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The Curtain Rises – Fans Get First Look at New Kings

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It all began just like any other training camp gathering. The players hit the floor to do some stretching, jogging and even doing the “monster walk” to get flexible and be ready to bang some bodies. It was a day like any other day this past week. Except this time, there was a major difference. The practice had been moved out of the Kings’ practice facility and over to Arco Arena. Oh, and one more thing. There were people watching – lots of people.


The Sacramento Kings raised the curtain on their new-look team on Sunday for all to see for the first time since making some major acquisitions and building their team with draft picks in the off season.


It was the first scrimmage held this year that the general public could witness. For the fans, a time for hopefulness is upon them again. For the players, a time to prove they belong. By all accounts, progress has been made on both fronts, as the people were ready with bated breath.


The assembled masses packed about two-thirds of the lower bowl as the rest of the arena seating was roped off. Not a bad get-together for a game that would not even light the scoreboard until later as it appeared that they were not going to keep score for quite a while.


While many came to see this year’s first-round draft pick DeMarcus Cousins hit the hardwood at Arco for the first time, there were plenty of cheers to go around. Besides Cousins, the largest applause of the afternoon went to Omri Casspi, Tyreke Evans and, surprisingly, newcomer and possible new fan favorite Pooh Jeter.


After Head Coach Paul Westphal thanked those in the crowd and assured them that this year’s product will be fun to watch, it was time for the tip.


The players were split into two teams – black jerseys and white jerseys.


The starters for the black team were Marcus and Carl Landry, Samuel Dalembert, Evans and Beno Udrih. The reserves for this opening-day type of lineup were Casspi, Darnell Jackson, Joe Crawford and Luther Head.


For the white team, the starters were Donte Greene, Jason Thompson, Francisco Garcia, Jeter and possible rookie-of-the-year Cousins. Off the pine for the white squad were Antoine Wright, Connor Atchley, J.R. Giddens and Donald Sloan.


Some of the first-quarter action included a nice dunk by rookie sensation Cousins, a couple of beyond-the-arc net-swishers by Casspi, and Jeter pushing the ball hard up the floor.


Jeter’s biggest cheerleader this camp has been the coach himself. During the opening period, Westphal could be heard encouraging Jeter.


“Way to push it Pooh, way to burn,” Westphal said from his sideline position.


After Thompson just missed a couple of shots, Evans came thundering down the lane for a score and the foul. Soon thereafter, Thompson redeemed himself by taking one to the rack and picking up a foul along the way.


Late in the first, the white team started to show some great defensive pressure and nice rotation. On one set, there was great rotation by Atchley and Jeter to block an Evans attempt to get to the rack. In short, Evans was denied.


Other first-quarter observations include Cousins knocking Carl Landry down while driving to the hoop. Landry was standing outside the circle and was promptly knocked on his rear. Evans’ instinct is still to drive the lane, but there was see improvement on his mid-range jumper as the game continued.


The second quarter was a chance for some of the so-called “fringe” players to display their skills.


Crawford seemed to muscle into the lane fairly easily at times, and Jackson was a beast on the glass, which included a real nice tip-in early.


Jackson had a real nice game, finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Even after putting up respectable numbers, he still wasn’t going to be easily satisfied.


“I think I did pretty good,” Jackson said. “There were some little things I messed up on. My coach from Milwaukee told me that I had to master the little things first to develop your game. My biggest thing when I’m out here is to try and do every little thing right. My role here is to try to be the banger, try to be the dirty guy by diving on the floor and trying to get rebounds and extra possessions for my teammates.”


At this point, newly acquired Dalembert was seen gabbing his left knee after a rebound and was not really much of a factor in the game. One could assume that he is not completely healed yet and has not been able to compete in every practice. He looked a little rusty and didn’t have much lift on his jumper or when rebounding. No worries though, as it’s not a long-term thing. He should be in game shape just around the corner.


It was at this juncture that I wondered where Greene was and why I wasn’t noticing him much. Don’t misunderstand me – he was trying. It’s just that he wasn’t a factor. During one stretch, he dropped a nice alley-oop from Sloan, went one of three from the free throw line and resorted to some of last year’s antics of lagging behind in transition or rolling his eyes after getting beaten. There are a lot of guys who want the kind of time Greene received last season. Maybe he’s just feeling the pressure a little.


Near the halftime break, Marcus Landry nailed a nice shot from downtown. Soon after, Assistant Coach Mario Elie, who was coaching the white team, told the bench that the younger Landry was “killing” Greene.


Marcus enjoyed his time on the floor with his older brother.


“It was good,” he said, “and as we keep playing together, we’ll get to know each other a little more as players. We’ll just blend together. You don’t really think about it too much while you’re out there, you think of him as just another player. We go home, and you have somebody there that is going to stay on your case, and I’m staying on his case. It’s good.”


After a short break, the all the Kings men returned to the hardwood. The only differences in the lineup between what was trotted out to the floor in the first quarter was that the black team had Casspi and Jackson replace Dalembert and Marcus Landry, and the white team started Wright instead of Greene. I guess I wasn’t the only one who noticed Greene’s sub-par play.


Jackson, who came to the Kings in the Jon Brockman trade, started to get his. He kicked out a rebound and was rewarded with an immediate pass back to slam one home. If that wasn’t enough, he came back down on the next possession and dropped another two points. That was enough to again get Westphal to say some nice things about Jackson.


“He continues doing what he’s been doing in practice,” Westphal said. “He’s making a very strong case for himself because of his all-around play.”


Evans had a burst of greatness during a third-quarter run that included hitting a couple of nice jumpers and continued driving into the lane and “rekeing” havoc.


As much as Evans was the spark plug for the black team, Jeter was nearly his equal for the white team. Jeter was constantly pushing the ball quickly up the floor and making good decisions. Back-to-back dishes by Jeter – one to a quick-cutting Wright and the other to Atchley for a lay in – and a nice layup shortly thereafter, are some of the reasons that Westphal likes this kid so much.


Not to kick a guy when he’s down, but Greene had another disappointing stretch in the third. On one play, he didn’t come all the way to get the ball from the passer. Subsequently, he missed the jumper.


With the black team leading for the majority of the game, time was getting short for the white team. Assisting them in their comeback were Cousins, Wright, Jeter and Garcia, who had a very nice game. Garcia and Jeter were the glue that helped their team make a run for the win.


With 24 seconds left in the game, the white team made it a one-point game on a Garcia drive to the bucket. Almost immediately, Udrih ran the ball up the floor and scored on a well-defended layup for the black team. Besides a Marcus Landry dunk at the end, that was the end of the scoring.


When the scoreboard dimmed, the game was over, and the black team won 79-74.


As I caught up with Jerry Reynolds on the way to the parking lot, I asked him about his thoughts, and he told me in typical Jerry Reynolds fashion.

 

“I thought it was good – a lot of fun to watch,” Reynolds said. “In something like this, they are trying hard. You know, the Kings won, and that’s the main thing.”

 

Yes, Jerry, the Kings did win. And if this is the effort they will collectively bring every night when it counts, the fans have a lot to look forward to every single game this season.

 

NOTES: During practice on Monday, Westphal advised the media that Sloan and Giddens had been cut.

Also, on the injury front, out for Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns will be Dalembert, Hassan Whiteside and Jackson with some minor issues. Jeter is listed as questionable with a minor groin strain, but did practice some on Monday.


Westphal also stated that he “was in no hurry” in regards to cutting the roster any more right now. He said he would like to get to know the rest of the new guys a little better over the next few days.

 

 

Did you go to the scrimmage?  If so, I'd love to hear your take.  The Court Jester would love your feedback. You agree, disagree or just plain think I'm crazy, please put your comments below and I will respond.
 

 

Photos courtesy of Mark Needham

#1 Coach Westphal surveys the floor

#2 Darnell Jackson, Tyreke Evans and Samuel Dalembert

#3 Practice drills

#4 Long-time Kings braodcaster Gary Gerould

#5 Pooh Jeter

#6 Donte Greene driving to the rack

#7 Antoine Wright

#8 "Hitting the Glass"

#9 "Hitting the Glass 2"

#!0 "Hitting the Glass 3"

#11 Jeter stretching

#12 Francisco Garcia getting ready

#13 Shootaround essentials

#14 The Brothers Landry

#15 "The Monster Walk"

#16 "If You Build It, They Will Come"

#17 Slamson

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