SANTA BARBARA - Kings coach Michael Malone was pleased with his first practice of training camp on the campus of UC Santa Barbara.
Every player fully participated, including Greivis Vasquez, who is coming off offseason surgery on his right ankle.
But the bigger message was about taking the steps to become a more cohesive group. The Kings have earned the reputation as a selfish team that would rather play one-on-one at the expense of teammates.
So it's no surprise the Kings were often a tense group in the locker room as players quietly grumbled about playing time or which player wasn't passing the ball.
Malone said the message camaraderie began during voluntary workouts last month and reemphasized Monday in the first team meeting.
"We have to be much better teammates to one another, we have to have much more respect to one another," Malone said. "I know it's very early but after the month of September I think our guys understand that and they're living it out."
Malone said the relationships and team building isn't limited to the players. The time in Santa Barbara is also a chance for himself and his coaching staff to bond with the players.
"I can be the best Xs and Os coach in the world but if I don't have a relationship with my players it doesn't mean anything," Malone said.
Malone described the first practice as "great."
"Guys came in with a great sense of purpose, worked very hard," Malone said. "We put them in a lot of competitive situations and guys fought through fatigue. I think we all knew coming down to training camp that there are a lot of spots up for starting positions. Guys brought it today and my challenge to them is it can't be just one practice. Every day we come on the floor our goal as a team is to get better. And I can say with great confidence we got better today."
*Vasquez appeared to be favoring his right ankle during sprints at the end of practice and stopped to get ice on it.
Vasquez said he was fine and completed every drill in practice. Vasquez said it was his first day of full contact since the surgery in May.
*The Kings will practice again this evening. That practice is closed to the media.