has an edge in the shooting department because of that. It’s been pleasant to see that he came back…that his hand has healed fully and he’s able to get back into that long-range shooting.”
In addition to Outlaw’s wrist, Smart says he’s noticed improvement in the lift of the veteran small forward’s jumper and in his effort on the defensive end. The Kings head coach also complimented Outlaw’s play off-the-ball, calling him “one of the better cutters” they have right now.
When it comes to determining his lineup, Smart has taken an upfront approach with players. He’s warned them not to overreact or take his trial rotations too seriously. And thus far, the team seems to have responded favorably to his approach.
“That’s what we talked about from day one,” said second-year guard Isaiah Thomas of how the team is handling playing time. “Everybody is not going to play 48 minutes. You gotta put your ego aside and do what’s best for the team.”
After earning the job last year, the starting point guard position is Thomas’ to lose. He says his competition has kept him on his toes early throughout the preseason.
“You’ve got three different types of guards coming at you three different ways,” said Thomas, referring to teammates Aaron Brooks, Jimmer Fredette and Tyreke Evans. “So, you just gotta be ready. You gotta come to practice with your hard hat on and be ready to compete.”
According to Thomas, there’s been noticeable improvement in Fredette’s confidence. Thomas says that his fellow 2011 draft-mate seems more comfortable on the court and has a better understanding of his role heading into the season.
Meanwhile, Evans has been playing with renewed energy for the game. Though not likely to play heavy minutes at point guard this year, Thomas senses the former rookie of the year is playing with something to prove.
“Tyreke has been playing with a sense of urgency that you didn’t really see last year,” Thomas said. “And he’s playing like he’s got a chip on his shoulder and we need that from him…We need him to play at an All-Star type level for us to be successful.”
More positive reviews of Colorado Springs camp
If the Kings make any kind of noise in the Western Conference this season, experts may point back to the time they spent together during a players’ only camp in July and the first seven days of training camp held in Colorado Springs.
Kings power forward Jason Thompson echoed similar sentiment shared by his fellow teammates about last week’s isolated experience.
“I think before guys were real friendly (before),” said Thompson. “But…guys that didn’t have much in common, we found out more about each other. At the end of the day, I don’t think any of us had been to Colorado Springs before and we were all we had.”
That improved team chemistry will be put to the test tomorrow in their first preseason game against the Phoenix Suns. Tip off is 7 pm at Power Balance Pavilion.