Since overhauling their roster a few weeks ago, the Sacramento Kings have had very little time to practice. Before last Thursday, the Kings had practiced just once with new faces Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray in the fold.
After taking two days off for Christmas, the Kings finally got the practice session they so desperately needed. Just in time before playing the two teams who competed for last season’s NBA title.
“One side of me really wanted to bring them in,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said of the decision to give his team some time off after a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. “But the reality was we have four in five nights, we fly all the way back (from the east coast), we play against New Orleans and sometimes you have to weigh is time off a little more beneficial than trying to get water of a rock, if you will.
“So a little time off, come in (Thursday) and I thought the energy was excellent in the gym (Thursday) which was great,” Malone added.
The practice time has seemed to help the Kings most with their 3-point defense. No team has been worst than the Kings at defending beyond the arc this season. They’re currently ranked dead last, allowing teams to shoot roughly 39.7 percent from 3-point distance this year. However, they managed to limit the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, two teams noted for their excellent sharpshooting skills, to just 33.9-percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Offensively, they saw some slight improvements as well. Against the Heat and Spurs, the Kings shot 47.1 percent from the field, which is three percentage points higher than their season average (44.3 percent). They gave themselves more opportunities to score by out-rebounding the two defending conference champions a combined 102-79.
“This is my second practice,” Gay said last Thursday. “So this helped me out a lot with these defensive principles and just knowing what coaches want from us and from me personally.”
Following a tough loss at home a week ago to the Pelicans, the Kings have played better ball. But only time will tell if the improvements are a trend or just a blip on the radar during a long 82-game season.