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Outlaw Striving for Strong Season

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Filed under Analysis, Big Post, Featured, From the Practice Facility, Practice Coverage.

Outlaw Striving for Strong Season

No. 25 dishes on his post-practice workouts and Sacramento’s impending matchup with his former squad. Plus, Robinson uses a unique drill to help with balance.

After intensive summer workouts in the gym and training with several Kings assistant coaches since the start of training camp, Travis Outlaw says he has rediscovered his confidence.

“I’m feeling very comfortable,” the Mississippi native says, sporting a bandage over his left eye after practice – a battle wound inflicted by an inadvertent Jason Thompson elbow.

“I’m just thankful for all of the (assistant) coaches who are working with me after hours – Coach (Alex) English, Bobby Jackson. I wanted to learn a little bit more, so they’ve taken the time to help me.”

Although he won’t use it as an excuse for the dip in his field goal percentage last season, Outlaw admits shooting with a protective glove after breaking his right hand in early December altered his release. Fully healed in the later stages of the 2011-12 campaign, Outlaw started the final four games and averaged 10.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks in 29.3 minutes per contest.

“It was a great confidence builder,” says No. 25. “(Head Coach Keith) Smart said, ‘Just go out there and try to find yourself again,’ so it was a big help.”

While Outlaw didn’t log minutes in the preseason opener, Smart – disclosing he expects to use a different starting lineup against the Trail Blazers – expects the versatile forward to play a more integral role over the course of the preseason.

“I communicate to our guys that I can’t play all of them and I can’t give them all of the minutes they obviously want to have right now,” says Smart. “We’re still in training camp and we have several other games coming up, and these guys are going to get a chance to play.”

The Kings leader has taken notice of Outlaw’s consistent work ethic, adding the forward has been one of the team’s best shooters and quickest learners of the new-look offense.

“(I’m pleased with) the way Travis has worked since he’s been here from last year,” says Smart. “He was in here the last two nights working out and keeping himself ready, because that’s how the NBA season goes – (he) has to be ready to go.”

Outlaw admits facing one of his former teams on Monday also adds a little extra motivation.

“You always want to play well against your former teammates,” says the forward, who spent the first six-and-a-half seasons of his career in Portland. “You always come out aggressive and want to do well.

“I’m not going to try to force the issue or anything – you just want to make sure you (make) strong moves, make sure you can pick up on the defensive assignments … and keep it within the system.”

Free Throws

– During his time with the Blazers, Outlaw had a chance to face All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge on a regular basis in practice, and gained a deep appreciation for the big man’s game.

“LaMarcus is a great player – he’s very talented,” says No. 25. “I remember him in his rookie year – I was telling him, ‘For a big man, you have a (great) turnaround.’ (I’m impressed with) how much he’s improved his game.”

While Kings first-year forward Thomas Robinson has long admired the 2006 draftee’s skill set, No. 0 isn’t concerned about the tough matchup in his second preseason outing.

“I’ve watched film on LaMarcus Aldridge since college,” says the Kansas product. “That’s a different story than actually being out there checking him, but I really don’t care who it is (I’m going up against).”

– Aaron Brooks, who scored four points in seven minutes against Phoenix, has endorsed Coach Smart’s rotation and believes ongoing competition at his position has helped him and his teammates improve.

“I think we have good point guards and it’s up to Coach’s discretion to play the right guys at the right time,” says Brooks. “All you’ve got to do is support and be there for whomever is in the game.”

One of Sacramento’s most experienced veterans, No. 3 has actively taken on a greater leadership role, offering sage advice to his younger squad members.

“(I’m focused on) playing well (and) maximizing my opportunity when I’m in the game, but when I’m not, I’m teaching the guys and listening,” he says. “We have pretty heady point guards – if I see something on the floor, I let them know.”

And One

– During after-practice shooting drills, Robinson placed a basketball between his knees while attempting jumpers from the top of the key.

“It’s for me to get better balance on my shot,” he reveals. “It’s helped me out a lot.”

Fan Take

Who would you like to see start at small forward on Monday as the Kings host the Blazers?

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