The Sacramento Kings kicked off training camp in San Diego on Tuesday, and they’ve already given us plenty of stuff to overanalyze. Let’s dive in.
I'm sure you've seen the scrimmage footage by now, courtesy of ABC10's Sean Cunningham, but it's worth posting again.
The Black Team (DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Caron Butler, Kosta Koufos, Darren Collison, David Stockton, Ben McLemore, Marco Belinelli, and Vince Hunter) defeated the White Team (Omri Casspi, Rajon Rondo, Seth Curry, Willie Cauley-Stein, Quincy Acy, James Anderson, Duje Dukan, Eric Moreland, and Marshall Henderson) 41-29. I'll spare you any film analysis of that clip, but it was nice to get a glimpse of this team on the court, finally.
My first impression was "who made those teams and thought it would be fair?" then I read some quotes by George Karl from the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones, and it may have shed some light as to where Karl is slotting players heading into camp.
"The veteran unit played well together and seemed like they knew each other better than the second unit," -George Karl
He called the white team the second unit. Rajon Rondo is coming off the bench. You heard it here first.
I'm obviously joking. It's an interesting quote, or maybe it isn't. Who knows? It's training camp, I think we're supposed to dig in to everything everyone says, right?
George Karl mentioned that DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Darren Collison, and Kosta Koufos impressed in day one. He also liked what he saw from Caron Butler and Willie Cauley-Stein.
The entire team seems to be aware of the Collison, Rondo position battle. It's not a bad thing, though, and if Rondo has any kind of an edge right now, I wouldn't be surprised if Collison closes that gap quickly, especially now that he's healthy.
Darren Collison, via Ailene Voisin, Sacramento Bee -
"Coach talks about space, about speed. Those things are easy for me. Those things are in my genetics. Not being able to run, to move around after my injury, was really tough. The doctors told me I should have had the surgery years ago, back when I was with Indiana. The tightness, the injury was always there. But I can’t remember when I’ve felt this good." - Darren Collison
The ball is moving well, I think coach Karl’s system is coming into effect, but the point guard battle is going to be a fun thing to watch in training camp. CB (Caron Butler) was just talking about it earlier, I like seeing those types of matchups, where, you know, two guys at the position, you know, that are pretty well talented at the position going at it, so it’s going to make both of them better and its going to make the team better. - DeMarcus Cousins
George Karl had a lot of interesting things to say in regards to his developing rotation.
"This roster might have, I hate to say it, it might have too many players. I think I can get 9 or 10 deep in a rotation, but there is probably more than 9 or 10 guys right now that think they are going to play."
"I think everybody knows that I would like to play Rudy some at four, but what’s our best team? I don’t know. If our best team is Kosta and Cuz and bring in Willie off the bench, or my best team is Willie starting and Kosta leading the team off the bench, I don’t know. I like to play a strong hand from the bench. I think it’s important, and we have a lot of guys. There is a lot of players that … it’s going to be a challenging camp to find the rotation." - George Karl
This is the first time we've heard Karl put Cauley-Stein in the starting lineup conversation, and I couldn't be more pleased. We know Karl isn't big on giving rookies major roles or minutes, but it's nice to see that he's essentially leaving that up to Cauley-Stein's play and not some arbitrary rule.
Starting Cauley-Stein would give the Kings a more adaptable starting unit. I think there are starting fours in this league that Rudy Gay simply cannot guard. I think there are starting fours in this league that neither DeMarcus Cousins, nor Kosta Koufos should be defending (hi Draymond). Cauley-Stein could give that starting unit consistency, and if he can't handle a particular matchup, sub him out early. I would still expect Rudy Gay and Kosta Koufos to average more minutes per game than Cauley-Stein in whatever role he ends up playing, but it's not a bad look, and it's certainly one worth exploring in training camp.
I'll leave you with a little optimism from the head coach.
"After one day, there is no question that this can be a winning basketball team." - George Karl