29/02/2024
New Sydney Kings Head Coach Mahmoud Abdelfatteh standing as Head Coach at an NBA match

Mahmoud Abdelfatteh is hoping to bring his team together for the challenge of NBL24 [Image: Twitter - @JimmySmithSEN]

Plenty of change has happened at the Sydney Kings in the offseason ahead of NBL24 and they’re hoping to not only have the squad and coach prepared for the new campaign but also that their mindset is correct for the new season as the back-to-back NBL champions chase a three-peat.

Speaking at the first media call ahead of the NBL24 season, new Sydney Kings head coach, Mahmoud Abdelfattah, as well as new import, former NBA player Denzel Valentine, have settled in well to life in Australia, being in the country for the first time.

Abdelfattah spoke in the harbour city of his desire to bring more championship success to the Kings.

“Just seeing how successful the Sydney Kings have been over the last couple of years is a big reason why I am here,” Abdelfattah said.

“Good friends of mine – Will Weaver, Chase Buford – they have said nothing but great things about the city of Sydney… Sydney has everything I could ask for.”

The new coach is under no illusion as to how tough the league will be and does not want past success to determine future success; however, he is very analytical and has gathered as much information as he can from former championship winner, Buford.

“[Chase and I] talked about anything and everything… the team, from his first year to the second year, the success of the team, what he took into his pre-season – everything,” he said.

Abdelfattah said he is aware of how much each team will have improved and the challenges the league will bring.

“All 10 teams are going to have the opportunity to [be successful]… everything is going to be different just because all the other teams are different… all I am focused on was today,” he said.

Ahead of the NBL24 season, the Kings have looked to replace plenty of outgoing talent, such as NBL23 MVP Xavier Cooks, who departed for the Washington Wizards in the NBA, as well as Derrick Walton Jr. and Tim Soares; the three each led the Kings in points (Walton Jr.), assists (Walton Jr.), rebounds (Cooks) and blocks (Soares) per game last season.

They have not only secured a new coach, but have brought in a wealth of talent, which includes the Kings’ NBL22 MVP Jaylen Adams, former Chicago Bull Denzel Valentine, NBL Next Star Alex Toohey, and former Cairns Taipan DJ Hogg, just to name a few, alongside a host of returning Championship-winning talents.

“For me, it is just about the relationship with the guys,” he said.

“You will just have to make sure they are in a good place, physically, mentally and that they are enjoying every single day.”

The Kings had a playstyle under Buford to run the floor and look to score quick points – with Abdelfattah at the helm, that style will not differ too much as it evolves.

“We are going to play fast and try to score a lot of points, but as long as you score more points than others, that is what matters most,” he said.

Speaking on his squad, the 2021-22 G-League Champion head coach said he is not set on a starting lineup and will be happy to use his whole squad throughout the season.

“Going from game to game, coming from the States, I might be thinking about treating it like an NFL season and mix it up every game… I am very happy with the entire team,” Abdelfattah said.

One of the big talents brought in by the Kings is former NBA player, Valentine, and Abdelfattah is excited to see what he can bring.

“Zel (Denzel Valentine) is an NBA talent; obviously, he is here for a year and then hoping to be back in the NBA, which I think he will be,” he said.

“I have had a previous relationship just knowing Denzel, from his Michigan State days… he is excited to be here [and] we have the same goals in life, so I am glad to have him.”

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Former NBA Guard. Denzel Valentine, also spoke to the media and was pleased to be in Australia for the first time.

“I have been very comfortable here since day one and I am loving it so far,” Valentine said.

Valentine spoke on the growth of the league, how it has been appearing on his social media more and spoke about the players he knows from the league.

“I had some friends and some people I played against over the years play here… I understand it has been growing a little bit and it is going to be competitive.”

Valentine wanted to take the NBA off-season as an opportunity to come to the NBL, prove his ability by helping the Kings towards a three-peat and then head back to the United States, potentially for an NBA team.

“It is a short season from here until early March… come here, win a Championship; it is refreshing to be at an organisation that does things the right way and that is all about winning,” he said.

Valentine spoke on the similarities he has seen between Australia and the United States for the NBL and the NBA; he is hoping success here can translate to success over there, like many NBL alumni before him.

“Australia is a great place; for me, it is kind of just like another version of America… as far as coming here and getting this opportunity, I am very grateful,” he said.

Valentine is also impressed with what he has seen from some of the players in the NBL since his arrival.

“Honestly, the players here are more skilled than I thought… in the [NBA], guys are so athletic in size… [but] here, guys are still skilled, they stay athletic and strong,” he said.

Valentine is hoping to link up with NBL22 MVP Jaylen Adams and said he has been pleasantly surprised with what he has seen from him so far.

“He surprised me, I ain’t gonna lie; I knew he was good but the first couple of times we played, I was like ‘whoa, this kid is really good,” he said.

“He can pass, he can score, his pace is second-to-none; he has a high ceiling so I am excited to play off him.

Valentine has the expectations set for himself to win and bring success.

“I just came here to win, just trying to be as good of a player as I can be, be competitive… the coach has won a G-League Championship and I respect where he started and how he climbed up the ranks,” he said.

Valentine said his biggest assets he will bring to the Kings will be his playmaking and shooting, where he will hope his size and passing will be of great use.

“Create for others, make the game easier for others and then when my opportunity comes to shoot and make shots, be a high-percentage shooter – that is what I bring to the table,” he said.

“I played in the G-League last year, where you would show up and sometimes there would be 100 people there, sometimes there would be 4000.”

“Just having the opportunity to come and play in the league where you know there is going to be fans, there is going to be pressure, guys care about winning and guys take pride in the championship.”

The fans will be loud and out in full force as the Kings chase a third-straight NBL title and Valentine is excited for the noise.

“I definitely feed off the crowds and the energy of the fans and spectators… everybody has been talking it up, I have seen it online and it looks really lively in here… I cannot wait to get out there and play in front of the Kings fans and get back to this winning stuff,” he said.

“I ain’t come here just to be quiet, I am definitely gonna bring it and try to give my all every game.”

Valentine spoke to former Kings Derek Walton Jr., Justin Simon, RJ Hunter and Ian Clark about the league and the Kings before his move and how he will hope to achieve his goals with the club.

“They all talk very highly at this league and especially the Kings organisation… [the Kings] want to win, I want to win, they want to help me get to where I want to go to and same with them,” he said.

The Sydney Kings travel to the Gold Coast for the NBL Blitz between September 16-22, before they kick off their season away to the Illawarra Hawks in the Freeway Series on September 30.

Their first home match of the NBL24 season is against the Adelaide 36ers on October 8 at Qudos Bank Arena.

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