Sunday Musings: Sacramento Kings focus on leadership
Saturation: The state or process that occurs when no more of something can be absorbed, combined with, or added.
Francisco Garcia was the godfather of the team. Samuel Dalembert was more of a mentor than people give him credit for. Chuck Hayes was brought in to be the next Vlade Divac, at least behind the scenes.
The faces have come and gone, and the results were always the same. The Sacramento Kings have had a major void in leadership.
Eventually, young players become veterans, which helps the maturation process. That is what we have seen from both Cousins and Jason Thompson. But more support is always needed.
For the 2014-15 season, Pete D’Alessandro approached the leadership issue from a new angle. He has brought in one veteran role player after another with the hopes of building a team support base. He’s basically filled up the leadership role to the point of saturation.
It started last season with the addition of Carl Landry. Veteran Rudy Gay was added in December, and Reggie Evans came over from Brooklyn at the trade deadline. Darren Collison, Ramon Sessions, Omri Casspi and Ryan Hollins joined the team during the summer, and all of the sudden, the Kings have veterans at every position imaginable.
“I look forward to it, being one of the leaders again, being one of the guys that’s an extension of the coach,” Collison told Cowbell Kingdom. “It’s going to take some work. Not just on my part, but from other guys as well. We’re all in this together.”
The additions are not lost on Cousins. After four seasons in Sacramento, he is excited for the veteran help that D’Alessandro and his staff have brought in.
“You got guys that know how to win,” Cousins said of the additions. “You got guys that have roles and are willing to accept their role. They know what type of player they are, and they never go out of their way to be something else. And those are the type of players that we need.”
“I think they’re great pieces,” Cousins added. “I think they’re great additions. They’ve been in winning cultures, so they know how to win.”
The idea is to create a new, strong culture. To change the general feel surrounding a club that has missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons and suffered through incredible strife off the court.
“Winning is just a mindset; it’s a culture,” Hollins said. “It’s not something you turn off and on when the game is going.”
Strides were taken last season, but clearly the job requires time, patience and more pieces to finish an incomplete puzzle.
Chemistry won’t happen overnight. It starts off the court. Players don’t have to like each other. But if they don’t respect each other, it typically spills out onto the court once the ball is tipped off.
Changing the culture of a franchise is a delicate assignment, but one that is nearly impossible without veteran leadership. This was a 28-win team last season. An overhaul was mandatory and the new edict to add players who are both seasoned and have experience winning in some form may pay dividends. It’s early, but the new pieces are making an impact.
For the first time, Cousins has a council of veterans, which consists of group of players that he respects for what they have accomplished in their other NBA stops. Earlier this week, a few of those veterans, including Evans, Collison and Hollins joined Cousins for lunch.
“We talked about some of the things we need to do better here,” Cousins said. “We talked about some of the things they did in other places. It was a good conversation.”
Of all the veteran additions, Evans is the one that flew under the radar and may have the biggest impact. In his career, he has overcome plenty, including major image and reputation issues.
“That’s the guy I go to,” Cousins said of the 13-year veteran. “Whenever I’m having a problem, I go to Reggie. I’m a vet, but he’s my vet. I’m all ears; that’s a guy I truly respect on this team.”
The duo has set goals for each other and for the team, including a well-documented five technicals or less goal for Cousins.
“Being the best leader I can be for this team,” Cousins said of one of his goals for this season. “I know I’m not perfect and I probably never will be, but I’m aiming to be the best leader I can be for this team.”
Evans isn’t the only big man that can provide Cousins with support. Hollins may not be a household name and he certainly won’t steal big minutes, but he has taken notes while playing with some of the legends of the game during his eight years in the NBA.
“I’ve played with some great bigs,” Hollins said. “Dirk (Nowitzki), Kevin Garnett, Blake (Griffin), Emeka Okafor. I’ve played with some Hall of Famers. The best part for me is that I can kind of teach him the work effort that those guys have and the little things that they do on and off the court that make them special.”
This is no longer an inexperienced team lacking leadership. It is primarily a group of veterans who have seen both good and bad that the NBA has to throw at a player. Many of those veterans have played for winning organizations, and they hope to bring that experience to Sacramento. If the Kings are going to become winners this season, it will be as a team, not as a group of individuals.
“I think that everybody understands that it’s not about the name on the back of the jersey; it’s the name on the front,” Collison said.
Improvement isn’t expected overnight, but for the first time in a while, there is a support group in place, and there are veteran role players who can teach the team’s young players how to be professionals.
Everywhere you look, there is a veteran waiting to perform a role. Welcome to the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings, home of leadership saturation.