SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — Ocean breezes drifted through the open gym doors while the Sacramento Kings ran the final wind sprints of their first practice Tuesday.
The tranquility of a seaside training camp provides one more breath of fresh air for the Kings, who are hoping their outstanding summer off the court is a prelude to bigger breakthroughs this season.
"This is a great opportunity for us to get together as a team, away from everything and everybody," new coach Mike Malone said.
The Kings are spending the week several hours from Sacramento at UC Santa Barbara, putting down the foundation for a rebuilding project that's likely years from completion. Judging from Malone's happiness and the players' satisfied looks after the first workout, everybody is grateful for the long-struggling Kings' new beginning.
"It starts from the top," forward Jason Thompson said. "Having different owners, not having guys ask me if we're going to stay next year, that's good for us. It's great to just focus on basketball."
While the Kings have spent seven straight losing seasons out of the playoffs, Sacramento is on an undeniable roll off the court.
After several seasons of comical instability under the Maloof brothers' ownership, the Kings were revitalized this summer by their sale to Vivek Ranadive. The software mogul's purchase culminated the triumphant fight to keep the club in California's capital city after Sacramento fended off a final purchase attempt from a Seattle-based group.
The Kings also have concrete plans for a beautiful new arena after years of playing in one of the NBA's least impressive barns. Ranadive overhauled almost everything else about the Kings, installing a new front office headed by general manager Pete D'Alessandro and hiring a savvy new coaching staff for Malone, the longtime assistant running his first NBA team.
When asked why he brought the Kings to the picturesque city on the Southern California coast for his first practices, Malone deadpanned: "Look outside."
"This is a great setup for us," Malone added. "We wanted to get out of Sacramento. We have a new staff, a new front office, two new rookies, three new free agents. With so many new faces, we have a chance to get away and build a team. ... You can teach all the X's and O's that you want, but it comes down to chemistry and trust and building relationships."
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