Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was complimentary of the Kings following the 116-112 loss at Golden 1 Center.
“This team plays fast, and they play hard and they’re young and athletic,” he said.
In those 13 words, Brooks summed up the Kings identity. For the first time in a long time, the Kings have a style of play that is consistently working. The amount of running the team did in training camp is coming in handy as the speed required for the offense demands good conditioning and buy in from each player who checks into a game. The 3-3 Kings are not only playing fast and averaging 117 points per game, but they are playing with an intensity that is catching some opponents off guard.
“They like each other, they play for each other, they play hard and they believe that if we play fast then we’ve got a chance,” said Kings head coach Dave Joerger.
The offense is structured to allow second-year guard De’Aaron Fox to maximize his blazing speed, and it is an enjoyable style of play not only for the fans, but also for the youngsters on the roster.
“It’s definitely fun. You see a lot of guys are scoring, a lot of guys are getting where they want. Sometimes the shots aren’t going down, but we’re getting shots that we want, we’re putting ourselves in opportunities to score,” Fox said.
Kings rookie Marvin Bagley, who is excelling off the bench in the offense, is enjoying what the team is running on a nightly basis.
“It’s so much fun playing like that, we’re getting out and going, and running, and scoring and getting the crowd involved – it’s so much fun playing that way,” he said.
Bagley’s approach is to play as hard as he can every minute he is on the floor, and his 13.7 points and 7.2 rebounds in 24 minutes per game reflect that.
As illustrated in Brooks’ post-game comments, opponents are beginning to recognize the new Kings identity, and also becoming aware that a matchup with this Sacramento squad is no longer an easy win.
The early season success doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to work on, however. The Kings are giving up 120 points per game so the defense is a work in progress, and the speed at which they are playing also opens the door to mistakes.
Willie Cauley-Stein, who is averaging 16.5 points, 8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals, mentioned how much fun he is having, but also brought up the phrase “chaos” when referencing the offense. Joerger said the team can get “frantic” at times and play in crowds, which is something he is working with them on. Bagley said the speed of the game can sometimes cause plays to break down.
“There are times where we call certain things it gets going fast and it is kind of hard to stick to that same thing that we called, or what we’ve been going over, but nothing is going to be perfect in the game. We’ve just got to figure out how to adjust to it and make the right calls when it does happen,” Bagley said. “It’s just adjustments to make sure when things get chaotic that we stay together.”
Buddy Hield, who is averaging 17.2 points, 5 rebounds and 1.8 assists, talked about how the pace can sometimes cause him to miss a pass.
“I always love playing fast, and Dave gives the freedom to go out there and push the ball and make plays. Sometimes when you play fast you get sporadic, we get all over the place, you’ve got to make the right play. Sometimes it is mental, sometimes you miss a guy open and a shot could make that guy get in a rhythm,” he said.
The good part of playing fast though is that the team can quickly move on if a mistake does happen.
“If we’re making mistakes, do it going 100 miles per hour, do it playing hard and then we can make up for those mistakes, we can cover up those mistakes,” Fox said. “Sometimes it’s hard to execute, but I think we have a lot of guys that want to play fast, guys are getting shots up, when we do get stops we’re out and going, even when they score, we get the ball out fast. We told guys to not put their head down when they score because a lot of times if they score we’re getting a shot up in the next five seconds.”