When you’re a member of the purple and black faithful, you’re always looking for moral victories and while the Kings record hasn’t shown much improvement post All-Star break, statistically they’re coming around.
Taking over for the fired Paul Westphal in January, interim (at the time) head coach Keith Smart preached a change in philosophy. He said it would take some time and we all knew that. Players began to connect more. They began to become friends, not co-workers. They tweet each other online – they go out together after games. The “family” atmosphere that Smart preached so intently has began to show the much desired results. A happy locker room is an eager locker room and an eager locker room is one that plays together.
That all said, the Kings are still extremely young and to expect them to not have their bumps and bruises isn’t realistic, but the team you’re watching right now, despite those lumps, is slowly rounding into a unit.
With a h/t to John Schuhmann, the Sacramento Kings are the number one team in the league post All-Star break in terms of improved points per 100 possessions at 6.8 ppg. Next are the Milwaukee Bucks at 6.2 with the Knicks and Spurs rounding out the top four at 5.8 respectively. In short, the Kings are much more efficient on the offensive side of the ball putting in nearly 7 more points per 100 possessions – a pretty big change for team that struggled so bad in the first half of the ’11-12 season. The result has the Kings as the second highest scoring team in the league post All-Star break, improving from their 17th ranked points per game pre All-Star (they’ve jumped from 94.2 a game to 105.7) to second. Along with the improved points per game is the efficiency in how they’ve done so. Prior to the break, the Kings shot a eye gouging 41.0 – good for last in the NBA. Post break – an impressive 46.2, good for seventh in the league.
The Kings have also began to swing the ball around better (or, in other words, played Isaiah Thomas more) as their assist numbers have climbed as a solid pace. Pre-break the Kings were averaging a laughable 17.3 a game, again ranking last in the league. But as Isaiah Thomas began to play more and ball movement was preached to the Kings (not to mention some different roles), they’ve moved up to the middle of the pack averaging 21.4 assists per game.
It’s difficult not to get irritated with the sometimes Jekyll and Hyde style of the Kings, not to mention their desire to play to the level of their opponents, but the improvements are there – even if they’re slow to manifest.
Preaching patience isn’t easy, but the signs are there.
The Kings are going to be a fun unit to watch very shortly.