Kings coach Mike Brown used a few choice words when he chewed out his team on the eve of Wednesday’s season opener against the Utah Jazz at Delta Center in Salt Lake City.
Brown didn’t like the defense from his first and second units during a scrimmage at the end of Tuesday’s practice. Kings center Domantas Sabonis said “everyone scored on every possession, and that’s not the way we want to play.”
Brown made that very clear. He provided an update on his starting lineup, but he said he will have zero tolerance for bad defense after the Kings finished 24th in the NBA in defensive rating and 25th in points allowed last season.
“I shouldn’t be the only one having zero tolerance,” Brown said. “Everyone on that floor should have zero tolerance and that’s what I want to make sure we get to.”
Brown said Kevin Huerter will start at shooting guard in the opener against Utah, but that is still subject to change. Brown started Chris Duarte in one preseason game, saying he wanted to see what Duarte’s defensive presence could do for the starting lineup, but that experiment was cut short when Duarte suffered a bone bruise in his left knee.
Duarte returned to practice Tuesday. The team is optimistic he will be available against the Jazz, but he will come off the bench for now. Huerter started 75 games last season and played a huge role in helping the Kings set a record for the highest offensive rating in league history, averaging a career-high 15.2 points on a career-best 40.2% shooting from 3-point range.
“Kevin’s going to start,” Brown said. “Kevin will start, and every time we practice, every time we have shootaround, it’s my job to evaluate the team. I told the group there (at the end of practice), I said, ‘I know for sure I’m not going to sit back and watch us play the same way we played defensively without making changes.’ That doesn’t just mean Kevin. That could mean anybody.”
Huerter has come under the microscope with Brown emphasizing physicality and defense, but Brown is demanding the same from everyone, saying “it starts with (De’Aaron) Fox and Sabonis.”
“Obviously, Fox and Domas, it’s a little harder to make a change there, but that can mean anybody and not just with the starting five,” Brown said. “It could be with the eighth guy in the rotation. If he can’t bring it defensively, maybe we need to put somebody else in his spot, but our team, from top to bottom, has to understand that we’ve got to defend and we will not finish 25th or 26th defensively as a team.”
Fox was asked how receptive the team has been to Brown’s message.
“I hope we are,” he said. “We just did some situational stuff and started down (by) four with two minutes left. I think we scored every possession except the one Chris turned over and the missed free throw that I had. We scored every single possession before that. We have to be better, especially if we’re going to be in those type of situations down the stretch. You have to be able to get a stop. We know we can’t just go in and outscore people.”
LYLES RULED OUT
Kings forward Trey Lyles has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game against the Jazz due to a left calf strain. Lyles sustained the injury during pregame warmups before an Oct. 15 preseason game against the Golden State Warriors. Sources said an MRI revealed a minor strain, adding that the team is optimistic it won’t be long before Lyles returns. Sasha Vezenkov, the 2023 EuroLeague MVP, was part of the second team with Lyles held out of Tuesday’s scrimmage.
KINGS AT JAZZ
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Delta Center
TV: NBC Sports California
Radio: Sactown Sports 1140
Odds: Kings -1.5 Over/under: 237.5
Kings: QUESTIONABLE — Chris Duarte (knee). OUT — Trey Lyles (calf).
Oct. 27 vs. Golden State Warriors
Oct. 29 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Nov. 1 at Golden State Warriors
Nov. 4 at Houston Rockets
Nov. 6 at Houston Rockets