The Kings want to push the ball up the floor quicker this season and cut down on the amount of dribbling. To climb out of the dungeon of passing doom (they were dead last in assists in the 2013-14 campaign) head coach Michael Malone is implementing some specific drills in training camp.
In some drills he is limiting his players to two dribbles per individual possession, sometimes even no dribbles. He has been running "4-on-4-on-4's," which is a continuous drill for getting all of the players on the court moving at one time. During these drills, Malone allows no dribbling to occur.
Malone said many players have trouble playing the game without relying on dribbling.
"When you take away the pick and roll and dribbling, a lot of guys have no idea how to play, they can't get themselves open and more importantly, they can't get their teammates open," Malone told Sactown Royalty. "The first times we've done that drill, it looked like these guys had no idea how to play, and a lot of them don't. We're in the NBA and a lot of guys have no idea how to play the game of basketball."
Malone brought a specific legendary coach up when asked about his efforts to cure the Kings' "dribble-itis" - the late, great Pete Newell. Newell is the former Cal coach who instituted the reverse-action offense. The fundamental principle behind this type of offense is to use a screener, a cutter and a passer, all of them working in one fluid motion. The offense lends itself to having players with post moves. Newell is renowned for establishing a system built on aggressive defense and an offense that is pattern-based and disciplined.
It would seem Malone is focusing on similar principles. He's been working with his players on setting screens and making scoring cuts. Malone said the Kings have been focusing on offense and defense collectively this training camp as opposed to last season's camp, which was more aimed toward the defensive side of the ball.
"We are making a concerted effort to make the extra pass. Our goal every possession should be to get a wide open, uncontested look and if we move the ball, and the ball moves a hell of a lot faster in the air than it does on the ground, we should get an open look," Malone said.
The Kings are hoping the passing capabilities of Darren Collison, DeMarcus Cousins and Nik Stauskas will help aid in this process. Malone has challenged Cousins to average five assists per game this season.
Collison, Ramon Sessions and Ray McCallum are battling at the point guard spot in training camp. It sounds like Malone likes what he is seeing out of Collison in terms of leading the offense.
"Darren can push the ball, he's ultra quick, he puts a lot of pressure on the rim as well, but he's a guy that is going to get you organized and get guys the ball where they're most effective," Malone said. "When Ramon comes in, he's a guy that's putting a lot more pressure I think on the defense and trying to get his own offense, but that is something where Ramon has to know, he's also got to be able to get us organized and get our best players the ball where they're most effective."
As for McCallum?
"He's very similar to Ramon in that, Ray can play the one, he can play the two," Malone said. "He's got to keep on fighting, and I want Ray to not concede anything, no one should concede anything, this is open … the 1, the 2, the 4, that's up for grabs."
So while it may seem like Collison has a lead on Sessions and McCallum (at least in terms of Malone's comments here) for the starting point guard spot, things are still up in the air. I do think Collison is the starter on opening day, however.
Regardless of who is starting, these three guards will be key to how effective the new goal to stomp out over-dribbling is this season.