Even though the Sacramento Kings currently sit outside of the final playoff spot, Kings player development coach Larry Lewis doesn’t discount Sactown’s performance or effort.
"This season has already been a phenomenal season for us," Lewis said in an interview with Business Insider. "Whether we make the playoffs or not, we have overachieved this season. We've gone over and beyond what anyone expected of us as far as outside of our coaching staff.”
In some ways, the squad might credit their improvement this season to the grueling preseason training camp the completed last fall.
"They ran the s--- out of us," Willie Cauley-Stein told BI.
And just with a mention of "7-by-8", you can feel the unease within the Squad’s expressions.
"They felt it," said Lewis, with a smile. "It was definitely a test."
The "7-by-8" drill - a.k.a. seven sprints, baseline-to-baseline, eight separate times - was one that most of the team despised, while some chose to welcome the challenge.
"Guys hate running," third-year guard Buddy Hield told reporters. "I don't care what you say. No basketball player likes running."
But the rook, Marvin Bagley III says otherwise.
"I like running," MBIII told Business Insider. "So, when we did that it was kinda cool, getting in shape and competing with everybody. Just trying to be the first guy in all the sprints, making it fun. Just turning my mind, changing it from making it a bad thing to thinking of it in a positive way, just going out and getting better. So, it was a good experience.”
But it was all a part of Coach Dave Joerger’s plan. "This is how we want to play," Joerger told BI in training camp. "This is how hard we want to play. We want to be a greatly conditioned team, and we want to play fast."
"We figured if we could get in shape before all the other teams get in shape, we could steal games," No. 00 said. "And that's what we did! It worked.”
Sactown currently leads the league in pace, at 104.47 possessions per game – a number that is slower than their record 107.06, but still faster than any other team in the NBA in the last 23 years.
“It’s not a surprise to us as a staff and as a team, but I think what newspaper articles were saying… nobody predicted this" Lewis stated.
The team is set on continuing their playoff push and gearing up for another long summer of sprints, transition skills and scrimmages before heading into next season.
“Just go. Just push it. Good things happen when you do."