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Kings Count On Cousins And New Additions

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio News

Will new players bring more smiles and wins to Kings' fans and players?

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio News

UPDATE: The Sacramento Kings opened the 2015-16 season with a loss 111-104 to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.

The Kings turned the ball over early in the game, which helped contribute to a double-digit deficit in the first quarter.

Sacramento fought its way back and took the lead halfway through the fourth quarter.

The inside play of Paul Pierce against a small lineup proved too much for the Kings.

Los Angeles shot 52.5 percent from the floor.

After the game, head coach George Karl said the biggest takeaway for the team must be on the defensive end.

"I think we did some good things defensively," said Karl. "But we're not a mature  defensive team yet. We still don't stay focused. The pick and roll play they hurt us with early in the first half and second half. We gave them, what three, four easy baskets? It's a play that we know they're gonna run and they ran very well and we didn't defend it very well."

Karl also blamed himself for not calling more plays to help the offense create easier shot opportunities.

Sacramento's three-point shooting was a bright spot at 46 percent and the Kings out-rebounded the Clippers.

About half of the team's players are new this year and include two big men, veteran Kosta Koufos, and this year's first-round draft pick Willie Cauley Stein, to help protect and complement All-Star center Demarcus Cousins.

Cousins had 32 points in the loss.

One of the other new players will be tasked with getting them the ball. In training camp, Cousins had nothing but compliments for free-agent pickup Rajon Rondo.

"I've developed a lot of respect for Rajon," he said. "The dude is a flat-out genius when it comes to basketball. Just his whole knowledge of the game is incredible. He's definitely considered a coach on the floor."

Rondo was benched during the playoffs last year by Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. A broken bone in Rondo's hand limited him to 46 games in Dallas. He averaged just 30 games per year in the three previous years with the Boston Celtics. He won a championship with Boston in 2008.

Cousins said Rondo and this year's group has a better attitude compared to last year's.

"That's a big thing, guys believing and wanting to take that step to win," he said. "That's probably the biggest thing. [Last year] there were probably a couple who wanted to win right away. Others had different motives or whatever the case may be."

Rondo had four points and four assists playing 25 minutes.

Others players on this year's squad are not new to the league.

Center Kosta Koufos will start his eighth NBA season for his seventh team. He sees some similarities to the veteran team he played for last year, the Memphis Grizzlies.

"Everybody knows that, you know, how much talent we have on this team and the improvements the front office made this summer were definitely huge for the organization," he said.

Koufos had 10 points in the loss.

Many of the moves that were made in the off-season were made by new General Manager and former Kings' center Vlade Divac.

Koufos expects Divac to help out in the gym as well.

"To have him around helping us, helping and teaching his ways back when he played will  definitely help me especially for a big man," said Koufos.

Koufos has played for head coach George Karl before. In their last full season together, the Nuggets won nearly 70 percent of their games but lost in the first round of the playoffs. 

Karl is in his first full year with the Kings.

During the 2014-15 campaign, and shortly thereafter, the team fired its head coach, interim head coach and let its general manager leave.

With the loss, the Kings have won eight of their last ten home openers.

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob is the Sacramento Region Reporter. He has been at the forefront of the coverage of the Sacramento Kings' saga and the effort to build a new arena in Sacramento. He also covers education, business, environment, and sports stories.   Read Full Bio