Building A ‘Tough Defensive-Minded Unit’

The Kings Practice Facility was buzzing early on the Monday holiday morning, as 13 players suited up in practice gear for the first day of Mini-Camp.

The team started the initial practice of a four-day camp with light offensive and defensive drills before heading into morning stretches. Following 10 minutes of stretching, the emphasis was on defense and positioning for the rest of practice.

“We are trying to be a tough defensive-minded unit,” head coach Dave Joerger told the media after Day 1. “We want to get after people as much as possible.”

The coaching staff directed the players on a full-court defensive drill, before transitioning into a three-man guarded weave in which players worked through dribble hand-offs. The bigs and guards were then separated, with the big men working on post moves and the guards working on mid-range jumpers.

This was the first NBA-level practice for rookie Skal Labissiere, who was all smiles when talking to the media after.

“We worked on helping each other, help defense and being in the right position at the right time,” said Labissiere. “Communication, that was the biggest thing.”

The first day of mini-camp tends to be a little more hectic, even for a player who has been through the process before, such as Willie Cauley-Stein.

“The first day is a lot of learning, trying to figure out every player and their tendencies, learning the defensive schemes, offensive plays and trying to get to know each other at the same time,” said second-year center Cauley-Stein. “It’s jumbled up, fast-paced and it’s tough, but you got to get ready for that anyway.”

Following a second practice Monday night, the Kings will have two more two-a-days on Tuesday and Wednesday before heading to Las Vegas to finish camp on Thursday.

Summer league play begins Friday night, with the Kings taking on the Toronto Raptors.

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