Chris Mullin talks with agent Dan Fegan after Sacramento Kings practice in Santa Barbara. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

SANTA BARBARA – On day two of their Southern California excursion, the Sacramento Kings opened with a non-contact practice Wednesday morning.  A bevy of notes, quotes and observations from this morning’s workout session in Santa Barbara below.

  • Head coach Michael Malone was pleased with the effort from yesterday’s first practice.  But he wasn’t too thrilled with the team’s energy to start last night’s evening session.  Malone said today that he challenged them to consistently do better.  ”Today, they did a much better job with their focus, their attention to detail and getting through it,” the Kings head coach said.  ”Having one good practice is nice, but we’re nowhere good to be a team that can try to turn it on and turn it off.”
  • When asked about the shooting guard position, Malone compared Marcus Thornton to former Detroit Piston Vinnie Johnson.  Malone likes Thornton’s ability to change the game in “a heartbeat” with his scoring ability much like “The Microwave” did for the Detroit Pistons of the late eighties and early nineties.  Malone also complimented Thornton’s willingness to buy into the team’s defensive-first mindset. “He knows that we’re going to pride ourself on getting stops,” Malone said.  ”And if I’m a scorer, that excites me because the more stops we get, the more opportunity I have to score the ball.”
  • Both yesterday and today, Malone praised Ben McLemore for making improvements to his game following Summer League.  Malone pointed out that McLemore has gotten much better at making plays off the dribble.  The Kings head coach also noted that the first-year guard is making smarter decisions as a passer and in his shot-selection.  ”He’s a very good shooter, who in summer league got caught taking some shots that were not some great shots – contested, quick, off-balance shots,” Malone said.  ”Now, probably because he’s playing with some very good players around him, he’s getting open shots and he’s taking good, unconstested looks.”  Malone also said that McLemore’s understanding of the game has taken a noticeable step forward.
  • McLemore on playing with more talented teammates and how that’s helped improve his shooting: “It’s definitely a lot easier for me.  In Summer League, I was trying to do everything – shoot, score, defense, whatever.  But now, I have guys that can help me with that.  It makes it a lot easier for me to get my shot open, create for myself, off the dribble, off the ball, whatever – and just create different shots for me.”
  • More from McLemore on his improvements since Summer League: “I’ve just been locked in and focused on trying to get better each and every day.  I progressed so much from Summer League…  My ball-handling got way better since the Summer League.  I’ve been in the gym just working, just trying to get better and then just trying to learn.  I’m a guy that would like to learn.  I’m very coachable so I just want to learn and listen to the coach and do what I gotta do.”
  • With the exception of center, there are battles at practically every position for the Kings.  DeMarcus Cousins suggested that that’s raised a sense of urgency among his teammates.  ”That’s what’s making it so much better,” Cousins said of training camp.  ”Everybody has a fair chance to start and they come in here competing, nobody is backing down.  And that’s what we need.  We’re getting each other better.”
  • Yesterday, Greivis Vasquez spoke highly of Isaiah Thomas.  The third-year point guard did the same today when asked about Vasquez, saying that he has a good relationship with his new teammate.  ”We do,” Thomas said.  ”Coach even brought us aside last practice and was like ‘You guys are really competing against each other the right way though’.  And we’re just gonna make each other better.  We know at the end of the day, we’re teammates and that’s the job – to get each other better, to get each other ready for the season, so that’s what we’re gonna do.”  Thomas also praised Vasquez’s basketball IQ, stating that he expects them to feed off each other’s understanding of the game throughout the season.
  • Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro on what the front office and coaching staff go over following practices here in Santa Barabara.  ”I actually try to give a little space to the coaches.  And in the mornings, we have breakfast.  I try to sit with them and try to be almost a fly on the wall at this point.  Michael and I probably, two or three times during this process, will have some one-on-one time where we talk just about the team.  I wanna know roster stuff.  I wanna know his thoughts.  I wanna know where he feels we’re lacking and where he feels that we’re doing well.  So it’s an important part of the process for me.”
  • Cousins’ future with the franchise may be decided, but the Kings still have decisions to make on other players whose contracts are up after the season. D’Alessandro is taking this time to assess what’s next for Kings like Patrick Patterson, Jimmer Fredette, Vasquez and others.  ”We have some guys that are trying to make this team too, so we’re evaluating,” D’Alessandro said. “This is a tryout for some guys.  And I’m also looking for the guys that we have and we have decisions to make, some Oct. 31st decisions we have, so there’s a lot of evaluation.  I spend a lot of time actually with Mike Bratz in the evenings and we talk about a lot of these things.”
  • A few notable faces made appearances on day two of Kings training camp.  Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadivé and team advisor Chris Mullin were both spotted this afternoon.  Dan Fegan and Jarin Akana, Cousins’ representation, were also present.  Fegan and Akana have been in attendance for the first two days camp.
  • On a fun note, some lucky UCSB students/Kings fans will get to test their three-point shooting prowess against one the team’s best shooters.  Ranadivé promised a handful of them free tickets to Kings games if they can beat Jimmer in a 3-point contest after tomorrow morning’s practice.