Breaking bad habits a work in progress for Sacramento Kings

Andre Miller runs court against John Salmons and Isaiah Thomas. (Photo: Steven Chea)

Bad habits are hard to break. They’re even more difficult to shake after years of consistent reinforcement. That’s the challenge Michael Malone faces as he tries to instill a defensive mindset into a team that’s had trouble grasping that concept in recent years.

Yesterday, we explored their early defensive woes on the perimeter. The Kings have allowed their three opponents to shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc in their first week of action. Yes, two of those three teams have a number of talented long-range bombers at their disposal. But, that doesn’t excuse the lack of effort and avoidable errors the Kings made last week on D, especially against the Golden State Warriors.

Some of their struggles can be credited to the bad habits they’ve developed over the last few seasons. The last two years, the Kings were ranked second-to-last in defensive rating while being ranked in the top 10 in pace. They’re well aware that the days of letting their offense dictate their effort on defense must be put behind them.

“Obviously, it all starts with defense,” Kings power forward Patrick Patterson said following practice yesterday. “We can’t let our offense dictate the way we play defensively. We can’t be an offensive-minded team anymore.

“I think there’s still some of us that worry more about offense and defense,” Patterson continued, “so we have to focus a lot more on defense.”

Patterson arrived in Sacramento midway last season via trade from the Houston Rockets. He’s tried to bring the same professionalism he learned in Houston to Sacramento, and he’s seen some of it rub off on teammates here.  However, he’s aware that time is needed before it becomes habit for everyone.

Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich, when we came here, I thought we brought a positive mindset to the team,” the fourth-year forward said. “I thought we improved and played better. I thought we had some great games and this year, I want to do the same thing. I’m thinking that I have been doing that. My teammates are playing extremely tough every single night, although it may not seem like it just because we’re losing.  But I think our effort, our focus is improving and it’s getting better.”

Poor communication is one habit that the Kings are actively trying to break. Nowhere else has this been more glaring for the Kings in the past few seasons than on defense. Traces of their inability to communicate on defense have showed up early through three games. Calling out screens or alerting teammates of help are things they’re not doing “nearly enough” according to Patterson.

“I mean it’s good, but it’s not where it needs to be,” the 24-year-old forward said. “I think we communicate at times, but we don’t communicate all the time.”

When it comes to communicating, Ben McLemore thinks his team can do much better as well. Focusing on talking with one another on the defensive side, he believes, will lead to a turnaround on the offensive end. Through three games, the Kings as a whole have shot just around 40 percent from the field.

“That’s the main thing,” the rookie guard said yesterday. “You just communicate on the floor and then our offense will come in (hand). If we can communicate on defense, our offense will be (much) easier for us.”

Transforming the Kings into a respectable franchise won’t happen overnight. They’re on the right path, but now learning and reinforcing good habits becomes the next major challenge.

“It is early right now, three or four games in, but we want to improve on a day-to-day basis,” Patterson said of playing with an improved sense of urgency. “We don’t want these same problems that are plaguing us right now to happen five more games later on. We want to handle everything that’s going on right now. We want to focus on what we need to focus on to get better, eliminate all of the distractions and problems.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.