Training Camp Notes: Stauskas Still Learning
During Tuesday’s scrimmage session, rookie Nik Stauskas was the beneficiary of a lesson.
Roughly midway through the fourth day of Training Camp, Kings forward Rudy Gay controlled the ball on the wing, shifting the defense to his side. The savvy veteran drove near the baseline before swinging a pass to the top of the arc. Sliding in place to catch that pass was Stauskas, who rose up and nearly let the ball fly.
The rookie elevated and despite not having a hand in his face or a defender in range, opting to pass up the shot. The 20-year-old shooting guard found a teammate on that pass, but the result was not what Gay had originally intended.
“He came down on the next play and said, ‘shoot that – we need you to shoot that every time,’” admitted Stauskas. “Hearing guys like that telling me to be more confident and be more aggressive – that helps me.”
No. 10 showed how aggressive he can be during Summer League action. When he wasn’t draining three-pointers, Stauskas was getting past defenders and attacking the rim.
Getting to the hoop isn’t something for which the Michigan product is known, but it’s something he wants to take advantage of this year.
“I’m used to when I get a step on a guy, I think I'm going to get to the rim,” stated Stauskas. “The next thing you know, they (the defender) give you a forearm to your side and you get bumped off your line. I’m not used to having that happen – [I just need to] adjust and embrace the physicality.”
Sessions Leans on Past Experience:
While Nik is adjusting to the NBA game, Ramon Sessions has seven seasons of experience to lean on.
The 28-year-old point guard has learned what it takes to turn a franchise around. For 55 games last year in Charlotte, Sessions was a part of a defense that improved from 29th to 4th in the League in points allowed and increased its win total by 22 games. Now, he looks to help The River City make similar strides.
“[I just want to] bring my experience [to this team],” he said. “I’ve been around for a while, so I know what I need to do on and off the court. It’s just one of those things just be good in the locker room – if you see something being done wrong, let the guys know. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind.”
The Kings newest member brings crucial experience and another spark to the backcourt this year.
“Whatever the team needs you to do, do it,” said Sessions about his own role.
“[I’ve found my] niche. I tell people all the time, ‘don’t do something half way in the NBA. Find something that you do well.’ For me, that’s getting to the hole, getting to the free throw line and creating shots.”
‘A Point Guard’s League’:
Over his career, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Sessions has averaged 11.7 points, 4.7 assists and 3 rebounds per game and finished with less than 10 points per game in a season just once. Last season in Charlotte and Milwaukee, Sessions averaged 16.6 points per 36 minutes, including an impressive 17.5 points per 36 in 28 games with the Bucks to end the year.
“It’s a point guard’s League,” he stated. “A lot of guys are playing in two-point guard systems. Just to have a true point guard is huge, especially for a team like this where you have a superstar who’s young, you have Rudy who’s a veteran and guys who have a lot of potential.”
No. 9 has been thoroughly impressed with Sacramento’s pair of talented stars. So much so that he has his sights set on the big picture.
“I’m not going to say we’re going to make the playoffs, but we have as much talent as we need,” admitted Sessions. “We just have to get in, work hard and understand what Coach wants us to do.”
With the help of the team's front office, Michael Malone brought in veteran free agents, like Sessions, Darren Collison and Ryan Hollins, to lead by example and help change the organization’s culture.
“If we have positive veteran leadership, that can only help Ben [McLemore], Ray [McCallum], Nik [Stauskas], and all these other young guys – play right and act right off the floor.”
He’s hoping that combination of talent and leadership results in better practices, more efficient training camp and longer season come April.
“A lot of people talk about having a will to win,” stated Malone. “I think what’s more important is having a will to prepare to win and that goes overlooked quite a bit. Practice is hard – everybody wants to play when the lights come on and popcorn’s popping. But you have to have a will to prepare to win and that’s what we’re trying to instill right now.”
MVPs of Camp:
According to Coach Malone, Jason Thompson and Reggie Evans have been the MVPs of Training Camp thus far.
“They have both come in with a great mindset and in unbelievable shape,” said the second-year head coach. “But more importantly, [they’ve shown great] leadership with the example they set. We have a lot of new guys, so for Reggie and Jason to come in and play and work as hard as they have has really lifted our camp.”
Leaner, stronger and ready for action, the battle for supremacy at power forward is one of the key storylines heading into preseason.
“I don’t think we have a set starting five,” admitted Thompson. “That’s the great thing about Training Camp and preseason – you find out from playing games. It’s not like we have one or two preseason games – we have a bunch. So it’s going to be interesting.”
Last season’s dip from 10.9 points per contest to 7.1 has left No. 34 hungry for more. With an offseason program in place, Thompson worked hard to add new intricacies to his arsenal, while also honing fundamentals.
“You can tell he committed himself this offseason to coming back a better player,” admitted Malone. “Believe it or not, he’s added a three-point shot to his game – he spent a lot of time on that… just to expand his game.”
The Rider alum watched last season as Patrick Patterson solidified a starting spot in the lineup with his ability to stretch the defense. The former Kings player's ability to spread the floor not only gave Sacramento another scorer on the perimeter, but it gave Cousins more operating room in the lane.
“We have guys like DeMarcus and Rudy who require space to be very effective,” said the Kings leader. “So to [Thompson’s] credit – [because] it wasn’t something we told him to do… my thing was, come back a better free throw shooter – well, he took it to free throw shooting, but also expanded his game.”
While some teams may limit the range of their big men, Malone is OK with the team's 6-foot-11 forward taking three-pointers.
“I think it’s important for everybody to know that Jason and Reggie have been unbelievable to this point and that my hope is that they continue,” concluded Malone.