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On eve of training camp, Sacramento Kings optimistic changes will translate into wins

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SACRAMENTO, California — Pete D'Alessandro pondered how he felt about the roster he assembled for the Sacramento Kings training camp by doing an exercise in his office this week.

On one side of his whiteboard, the Kings general manager wrote out the depth chart he had at this time last year. On the other, he listed the current roster.

There was little resemblance.

Just five players — DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum — were with Sacramento before training camp last year. And only two — Cousins and Thompson — were on the roster when D'Alessandro was hired by Kings owner Vivek Ranadive some 15 months ago.

"I just stood in my office and looked at it for a while and I was like, 'I feel good about our depth chart now compared to what it was. I really do,'" D'Alessandro said Friday, a day before the Kings begin training camp. "I said, 'That's a transformation. That's a different team there. I don't know what next year's depth chart is going to look like, but if I feel the same way as I do about this year, I know we're taking the right steps."

Progress has been difficult to measure for the Kings in recent years.

Sacramento has stumbled to eight straight losing seasons, including going 28-54 the past two years, and a quick fix has never been part of the plans.

Ranadive, D'Alessandro and coach Michael Malone have preached patience from the start. But they also know that the team's loyal fans — most of whom began last season just happy the Kings remained in Sacramento after years of relocation chatter finally ended with the ownership change — will not be so patient if they don't start seeing improvement soon.

Ranadive has refused to put a number on the wins he wants to see this season. But unlike last year, he said he will judge success more on the team's record.

D'Alessandro agreed.

"We're not patient anymore. We want to win more," he said.

After making more moves than any team in the league last season, D'Alessandro promised to be more "surgical" in his approach to change. The Kings are counting on continuity for growth, and D'Alessandro wants to see how the team comes together over a longer period.

Any success will start with Cousins and Rudy Gay. Both finally got a taste of winning this summer, helping the U.S. claim gold at the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

They came back confident and conditioned, and each expects the success they had overseas to carry over to the Kings.

"I haven't really had that feeling playing in that type of game maybe since college when I was playing the NCAA tournament," said Cousins, who is entering his fifth season in Sacramento. "Being in that type of game, it felt good to win."

Sacramento's leading men both praised D'Alessandro's work to improve the roster, which Gay cited as the reason he picked up his $19.3 million option to return. They agreed there is enough talent to compete in the deep Western Conference, though whether that talent can come together is the key question.

The Kings signed Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions to be superior defenders and distribute the ball more than the departed Isaiah Thomas ever did. The hope is that McLemore will make big strides in his second season, rookie sharpshooter Nik Stauskas' game will translate to the NBA and the additions of Ryan Hollins, Omri Casspi and rookie Eric Moreland will fill in the holes to help the Kings run faster and defend better.

But optimism is always booming during NBA media days, and the challenge for the Kings will be to show they can play together — and stay together — when the games begin to matter.

"Right now everybody's saying the right thing," Malone said. "But let's see after a month or two when we're in it."


Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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