Cousins dishes on his eagerness to get back on-court against Atlanta. Plus, Coach Smart and Johnson breakdown Sacramento’s matchup with Josh Smith and Co.
For the first time in a week – and just the second contest of the 2012-13 regular season – Kings Head Coach Keith Smart will have the depth and versatility of his entire roster at his disposal against Atlanta, with the return of DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, and Francisco Garcia.
“It was a regular basketball team again, and we had a chance to do some great work today – excellent film work,” said Smart after Thursday’s practice. “I’m so excited, I’m out of breath.”
The Kings leader, who showed a brief glimpse of his post-up game against No. 22 prior to addressing media, said he’s maintained a positive outlook and praises his team’s readiness and willingness to work.
“I don’t come in with yesterday’s problems – I focus on what we can do today (to) get better,” said Smart.
“You grow as a unit when things are going semi-badly or not going how you want them to go – that’s when you find out how you come together.”
Smart shared in addition to Thomas’ invaluable energy and leadership, the team is happy to welcome back No. 15 with his ability to anchor the middle, explaining the Kings need Cousins’ unique blend of size, strength and quickness back in the lineup.
After the Kentucky product apologized on Wednesday to his teammates and fans, he expressed his eagerness to get back on-court against Atlanta.
“I’m excited just to continue growing with the team and just turning things around,” said Cousins. “It’s still early in the season. We still have a lot of time, and I still feel we’re on a good path.”
Recognizing how much the Kings depend on him after watching Sacramento battle without his low-post presence, Cousins added he’s ready to do whatever it takes to help the team come out victorious against the Hawks and its All-Star center.
“Al Horford is a tough opponent – a very active big man who plays hard, so it should be fun,” he said. “(I have to) just be more active than him and just dominate (against) him.”
- In addition to complimenting Horford’s inside game, Smart offered an insightful scouting report on Atlanta.
“(They have a) different make-up (from last season), but they’re still going to go through some of their main players,” said the head coach. “Obviously, Josh Smith is going to be able to make plays – (he’s) an aggressive player (who’s) going to attack the rim, rebound and block shots. (Jeff) Teague is a fighting young player who can get to the basket and make plays.”
James Johnson – who’s averaged one block per game and held opposing small forward to a 35.4 effective field goal percentage, according to 82games.com – reveals Sacramento will need to focus on thwarting Smith’s highlight-reel slams to find success.
“He’s a high-flyer – just don’t let him get any exciting dunks,” said Johnson. “Other than that, he just plays a simple game. I feel like you take the air out of the whole team when you shut Josh Smith’s exciting play down.”
The Wake Forrest product, disclosing he’ll now wear prescription goggles in games to correct his far-sightedness, affirmed another defensive focal point is limiting Teague’s production at the point.
“We have to limit Jeff Teague’s passing – he’s great at getting in the paint and he’s a great finisher,” he said. “For the most part, he makes the right plays, so we have to put pressure on him.”
On the offensive end, Johnson, who converted all five shots he took at the rim against Portland en route to scoring a season-high 16 points, places added emphasis on notching points in the paint.
“I think with this new offense we’ve put in, it gives everybody a chance to attack,” said No. 52. “With the bigs mostly at the go spots, DeMarcus is still able to do his thing as well.”
- Smart shares the key to rectifying Sacramento’s low field goal percentage over the first eight contests comes down to moving the ball and creating easier looks, rather than letting opposing defenses dictate the team’s offense.
The Kings leader says he has also enjoyed working with guard Tyreke Evans in order to help the Memphis product thrive in the new offensive scheme and operate in his preferred spots on the floor.
“I cranked out a bunch of stuff to find things – (I looked at what he did) his rookie year,” said Smart. “So, I started to incorporate some of those things over the last couple of games to try to get him as comfortable as possible and not put that added pressure on him to go away from a strength of his of powering to the basket, getting to the free-throw line from a post-up or a drive and not just settling on the perimeter.”
Evans, stating he’s at his best when he’s able to dribble-drive and kick out to open teammates, hopes to have more opportunities to use his size advantage against smaller guards.
“I’d like to get the ball in the post more,” he said. “When I need a bucket, that’s (what) I try to tell Coach – get me in the post or on the elbow.”
- Evans and the Kings host Smith and the Hawks on Friday at 7 p.m. in the second of a four-game homestand. To get tickets, click here.