News » Sacramento Kings Getting Inside 2009-10-16

Sacramento Kings Getting Inside 2009-10-16

Sacramento Kings Getting Inside 2009-10-16Paul Westphal wasn't trying to be insensitive.

But after three straight days of pontificating about the serious injury to veteran Francisco Garcia, the first-year Kings coach recently implored the local media to end the doom-and-gloom talk and return the focus to the positives surrounding his team. The move was consistent with the team's new mantra, as Westphal and Co. are determined to take an optimistic and hopeful look at what so many expect to be a rigorous season. It started in June, when the drafting of Memphis' Tyreke Evans sparked elation inside the team's war room on draft day. It continued into training camp, as the team's front office and coaching staff grew excited about the possibilities for improvement if Kevin Martin can stay healthy and the team's young core can develop nicely.

But the Kings -- who had a league-worst 17 wins last season -- may not be so cheery come midseason. They remain one of the least talented teams in the league and are sure to be among the worst defensively. Specifically, the expected frontline of third-year center Spencer Hawes and second-year forward Jason Thompson won't exactly be striking fear in the hearts of opponents.

The Kings will have to find a way to limit the scoring damage down low while inspiring Hawes to improve his post play and give them more of that much-needed presence on the other end. In that sense, Hawes and his continued development could be key.

He is a versatile talent with shooting range out to beyond the arc, but the Kings' lack of physicality and post presence last season mandates a change on that front. Defensively, he showed an improved ability to defend the cup in his sophomore season, averaging 1.2 blocks per game after swatting at a rate of 0.6 per game as a rookie.

The 7-foot Hawes added 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and is looking to make the most of the added bulk.

"It feels a lot different," Hawes told The Sacramento Bee. "Being able to bully guys a lot more and get to where I want to go, especially down low."

From co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof on down, the Kings are remaining positive and predicting an improvement on what was the franchise's worst season in its 50-year history.

"It's hard to be definitive (about what this team can do), but we're certainly looking for improvement -- and that means winning more games," Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie told The Bee on Media Day.

"We're looking for both individual and team growth, particularly with our younger players. And then a style of play that's something we can build on, something that's a know-it-when-you-see-it-type thing. It's really, I think, finally fun to see everybody collected in the same place and the same time, and we'll see what happens."

COACHING STAFF: Head Coach -- Paul Westphal, 8th year overall, 1st with Kings (267-159). Assistants -- Jim Eyen, Mario Elie, Truck Robinson, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Pete Carril.

LAST SEASON, REMEMBERED: 17-65 (5th in Pacific).

THIS SEASON, PREDICTED: 29-53 (4th in Pacific).

POSSIBLE CHANGES, PREDICTED: When the Kings passed on drafting Ricky Rubio in June and opted for Tyreke Evans, the debate began about whether the talented guard out of Memphis could play the point. If he's not a quick learner at the position, look for Beno Udrih to return to his starting point and Westphal to opt for a three-guard lineup also including Kevin Martin.

Desmond Mason may be a nonguaranteed training camp player now, but he's likely to be a heavily relied upon rotation player come time for the regular season. Mason was in Seattle with Westphal during his rookie season in 2000, when the coach was fired 15 games into the season. Westphal is looking for a veteran presence he can trust in this new challenge, and is almost certain to look for Mason to help fill that void. There is an even greater need for that role now that fifth-year swingman Francisco Garcia will be out at least until mid-February with a broken right forearm and ligament damage in his wrist.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 16, 2009


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