For better or for worse, some residual attention remains somewhat focused on the roughly $100,000 clip involving Golden State’s Draymond Green and Jordan Poole. The champs have been thrust into a story that feels straight out of the grocery check-stand tabloids.
Things have cooled down slightly, but as Warriors beat writer Monte Poole (no relation to the player) noted at the time, this didn’t come out of nowhere.
“This is not their first run in,” Poole said on a podcast appearance. “This is the first time it reached a point where it got physical.”
The Warriors aren’t the only Pacific Division team to run into publicized turmoil as of late. From the foul horrors of the last 17 years of Robert Sarver’s ownership to the clear cracks that exist between coach Monty Williams and Deandre Ayton, the Suns are in a less than ideal position heading into the season.
Even the Lakers face the pressure of actually seeing their on-paper potential through after a bad year in one of the largest markets.
Yet, of them all, the Sacramento Kings—the “sorry motherf*ckers” with the 16-year drought—are on a far better track to stumbling upon harmony.
Most of the media may be oblivious, but the argument appears to stand that of the five teams in the Pacific, the Kings—under new head coach Mike Brown and with a new-look roster—have the least baggage.
Sure there’s the gaping playoff drought, but at the same time that’s irrelevant to most guys.
Harrison Barnes was asked about the fact that the Mariners ended their drought because it shines a brighter spotlight on the Kings’ previous 16 seasons.
“This is a new group — for a guy like Kevin Huerter, for a guy like Keegan Murray, Malik Monk — these guys are wearing a Sacramento Kings uniform for the very first time, so they don’t necessarily have that burden on them of however many years,” Barnes said, brushing off the effect of the past. “They’re saying, ‘Look, I want to make my mark as a King today.'”
Guys are invested in and looking forward to the idea of building something positive. So far, they appear to be making progress.
“This is a kid’s game,” Mike Brown noted last Friday. “Most, if not all these guys — they’d still be going to the rec center or playground and hooping, even if they weren’t getting paid and doing something else.”
That, the head coach figures, is what makes his principle of “having fun” and filling the practice facility with “joy” doable.
Adding to that, having high character guys like Harrison Barnes that don’t get too low as well as mood-lifters and jokesters like Malik Monk in the locker room help facilitate that.
“I open things up, I try to be funny,” Monk said of himself with a grin last week. “Trying to make everyone laugh so we can have fun here.”
It seems to be working, especially hearing Terence Davis remark a little while back that “everyone likes each other” after being asked about what’s different in this training camp.
With a tip of the hat to Monte McNair, the roster construction has helped foster this developing team-wide bond and chemistry. The general manager made it a point to get guys in a specific age range, guys “entering their prime.”
More than approaching their prime, they have more opportunity to overlap in interests off the hardwood.
“For us, it’s gonna be a long season,” Kevin Huerter pointed out when asked about that chemistry on Media Day. “It’s a lot easier to be on teams where everybody likes each other, it’s a lot easier to win when everyone likes each other.”
Not only is chemistry of paramount importance for an organization that’s lacked a winning culture and for a team that last year kind of seemed to abandon its heart, but it is also vital for the system Brown is running.
As mentioned before, the defense relies a lot on the competitive spirit and trust. That only forms from a bond and an enduring connection throughout all components of the team.
Offensively, because Brown’s system is pass-heavy, “based off a lot of reads,” and is—according to guys like Lyles, Monk, and Barnes—easy to run, chemistry and common feel is imperative for success.
The day before Sunday’s preseason game, Barnes noted that the goal is “just building chemistry” now that the basic idea and little things associated with his system are more or less understood. The “foundation” of the system, of the head coach’s principles has been established, so all that follows is the drying of the glue.
Think of last year: imagine if the Kings got a two-week training camp after the Sabonis trade? They’d have made a real run at the play-in because there would have been an understanding of teammate’s strengths, tendencies, and roles. They also would have been a tighter group.
All anyone could ask was what this team might do with a full camp.
And they’re beginning to answer that question because as far as one can tell, with a little over a week until the season opener, the Kings have already begun to build a bond and some of the chemistry needed to succeed in any level of sports.
“The ball is power. The ball is energy,” Huerter noted after the preseason win against Portland. “You move the ball, you move energy around. Guys are going to like playing with each other. It builds chemistry pretty fast.”
From here, things can (and should) only get better.