September 25, 2022

How will Keegan Murray’s play translate into the regular season?

SAN FRANCISCO— The stoic reaction not only captured Keegan Murray’s apathy toward various fictional NBA drafts that failed to cast him as the Sacramento Kings’ No. 4 pick, it also captured why the Kings fell in love. what makes it vibrate.

“My motivation comes from within. I’m not really worried about other guys and things like that,” Keegan told NBA.com. “It’s just me trying to improve myself and try to be the best version of myself.”

Across two games of the 2022 California Classic at Chase Center, Murray showed two different versions of himself. In the Kings’ 86-68 win over the Warriors on Saturday, Murray presented himself as an efficient scorer (26 points) both from the field (10 for 14) and from deep (4 for 5 on 3 points). In Sacramento’s 81-64 win over the Heat on Sunday, Murray struggled with both his overall shooting (4 for 15 overall, 1 for 7 from deep) and his ball handling (six turnovers ).

It was typical of most NBA rookies adjusting to a new system, new teammates and teeming defenses in a faster-paced game. But the Kings remain encouraged, as Murray topped the glass in his Summer League debut (eight rebounds) and slow sequel (nine). Through his reels and blunders, Keegan seemed neither excited nor discouraged.

“I’m the same person I was yesterday,” Murray said. “My confidence is still the same as before. For me, it’s still a learning curve with my first time playing professional basketball. I know I have a long way to go and a lot to develop. But my confidence has not wavered.

The Kings’ confidence hasn’t wavered for reasons other than the usual general outlook on their prized rookie, starting with what Kings head coach Mike Brown called Murray’s “unique maturity.” And then there are his work habits and his intentions to play the right game of basketball.

“That was part of the appeal of Keegan – his ability to pass, dribble and shoot his size. But where does that get him this year? I don’t know,” Brown told NBA.com. I have no expectations of him at the moment. I just want him to absorb everything in front of him, keep growing, and not try to rush the process.

Keegan Murray leads the Kings to victory with a 26-point performance against Golden State.

It might be hard to think that way. The Kings hired Brown as coach after winning three NBA titles in the past six years as the Warriors’ senior assistant, aiming to end a league-record drought and make the playoffs for the first times since 2006. Not to mention the Kings have an infamous history of missing the mark on their draft picks.

Still, Keegan seemed more intrigued than concerned about what lay ahead.

“It’s just another challenge that I have to face,” Murray said. “Obviously as a rookie it’s hard to make the transition to the NBA. But I just think we have a great opportunity this year with the pieces that we have to do something really special that hasn’t been been doing in Sacramento for a while I’ve known and heard about the drought they’ve been through so for me I just want to do my best and try to make it happen this year.

After the Kings selected Murray on June 23, he began training to prepare for his first games since ending his sophomore season at the University of Iowa four months ago. And he spoke with his new teammates – including guard De’Aaron Fox, center Domantas Sabonis and forward Harrison Barnes – focusing on how to foster chemistry on and off the court.

Murray opened both Summer League games by taking the opening shot on first possession. The Kings were mostly pleased with his shot selection, off-ball movement, and pick-and-roll defense, especially given the increased speed of NBA play.

After the Kings played the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday (5:30 a.m. ET, NBA TV), the Kings travel to Las Vegas, where Murray intends to play for all of those dates (July 7-17). After that, Murray plans to return to training in both Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as well as Sacramento.

“You’re excited about his potential,” Brown said. “You are excited about his skills that he has at the moment. He is a young man who will continue to work.

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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can email him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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