SANTA BARBARA – A heavy dose of live, five-on-five competition highlighted day four of Sacramento Kings training camp. Notes, quotes and observations from the day’s workout on the campus of UC Santa Barbara.
- No two-a-days for the Kings today. The Kings held just one lengthy practice at UCSB’s Pavilion Gym on Friday. Today’s full-contact session featured more scrimmaging than the previous few days. “It was great because we’ve done so much drill work introducing offense and defense,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said. “Then to let them play today and just kind of get after it, get up and down the floor, is great. We’ll watch film tomorrow as a team and clean everything up from today and then continue to keep on working.”
- Point guard Greivis Vasquez has seen limited action on the court the past two days as he continues to recover from offseason surgery to his right ankle. As part of the team’s plan to bring him to full strength, Vasquez did not participate in the scrimmage portions of practice the previous two days. The fourth-year guard said he was limited to just strength and conditioning work yesterday. But Friday, he was back on the court and played practically the entirety of today’s approximately 30-minute scrimmage session. ”I’m pissed, I lost,” Vasquez said lightheartedly. ”But I was moving good.”
- More of Vasquez on the ankle: “I’m happy because it’s developing really well. It’s a little sore, but I didn’t do too much in the summer. And the way I (feel) right now, I’m ahead of the game so I just gotta continue to be patient. I don’t think I’m gonna win anything by overloading the ankle right now when we start our first regular season game in a few weeks. I just want to be smart and like I said before, coach is very aware and it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
- Outside of center, every other position for the Kings is up for grabs. At this point, Malone isn’t saying anybody is “head and shoulders above” one another in terms of competition. Though the point guard battle is mainly a two-horse race between Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez, Malone noted that Ray McCallum is “quietly having one of the best training camps here” in Santa Barbara. He also pointed out that Jimmer Fredette is splitting time at both point and shooting guard. At small forward, Malone has been impressed by John Salmons, who once again has shown up to camp in great shape. Newcomer Luc Mbah a Moute is still playing catch-up after hurting an ankle while playing for the Cameroon National Team this summer. Malone also felt that Travis Outlaw has the ability to some power forward and small forward for him.
- Kings forward Carl Landry acknowledged yesterday that the battle at power forward has gotten a bit feisty. Has Malone noticed some chippiness at any of the other position battles? ”I think for the big guys, it does because it’s a lot more physical in the paint,” Malone said. ”You know those guys there’s a lot more contact, bodies hitting bodies. But to the point of it becoming anything elevated where it doesn’t need to be? No, our guys have kept their composure.”
- McCallum is apparently turning heads here in Santa Barbara by focusing on defense and displaying his true point guard instincts. The 22-year-old rookie said he’s been working on becoming a stronger the on-the-ball defender that can get steals and grab rebounds on the defensive end. Offensively, he’s focused on making open shots and penetrating the paint.
- What areas has McCallum improved since taking part in Las Vegas Summer League? ”Feel like I’m making shots, getting better with finding my reads, knowing where all my shooters and all my guys are on the floor. There’s a lot of pick and rolls (in the offense), so when I’m coming off the pick and roll, using change of pace to find my guys and use a change of speed and really just trying to be aggressive. And I think having an aggressive mindset has allowed me to slow down and see the floor and see all my reads. And just like I said, be aggressive and just try to make good plays on the offensive end.”
- Through four days and six practices, McCallum isn’t tired yet by the pace of pros. However, he is learning that a major difference between college and the NBA is the way players maintain their health here in training camp. ”I could tell that it’s a long season. Having veteran guys on the team, you can see how they really take care of their bodies because they know it’s ahead of us. Guys like Ben (McLemore) and I, we’re here early, we’re after (and) we’re young. So all we know is just work, keep playing all day. You can see some of these guys really take care of their bodies because they know what’s coming ahead. But I think that’s one of the major things is getting your rest and taking care of yourself.”
- In Colorado Springs last year, former coach Keith Smart arranged for the players to participate in team building exercises. This year, they’ve had some similar activities, but nothing like the ropes course they had to traverse last October. DeMarcus Cousins shared a photo on Instagram of he and teammates watching a screening of the new Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie “Don Jon” last evening. They also had a speaker come in to talk to them about fostering better cohesiveness and teamwork.