The things you learn from 2014 Sacramento Kings media day

Cousins-Media-Day

The Sacramento Kings officially tipped off the 2014-15 preseason Friday in Natomas with their annual Media Day festivities.  For those covering the team, this is like the first day of school after a long summer off.  It’s a chance to reunite with old friends and kick the tires on a new set of players trying to make the roster.

We will have more throughout the week, but here are some early takeaways from today’s festivities.

  • DeMarcus Cousins is in the best shape of his career.  The 24-year-old center is fresh off a gold medal performance with Team USA at the World Cup in Spain and he looks ready to take another huge step this season.  “I did make a lot of strides,” Cousins said of his experience in Spain.  “I felt I added a lot to my game, especially defensively.  I have the confidence to know that I really can do it on the defensive end, as well as the offensive end.  I learned a lot from it and it was an incredible experience.”
  • Rudy Gay had a busy summer as well.  Not only did he join Cousins in Spain with the national team, but he and his wife had their first child.  “Obviously, you’re playing basketball, which you can never get enough of if that’s your job,” Gay said of his summer with Team USA.  “Playing in a European setting and also learning the four.  I played exclusively four being there and I think that adds something to my game.”
  • The big acquisition for the Sacramento Kings this offseason was 27-year-old point guard Darren Collison.  The former UCLA Bruin is looking forward to filling the void left behind by Isaiah Thomas, who was traded to the Phoenix Suns during the summer.  “I’m just going to be myself and go out there and play my game,” Collison said of winning the fans over.  “I have respect for this fanbase.  I think this fanbase is one of the top in the NBA.”
  • Carl Landry was last summer’s big acquisition and the veteran forward played a total of 18 games for coach Michael Malone.  Landry looks like he is in much better shape this season and he’s anxious to erase the memory of last season.  “I’m a team player,” Landry said.  “Whatever my coach and my teammates want me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to go out and play and go out and help.”
  • Rookie Nik Stauskas is ready to throw on a pink princess backpack and begin his first year as a professional.  Stauskas is looking forward to a training camp battle with second-year man Ben McLemore for the starting shooting guard job next to Collison.  “For me, I’m not trying to come in and put any pressure on myself,” Stauskas said.  “I’m a very confident person.  I’ve talked to coach Malone and the thing he’s looking for from me is to just play my game.”
  • McLemore spent the summer working on his game and is ready for the challenge.  At just 21-years-old, he is the incumbent at the position, but he is a long way from a shoe in.  The Kings sent trainers to work with McLemore all summer in hopes of speeding up his development.  Only time will tell if the extra work spent will pay off for the former lottery pick.
  • Ramon Sessions was a late add to the team, but he could be key to the Sacramento Kings’ success in the 2014-15 NBA season.  The Kings will rely heavily on the eight-year veteran for a scoring punch off the bench at both guard positions.  “As you look at the roster and what they’re building, it’s exciting,” Sessions said.  “They’re changing the culture around here.  Everybody’s excited.  It’s a great basketball town.”
  • We say this every year, but Jason Thompson has once again come to camp in incredible shape.  The longest tenured King is lost in the heavy traffic of the frontcourt, which is a familiar position for the former Rider star.  “I know that I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve gotten faster and quicker and gotten better,” Thompson said.  “That’s the most important thing.  That’s what I have to show and then let everything else handle itself.”
  • Omri Casspi is back for a second tour of duty in Sacramento.  Taken by the Kings with the 23rd pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Casspi’s two best seasons as a pro were his rookie and sophomore campaigns in purple and black.  Now 26-years-old, the combo-forward is looking for a fresh start in a familiar setting.  “It’s a different team now, a different organization,” Casspi said.  “I’m excited, we have a good group of guys.  I’m happy to be back.  I have so many friends here.”
  • Sim Bhular is still huge.  At 7-foot-5 and well over 300-lbs., the 21-year-old center has a lot of work to do on his body if he hopes to make it in the NBA.  But you can’t teach 7-foot-5.  “I’m just a big guy that can rebound the ball, block shots, clog the paint and make it harder for guys to score easy buckets around the rim,” Bhullar said of what he brings to the team.
  • A week ago, second-year point guard Ray McCallum was set as the primary backup behind Collison.  After the addition of Sessions, the former Detroit Mercy star is now in a dogfight for minutes.  McCallum has spent the summer working on his perimeter shot and can play both guard positions, which might be his saving grace.  “There are somethings you just can’t control,” McCallum said about the additions of both Collison and Sessions.  “The one thing I know I can control is my game, having the confidence in myself to go out there and compete everyday.  I take pride in being a true competitor and a winner.  I’m just going to go out there, try to get better, help my team each and every day and the only thing I can really control is myself.”
  • Eric Moreland went from undrafted rookie to a cult hero in Sacramento after his performance at summer league in Las Vegas.  He is raw on the offensive end and joins a crowded frontline.  “I just want to be myself,” Moreland said.  “I have some similarities as far as motor, with (Kenneth) Faried, but I just do what I do.  I just want it so bad out there.”

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".