Observations from the Sacramento Kings’ first official practice of the season
Before boarding the team jet to Colorado Springs, the Sacramento Kings held court at their Natomas practice facility on Tuesday morning. The media was invited for a quick glimpse at the entire group that begins training camp in full tomorrow. While we didn’t get to see any real game action today, we were ushered onto the new practice floor for some quick interviews. Here are some observations from today’s events.
While we don’t have an actual number to give you for DeMarcus Cousins‘ weight loss, it is clear that he is in the best shape of his career. The third-year big man out of Kentucky was all over the board in his interview, but made one thing clear – he is tired of losing and is ready to lead this team. “Get this team to the playoffs,” Cousins said when asked what he is focused on this season. “That’s my main goal. I’m tired of losing. I hate losing and that’s not in my nature.”
We were able to get a good look at Tyreke Evans‘ jumper and the early returns are good. He was able to effortlessly drop in three-point shots without the pronounced lean that he has become known for. He was mainly hitting set shots, so we will see how the tweaks translate in game action.
Chuck Hayes looks tremendous. After a whirlwind camp last season that included a major health scare followed by a dislocated shoulder early in the campaign, Hayes looks ready to contribute. He appears to have lost a substantial amount of weight over the summer. “I added a little muscle to these arms,” Hayes said. “Conditioning feels fine. (I’m) not in game shape, but I don’t think anyone is. That’s what training camp is for.” While Hayes is never going to fit into a size XL t-shirt, he looks lean overall and much more defined than a season ago.
Last year, Hayes left the Houston Rockets to become a key addition to the Kings’ frontline. This season, Geoff Petrie has penned his hopes on another former Rocket in Aaron Brooks. “He has a clutch gene,” Hayes said of Brooks with a smile. “Under two minutes left, he can hit a big shot. He’s quick. He can get his own shot at his size and he’s crafty when he gets down there in the paint.”
Brooks looked healthy and ready to play. While I could never pull off the bright-red, low-top Nikes he wore at practice, Brooks was making quick friends with new teammates. After practice wrapped, he got into a spirited shootout with Travis Outlaw and rookie free agent Tony Mitchell. The former Alabama forward struggled, but that is to be expected from a rookie in his first day of an NBA camp.
We have been hearing rumors about Outlaw coming in early this summer to put in a lot of court time. Outlaw seems to have found the confidence in his game that’s been missing since he left Portland a few years back. Don’t be surprised if Outlaw is a major player in Coach Smart’s rotation early in the season at both the small forward position and even as a stretch four.