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Optimistic Kings get back to work in Santa Barbara

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 1, 2013 at 6:23 pm •  Published: October 1, 2013

Malone became a believer in remote training camps during his tenure with the New York Knicks, who made annual trips to Charleston, S.C., to get away from the spotlight. The Kings held camp in Colorado Springs last year under coach Keith Smart.

"You're with each other 24-7," guard Jimmer Fredette said. "You're getting here at the same time, eating in the same places, sleeping in the same hotel. You bond and really get to know the guys."

Malone and his coaches have plenty of work to do on this trip. Four starting spots are likely up for grabs in camp, with the only certainty being center DeMarcus Cousins, who got a four-year, $62 million contract extension Monday.

"We've got a great group of guys, and if we keep working hard together, we can do great things," said new guard Greivis Vasquez, who went through his first full workout since offseason surgery on his right ankle.

Vasquez's competition with Isaiah Thomas for the starting job at point guard kicked off with a lively first workout. The Venezuelan newcomer already is impressed by Cousins.

"I love Cuz," Vasquez said. "I'm going to have so much fun playing with him. I'm going to find him all the time. I'm playing with a great center, an All Star-caliber player, and we're going to win."

Lottery pick Ben McLemore could be the Kings' starting shooting guard immediately, while Thompson and Carl Landry are competing at power forward. But starting spots and offensive decisions aren't Malone's top priority in this reclamation project.

Malone is focusing most of his training camp energy on improving the Kings' defense, which ranked near the bottom of the league in most categories last season. If the Kings plant the seeds of defensive competency in Santa Barbara through better chemistry and effort, Malone will consider the trip a success.

"I want to defend, and from our defense, everything else will come," Malone said. "We still want to run, but we want to run with discipline, but none of that will happen if we don't commit to defending and rebounding at a high level."