HOUSTON - There's more to talk about when it comes to Kenny Natt. Much more.
And when the Kings' schedule takes a quick breather here in the next few days, I'll take a deeper look at what led to him becoming the Kings' interim coach. For now, though, it's worth watching the daily goings-on of how he is running the team and what kinds of reactions he's prompting.
Today marked the first official practice of the Natt era, as the Kings had done a shootaround (Monday) and a team-meeting type gathering (Wednesday) but had yet to take part in a legitimate practice with the new coach. They did so at the Toyota Center, where the consensus was that he will provide structure and - you've heard this word before - simplify preparation in such a way that the young team should be able to elevate its performance.
"It's been a little different, a little more structure which I think is a personality thing you could've expected," forward Spencer Hawes said. "He's simplifying things, trying to get back to the basics. And it's resonating with a lot of the guys."
Even Kenny Thomas was impressed. While Thomas may not be playing (because he hasn't in some two seasons but also because he has a left calf strain that is "a week or a week and a half" from being 100 percent), he is a veteran who has played for some quality coaches and can offer some insight on how a practice is run.
"It's just one of those things where just the whole environment of practice ... is just a totally different environment as far as what's going on," Thomas said. "It looks like it's structured and everything a little bit better. Not to knock what (fired coaches) Reggie (Theus) and Chuck (Person) were doing, but it's just a totally different concept, which I think is going to benefit us in the long run.
"This isn't brain surgery, and it just seems like everything is more simple. I've had some great coaches. I've had Larry Brown. I've had Rudy Tomjanovich, and it's kind of the same concept. Kenny Natt comes from being under Jerry Sloan and stuff like that. It's kind of the same concept. It's very structured, which is good."
Natt went into great detail discussing how he is trying to improve the defense. While he is retaining the defensive system that was installed under Theus and is used by Cleveland (among others), he is emphasizing some of the more basic points as if it's training camp - no, high school summer league - all over again. Apparently these are necessary steps when your team is giving up an average of 109.1 points in the past 13 games.
"We're starting from scratch in regards to getting the guys down, moving their feet, what we call the zig zag drill, guarding a guy one on one full court down and back," he said. "That's how you become a better team defensively. You teach guys how to move their feet and guard their own man. We started with that and it's a first step. We're still building."
Whether a win over the Rockets is a realistic building block is debatable, but Natt set the standard for how opponents of any kind will be viewed. Even if they do include former Kings small forward Ron Artest.
"We're not looking to run away from anyone," he said. "We have to face every team in this league. We see Houston as a good team and we respect them, but we don't respect them any more or any less than any other opponent. It's going to be a heck of a challenge. Ron is a very good defender. We know that. He'll probably really get up into John (Salmons) and Cisco (Garcia) and those guys. ... We'll have to get more productivity in pick and rolls, maybe even post-ups." - Sam Amick