Kings Analysis

Jones, Slawson excited, ready to build off Kings' success

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Kings coach Mike Brown helped recover and rejuvenate what was missing in Sacramento for so long last season: culture, togetherness and winning.

Coming off a historic 2022-23 NBA season in which the team snapped its 17-year playoff drought, Sacramento isn’t satisfied with just a playoff berth anymore and is ready to take things a step further next season.

With all of that in mind, Kings general manager Monte McNair and Co. moved up in the second round of last week's draft to snag Colby Jones with the No. 34 pick. Twenty picks later, the Kings selected Furman forward Jalen Slawson with the No. 54 pick to end their night.

At Tuesday’s introductory press conference in Sacramento, one day after landing in their new home, the rookies sat next to McNair as the general manager spoke about their fit on the team.

“Obviously, our focus for the draft this year was to continue to build on last season's success and find guys that can come in and contribute to the culture that Mike and myself and everybody's building here and continue our winning ways and advance in the playoffs,” McNair said. “So Colby, obviously versatile, unselfish, high-IQ winner. Two-way player. Excited to bring him and his work ethic here to the Kings.

“Jalen, a unique combination of size, defense. Big-time winner at Furman, including a really big win in the NCAA tournament this year. We're confident these guys are gonna fit in with what we're building here, both on and off the court.”

Both Jones and Slawson proudly uttered the word “excited” in their opening statements Tuesday, and it might be the first time in a long time that a rookie truly meant it.

Before last season, Sacramento wasn’t exactly the big city or big market where rookies dreamt of playing. But last year’s success helped change that. For the rookies, they’re thrilled to be joining an organization with a “great culture.”

From nearly 3,000 miles away in Greenville, S.C., Slawson was following along with Sacramento’s memorable season, which means, of course, he watched Brown’s viral preseason video sprinting baseline to baseline.

“It was kind of hard not to follow along,” he said. “It was like everybody was so excited about it, that it was always in your face. And then, Coach Brown, you get the video of Coach Brown sprinting up and down the floor, so I think everybody had to see something and hear about it.

“And then obviously as basketball players, you hear about something like that, it’s like, ‘What’s going on in Sac?’ And once you see what’s going on, you’re invested.”

Jones had a similar experience keeping up to date with the team last season, and it makes him only that much more excited to now be a part of it all.

“It’s a young team,” he said. “They had a great year last year and I just want to keep the progression trending upwards.”

The Xavier guard said De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk texted him on draft night, and both Jones and Slawson had breakfast with Fox on Tuesday morning.

And after being greeted by fans Monday upon their arrival to Sacramento, the 21-year-old Jones and 23-year-old Slawson had dinner with Brown and other members of the coaching staff.

Brown, entering his second year as head coach of the Kings, isn’t one to shy away from saying what’s on his mind or bite his tongue at any moment. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Brown to already tell the rookies what he expects from them in their first year, or to break down a game plan while their steak and potatoes sizzled in front of them.

Jones and Slawson didn’t reveal any demands Brown might already have given them, but McNair interrupted Tuesday’s press conference to make one thing clear.

“I can tell you one demand,” McNair said. “They’re going to have to defend. If you don’t know coach Brown, he’s made that very clear.”

The room filled with laughter, but it wasn’t a joke. Brown, a defensive-minded coach, tried making defense a point of emphasis last season. While that side of the ball continued to be a struggle for the team, they did excel on the other end of the court -- running a historic offense last year.

There’s no doubt, however, that Brown will look to balance the dominance on both sides of the ball this summer, and Jones and Slawson can help with those efforts.

“I'm very excited. It's just part of the process," Jones said of adjusting to the NBA. "I feel like throughout high school and college, I've always had to show my worth and work my way up. So I'm just going to keep that same mindset and mentality and try to work to get better every day."

Slawson is ready for the competition and looking forward to challenging himself each and every day.

"We're going to come in, work and try to get one percent better every day and show that we're dependable and reliable, that the coaches can trust us but more importantly that the players can trust us," Slawson said. "Just come in and earn your minutes every day. Nothing's gonna be given. But, you know, we're, we're competitors and we like that. So it's exciting."

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