Admittedly, the Sacramento Kings players have not always been on the same page lately in terms of goals and chemistry. Coach Keith Smart took aim at changing that, and he did so by taking his team on the road to Colorado Springs, Colo. The team spent a week there not only to work on the court, but to do some team-building exercises off of it. Now the Kings head into the preseason hoping to divvy up their roles with a unified goal of turning the franchise around. Keith Smart joined KHTK in Sacramento with Grant Napearto discuss taking the team on the road for camp, the evolution of Tyreke Evans, the progression of DeMarcus Cousins, sorting out the team’s goals and having a locker room full of players who are fed up with losing.
On focusing on the Sacramento Kings being a family and the process of changing that culture:
“When I asked the Maloofs and Geoff Petrie about the possibility of taking the team out for a training camp, I thought it was very important for this team because, me being here for a short period of time and seeing them, and knowing that some of the players, as you said, did not see eye to eye … when they gave me a go-ahead to look for a place to take a team and kind of use that as a springboard to continue what we had already started … it all worked out. You saw what we were able to do as a basketball floor, but we spent time all week together. … I thought it was important and we had a team mental exercise that we had when we were out there and that was a big key for us, too, because it was all about trying to trust one another.”
Do you see a difference in Tyreke Evans’ jump shot?:
“I’ll tell you this man, he hit a jump shot, a 3, the other night in practice. He hadn’t been taking them in games, when we scrimmaged. And he finally hit one, so not only as a coaching staff were we all waiting for that to happen in a game more than anything else, but when he hit it in practice, the entire team erupted because of that. So, yes, you can see it. … He has to do that in order for the defense to respect what he can do when he puts the ball on the floor.”
Do you envision him as a shooting guard or small forward?:
“I told the players that I’m going to use the entire month to try and focus and find the right fit for this team. I used Tyreke in training camp at the 1, 2 and 3. So I’m going to look and focus on what group of players can fit together and not over-step each other. But Tyreke was by far our best … defensive player on our team during training camp. So I’m looking forward to him being able to fill multiple roles for our team.”
On the growth of DeMarcus Cousins:
“As we’re speaking, I’m getting ready to put together a tape from where we were last year, and how he performed defensively, to what he’s done in training camp. The guy has shown that he wants to commit to that side of the ball. … He came in camp in great shape, did a great job in everything we were doing and wants to take the next step. He’s got to be consistent in his play every night. I said to him that he should be an all-defensive player.”
Is the most important thing right now to have everyone understand and accept their roles?:
“What I’ve tried to do, one, from talking to them all throughout training camp, is I’m looking for our team to develop, for our team to have the right kind of chemistry, which is going to help us win. I used different lineups in camp. … I said the goal for us is for our team to succeed moreso than any of you individuals. We have to buy into that. … If we’re going to win, and you guys communicated to me that you want to win, it’s going to take an abundance of sacrifices for our team to have a great, winning season. … You guys have to make a decision that that’s the way we’re going and you can handle it. If not, you know where my office is. You can come talk to me and say, ‘Hey Coach, I can’t handle this. Can you and Geoff do something to change my address?’”
Is it fair to say that this team is fed up with losing and is ready to start winning?:
“Without question. Like you said, based on how they made the decision and effort to come back and train throughout the summer and how early they all came back three weeks before training camp … and then coming to camp in great shape and going out to Colorado Springs and doing the job.