Photo by Darren Hall
Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on April 11, 2013
When Keith Smart earned the head coaching position for the Sacramento Kings, he said that his team would be a “running” team that would play at a quick pace.
Smart’s philosophy has always been to have a quick pace offense that gets on the opponent’s defense quickly and doesn’t allow them to plant their feet. Smart believes that it is important for a team to get out quickly and keep an opponent running early in a game, especially when at home.
In order to promote a quick offense from his team, Smart has shortened the shot clock at times during practice and the players are seeing results.
“The emphasis in practice the last couple of days has been running: getting the ball up in 14 seconds and making something happen. It all carried over to the game,” said Kings guard Marcus Thornton.
One result the Kings were able to see occurred against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night when the team scored 23 fast-break points, while scoring 121 points for the entire game. According to NBA.com, the Kings rank fifth in the league with 1,296 fast-break points on the season, a state that reinforces Smart’s opinion that his team is beginning to play like he wants them to.
The quick pace used by the Kings has allowed them to rank 10th in the league with 100.2 points per game. The only problem is that the team must improve its defense to win games, as a fast-break offense is dependent on forcing turnovers and not allowing the other team to score.
The Kings are successful when they force turnovers and allow their offense to push the tempo, as was proved on Wednesday when they had 10 steals and seven blocked shots, while forcing 17 turnovers by the New Orleans Hornets.
“You know, when we’ve had our highest scoring games, it’s been because of our defense. It hasn’t really been because of our offense,” Smart said of his philosophy. “Obviously you’re making shots, and that helps, but look how many times we got a deflection and turned it into points. How many times we got a blocked shot or something happened and we turned it into buckets? I thought our guys didn’t run to the three-point line but I thought we ran to the rim for opportunities.”
Sacramento shot nearly 60 percent from the field all game and finished at 55 percent, a result of the Kings hurrying up the offense and finding the open man. The result was a game in which the Kings finished with 26 assists and just 12 turnovers.
“We got off to a good start, making the extra passes and not really forcing it,” Kings forward Jason Thompson said. “The stuff was getting easy on the offensive end. The games we have high assists and low turnovers, it usually translates into winning basketball.”
Smart knows that he must find a way to play the way they did Wednesday night in order to have his team compete every night, the problem is finding the way that works.
“Maybe I have to do days like I did yesterday: have to be more of a strong vocal, take over the practice like I did yesterday. Take over the shootaround this morning like I did this morning,” Smart said of his coaching prior to Wednesday’s game. “But you can’t do that for 82 games, I’d be done. That’s where the pros come in, that’s why I tell them they have to be professionals and the pros have to set the tone of a practice and a shootaround.”