SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Veteran point guard George Hill learned last season in Utah how to be a positive example for a young team, and now he is on one of the NBA’s most youthful rosters with Sacramento.
“Patience,” he said of his biggest gain from that experience.
As Dave Joerger begins his second season as coach in the state capital trying to end an 11-year playoff drought, he is counting on any and all leadership voices, age not an issue.
The roster has been rebuilt around a core of rising stars such as Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield.
“We have a lot of great, great talent,” Hill said at Kings media day Monday. “Knowing that we have some good pieces to get put in place to do some incredible things, it’s something we’re not going to say we’re going to hit the ground running trying to be a championship contender right now. This is a building process, but we’re trying to win. … Just be myself. He just wants me to go out there, have fun, do what I’ve been doing my whole career on and off the floor, be a mentor to these young guys. “
Hill hopes to do his part to help the franchise make huge strides from its 30-52 finish last season as the Kings begin a second year at Golden 1 Center.
“Just him as a court general and an older guy in the locker room is going to help tremendously, especially us getting developed,” Cauley-Stein said. “Eventually, we’re going to be the vets. We’ve got to learn from somebody.”
The 31-year-old Hill isn’t worried how he is asked to share playing time, knowing a key part of his role will be to help groom rookie point guards De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III. And all the others on a Kings team that dealt with the February departure of star center DeMarcus Cousins in a trade to New Orleans.
“I’ve learned from one of the best in Tony Parker,” Hill said. “I played alongside of him and also came off the bench behind him, so it’s fine either way. Our thing is what position we can be to be in that spot to win.”
Sacramento has depth at the point position thanks to general manager general manager Vlade Divac’s efforts in the draft and the acquisition of Hill.
He averaged a career-high 16.9 points last season for the Jazz, who reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2010. He also contributed 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds but played only 49 regular-season games because of injuries.
Center Kosta Koufos, 28, said he has lost five or six pounds from his 7-foot frame, enough to feel a difference, so he should be ready to keep up with all the kids on the practice floor.
“I was born in late 80s so it makes me feel like, ‘Hey, I was born in the 80s so I feel older,'” he said. “The guys coming in, they work hard, that’s the most important thing. It all starts with their first year in the foundation. I feel like we had a good summer working out and we have a bright future ahead of us.”
Rookie big man Harry Giles, the 20th pick in the draft out of Duke, said he will be full speed for the first day of training camp Tuesday after missing summer league to rest his surgically repaired left knee. He had an arthroscopic procedure on the troublesome knee last October after an ACL tear during high school in 2013. He also tore the right ACL in 2015, so the Kings have shown they will use caution with Giles.
“I’m feeling great. I’ve been taking my time out here, they’ve taken their time with me,” Giles said. “Just letting me work on me, work on the things I need to work on. Now, I’m starting to feel better each day. It’s starting to show on the court.”
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