Team chemistry hasn't been something that has been synonymous with the Sacramento Kings for quite some time. It has been a problem, for the most part, ever since Vlade Divac and Chris Webber walked out of Arco Arena (Sleep Train Arena) for the last time. And while it may have improved slightly last season with the addition of Rudy Gay, there is still much work to be done.
That brings us to today's question: Will team chemistry be better next season?
It ultimately depends on the players on the roster and how well they mesh, but the coaching staff also comes into play. When Keith Smart took over for Paul Westphal in 2012, he made creating "a family" a goal. It didn't take long for players to begin feeling like it was a dysfunctional family.
These days, Michael Malone is in the coaching seat and more and more we are hearing players refer to him as a "players coach." The players seem to appreciate him, often blaming the team's struggles on themselves rather than the coaching staff. So in that sense, Malone could be helping move the needle.
On-the-floor chemistry last season wasn't great and a "lack of trust" has been cited as a problem. But going into the 2014-15 season, many of the players will have a year under their belts with this coaching staff and the entire new regime, and no more relocation distractions/arena uncertainties.
There may be less in-season turnover with the roster as well. At the beginning of the offseason, general manager Pete D'Alessandro said there will be changes to the roster (and there has been), but that it may not be as drastic as it was last year. This may help provide the players with more of a sense of stability.
"I do think there will be more changes, but I also think we are starting to develop kind of a core of guys and we are starting to feel some comfort in some of these guys in their growth and development," D'Alessandro said in April.
One of the guys who has developed is Ray McCallum, the second-year guard and MVP of the Summer League Championship game. McCallum and Ben McLemore now have one full season of NBA experience and a welcome mentor in Rudy Gay. Add Darren Collison to the mix, who appears to be aiming to be a selfless floor general, and maybe the team starts to mesh.
McCallum, in his interview with Sactown Royalty last month, said he thinks the extra year of experience is going to help because, "Last year it was new, new coaches, we had a lot of new things going on; a new system. I think it's just a matter of guys getting chemistry down."
The Summer League championship, while meaningless in the grand scheme of things, may have helped build some chemistry with rookies Nik Stauskas and Eric Moreland, as well as the rest of the roster players who were in Las Vegas.
Two players who were in Las Vegas, but did not play (because they did not need to), were DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. They are the two best players on the roster and their time on Team USA could be the single biggest factor in how well team chemistry develops next season. Cousins is learning how to adjust his game to an international style of play and focusing on defense (although he did foul out of Tuesday's game against Slovenia). Gay also is fitting into the team's approach well and both have accepted their role player designations together on the Team USA squad.
The learning experience and extended playing time Cousins is getting with Gay could pay big dividends when the regular season rolls around.
With all of this said, team chemistry is a fickle thing and not something that can necessarily be measured. But by watching a team play and seeing how they interact with one another you can sort of see how the chemistry is going. Obviously, winning helps quite a bit when it comes to chemistry, but that is a chicken or the egg type of argument - chemistry comes with winning, but you need chemistry to win.
Many of the Kings players are already back in Sacramento working out and training camp begins on Sept. 27.
The process of building a "family" bond continues.