The Sacramento Kings traded Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel for Anthony Tolliver, Kent Bazemore and two second-round picks last month. Bazemore, who entered the league as a member of the Golden State Warriors in the 2012-13 season, has played in five games with the Kings, averaging 7.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1 steal in 18.6 minutes per game.
I spent a few minutes with Bazemore to get his thoughts on this current Kings roster and what he brings to the table.
Here is what he had to say.
What do you want to bring to this team?
I’ve been in the league eight seasons now, some pretty successful teams and I’m just looking to kind of bring some of that experience. The culture here is good already as far as the locker room, the chemistry is great, guys love each other. I’m just trying to give as much knowledge as I can to some of the young guys. We’ve got a core of young guys that have the ball a lot; trying to give them information I learned from guys I played with – Steph [Curry], Dame [Damian Lillard] and Carmelo [Anthony] – all the wisdom that I have learned, I am just trying to share it and pay it forward.
This team has been losing a lot so it is interesting you mention how good the culture is. How would you describe the culture here?
Some situations you get in with bad teams where guys quit … or there’s not as much chatter in the locker room, you just kind of feel the tension, you don’t feel that here. Guys show up ready to work every day, the coaching staff does a good job of bringing the energy every day from top to bottom. … They bring it every day and it’s contagious. We show up ready to play, we’ve just got to play a little bit smarter. We play very hard, but we’ve just got to play a little bit smarter.
Coming from Portland to here, how would you describe this system? Last season they played really fast and this season they have slowed the pace down.
It’s similar (to Portland), you’ve got a very explosive point guard, a very explosive shooting guard, either with Bogi [Bogdan Bogdanovic] or Buddy [Hield], and D Fox[De’Aaron Fox], so there’s a lot of similarities, a lot of pin downs, away actions, a lot of slip outs, with all the shooting they have, it’s similar. Philosophy is a little bit different, but there’s a lot of similarities. It’s a fairly young team so the actions aren’t too complex, but just a lot of stuff to try to get the ball moving. I think a lot of times we get in trouble when the ball sticks with guys and we’re not really moving bodies defensively and we’re playing against a crowd all night. When we get the ball moving and bodies are moving it just changes the whole dynamic of our team.
In terms of physicality, is that something you see thatthis team needs to work on? It seems they have struggled for a while now with other teams not “feeling” them.
Yeah, for sure. As you get older in this league you understand how big physicality is in this league. You look at Oklahoma City, that’s been their identity since I’ve been in the NBA. The Clippers are big and then the Lakers are really big. … Get as many seven footers as you can and clog up the paint. It’s a physical game. … Teams are playing in crowds and boxing out and setting screens, all this stuff defensively, you drive in there and the bigs have gotten a lot better at using their size and length to make it tough to finish. I think once we learn those things and get into the right spots early on defense it will help us out.
You and Anthony [Tolliver] are veterans, you mentioned this team is still trying to learn things, how much are the two of you focused on mentorship right now?
That’s kind of our focus right now, we know how to play the game. It’s just out there teaching, obviously we’re trying to make an impact, just trying to be as vocal as possible on the fly. The good thing about this team is we’re put in the same situations a lot while we’re out there so it’s just a good time to kind of practice and make sure the message is: The better you are the smaller the margins get when you start talking about playoff time and making a push late in the year. … Every possession matters … You’ve got to really focus and lock in on the game plan both offensively and defensively.
I appreciate Bazemore taking the time to chat.
A few things to unpack from what he said: While it is good to hear from a new addition to the team that the chemistry is good among the players, the inability to “play smart,” and get to the right spots on defense, is something this team has had issues with for, well, years. Getting Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes back (eventually) should help in the physicality department, but this is also something this team struggled with last season and beyond. Also, itwas interesting he mentioned the system isn’t too complex because the team is “young.” Previous head coach Dave Joerger said in October 2018, he was using about “18 percent” of the offensive playbook, because they were learning how to pass and when to shoot and when to dribble.
Hopefully, progress has been made since then.
With the team being 3-1 over its last four games, maybe, just maybe things are turning around slightly, and Bazemore seems to be a good addition. He had a solid game off the bench Thursday against the Clippers, scoring 8 points, to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 assists.