The Boston Celtics of the 1960s were known for their staunch defense, the New York Knicks of the 1970s were gutsy, the Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s had “Showtime,” and the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s had that killer instinct led by the greatest player ever.
While not great, the very good Sacramento Kings teams of the early 2000s were at least known for their crafty passing and the Phoenix Suns of the same decade had the “7 Seconds or less” rule on offense.
For this Sacramento squad to get to the next level, they need something to define them.
Head Coach Keith Smart wants to run, but admitted that the Kings are not quite ready to begin a continuous fast break.
“They are not in the type of shape that is necessary to have a team run, or how I have been able to coach teams to run.” Smart said after practice last week. “Everyone wants to run, but I have been given the opportunity to know how to train a team to be a running team.”
You may need a lot more than knowledge to take on this identity.
Fresh legs should not be a concern as the Kings are the youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 24.68 years per player according to Hoopism.com. The problem is the make-up of this 2011-12 squad. Running teams typically have high fliers who can finish well at the rim.
Yes, there are Kings who can dunk, but Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette, Isaiah Thomas, Jason Thompson, Francisco Garcia, DeMarcus Cousins, Chuck Hayes, Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Honecyutt and Tyreke Evans do not scream run-and-gun.
That leaves us Donté Greene, Travis Outlaw and J.J. Hickson.
Greene and Outlaw average less than 13 minutes a game and Hickson is not known for having great hands.
Even if you give these players more time, a great passer is needed to truly be successful at operating the fast break. Someone who can keep an entire defense on its heels is a must. Think Magic Johnson or Steve Nash.
Its hard to imagine that Thomas and Fredette will be mentioned in the same breath as two of the top assist men to ever suit up.
Evans was drafted as a point guard, but he is not the conventional number one needed to turn the break into a recipe for winning. As figures by Hoopdata reveal, the Kings’ leading scorer, took 38 percent of his shots near the orange cylinder in 2010-11. (Running teams make a large dose of their buckets near the rim.) Watch any contest at Power Balance Pavilion and you’ll quickly see that many of those shots come off of one-on-one scenarios where Evans breaks down the defender.
Your leading scorer in a run-and-gun also must do better than 40.9 percent from the floor. Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks in the Don Nelson offense of 2002-2003 put up 25.1 points per game while shooting 46.3 percent.
The talent is there for Sacramento, but the talent to run is not.
As of now, Smart believes there is potential.
Executing and faith are two separate things.
“This team has an identity crisis,” Smart said the day he took over for Paul Westphal.
Indeed the Kings do, but running is not going to make them great.
Weekly contributor Rob McAllister is a news reporter for KFBK Radio in Sacramento. You can follow him on Twitter.