Kings pose wild comeback, fall to Lakers in O.T.


Kings pose wild comeback, fall to Lakers in O.T.


SACRAMENTO (AP) Sacramento Kings fans made it feel like old times.Then, so did Kobe Bryant.Bryant's tying 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left in regulation forced overtime, and the Los Angeles Lakers regrouped to hand Sacramento a 116-108 loss Wednesday night in what might have been the Kings' last game ever in Sacramento."We're proud of the way we represented this city and this area," said Kings coach Paul Westphal, who got choked up in his postgame news conference. "We don't know if we'll continue doing that or playing somewhere else. We really felt it tonight. We know that through the ups and downs, these fans supported us. We think we're ending one of those down times."I'm sorry to see the season end."A standing-room only crowd packed things beyond the 17,317-seat capacity, clanking cow bells and roaring louder than they had in years. They brought handmade signs, painted their faces and cheered their loudest to will their beloved team back.
RELATED: Kings fans let emotions out, maybe one last time
And they nearly did.Instead, the Lakers pulled away in overtime to earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They will play the New Orleans Hornets in the first round.Marcus Thornton had 33 points and Tyreke Evans added 19 to help the Kings outscore the Lakers 29-11 in the fourth quarter to rally from 20 points down. They went ahead by three until the final seconds, when Bryant delivered a shot to crush Sacramento's hopes yet again.Fans stood for almost the entire fourth quarter and overtime as the Kings nearly capped an improbable rally. Jason Thompson's dunk with 1:22 remaining in the fourth gave the Kings their first lead of the half, and it would be a brief one.After Bryant's shot forced overtime, the Lakers easily controlled overtime. They sprinted out to a six-point lead and never trailed in the extra session.Bryant finished with 36 points and Lamar Odom scored 22 points for the Lakers. Kings fans still kept things peaceful and cheered their team until the end.When the final buzzer sounded, many refused to even leave their seats. Some cheered "Here We Seat!" while others took pictures. Most, though, simply stood stoically, glancing around the arena.Players quickly exited to the locker room, high-fiving fans heading as they went into the arena's tunnel. Donte Greene returned briefly to take a few pictures and sign autographs. The Kings' dance team stood at halfcourt, hugging, crying, and saying goodbye.Maybe for the last time."I really feel for these fans," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I'm sure it's a sad, sad day for many."Leave it to the Lakers to deliver so much torment.When the Kings had an NBA-best 61 wins in the 2001-02 regular season, the Lakers eliminated them - in an epic Game 7 in Sacramento, no less - that started the long, hard fall for this franchise. The Kings failed to recover from the end of the Chris Webber-Vlade Divac days, attendance dwindled and their outdated arena continued to age.After years of political bickering and failed ballot measures to build a new arena, Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof started seeking other options. Now it seems the only thing stopping them from moving the franchise to Anaheim is a block by NBA owners.The Maloofs are scheduled to make a pitch at the NBA Board of Governors meeting that begins Thursday in New York. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson - a former NBA All-Star - and Anaheim officials also will attend.The Maloofs have until Monday to officially file for permission to relocate, and a vote would likely come within weeks of that request. NOTES: The Kings played a video before the game to show the season's highlights. ... Lakers center Andrew Bynum (hypextended right knee) and reserves Matt Barnes (sore right knee) and Steve Blake (chicken pox) did not play. They will be re-evaluated this week along with Bynum, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ... Extra security, including bomb-sniffing dogs, roamed the arena during the game.

Kerr upset by 'cowards' reference: Put name on it, or don't say it

Kerr upset by 'cowards' reference: Put name on it, or don't say it

OAKLAND – A few short hours after Klay Thompson expressed indignation with an unnamed team source quoted referring to the Warriors as “cowards,” his coach stood firmly behind the All-Star shooting guard.

Steve Kerr, in his news conference prior to the Warriors-Trail Blazers game Friday night, said he, too, was not happy to see such a quote attributed to an unnamed team official in an ESPN The Magazine story portraying All-Star forward Draymond Green as someone whose firebrand ways grate on coaches and teammates.

“I talked to Draymond about it; I haven’t talked to the team about it,” Kerr said. “It upset me, too.

[POOLE: Klay 'pissed' that 'cowards' quote about Warriors went unnamed]

“I don’t know who said that. I’d guarantee it wasn’t any of our coaching staff. I would be shocked if it was anybody in basketball management. We don’t do that. Nobody ever said that to me, not even to the press. But nobody ever said that to me, like, ‘those guys played like cowards.’ So I have no idea where that came from.”

Thompson on Friday morning made it clear that he was less bothered by the content of the story than by the idea that someone within the organization, in describing the Warriors’ performance in losing Game 5 of the NBA Finals – with Green grounded by suspension – would refer to the team with such an unflattering term.

Though not as animated as Thompson was, Kerr clearly is concerned with the long-term ramifications of such a comment.

“It’s upsetting because you want to keep things in-house,” he said. “If somebody wants to say something, then they should put their name on it. If you don’t feel like you can put your name on it, you shouldn’t say it.”

Kerr paused ever so briefly before noting how media operates in the second decade of the new millennium.

“But on the other hand I also know how it works these days,” he said. “What is ‘an unnamed source?’ Who are ‘sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking?’ It’s gotten harder and harder to control stuff, to keep things in-house these days because what used to be a credible source is now . . . the standards are a little bit lower . . . I just know that sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking is an extremely vague phrase and who knows who that might be?”

Kings aim to build solid foundation under Joerger once and for all


Kings aim to build solid foundation under Joerger once and for all

Matthew 7 verse 24-27: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Not to get biblical on anyone, but the parable above is a perfect metaphor for the the Sacramento Kings. For years, they have built their house on sand only to watch it all wash away when the rains come. And the rains always come, that is the NBA world.

The Kings have tried a new approach this season. They are counting on head coach Dave Joerger to build their new house on a rock. A foundation of defensive principles mixed with a structured offensive system built to withstand the ebbs and flows of a normal NBA season.

In order to create this new foundation in Sacramento, Joerger and his staff almost had to turn their sneakers and workout gear for loafers and blazers. This is basketball academia and the Kings are going to need plenty of time in the study hall.

“The one thing I noticed out of coach Joerger, was he was teaching,” former Kings guard turned CSN analyst Doug Christie told the Kings Insider Podcast. “He has the floor. He was going through things and talking through things and they would run through it. And all of the sudden they would stop, and he would teach again.”

What Christie describes from the first week of training camp is coaching 101. But for many of these players, they’ve never seen something like this. Center DeMarcus Cousins is entering his seventh NBA season and Joerger is his sixth head coach.

Whether the coaches before Joerger were quality or not, none of them have tried the robust task of introducing such a refined system. And so the Kings coach must start at the very beginning with a mixed bag roster that will look substantially different at the trade deadline, next summer and even the summer after that.

The hope is that the foundation will survive. A core must be developed to carry the system from one iteration of Kings players to the next. Whether the youth of the team -- Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis -- are part of that core is yet to be determined.

But what is known, is that for the first time in a while, a head coach has been brought and given free run of the house. When Joerger signed a 4-year, $16 million deal this summer after leaving the Memphis Grizzlies, it was to build a program, not just take over the reigns from the outgoing George Karl.

To make matters more complex, Joerger is trying to go from a free flowing system to something very regimented. He is a system guy. And many of his players either played with Karl last season in Sacramento or under Karl in Denver. Right or wrong, Joerger has to break his players of their previous habits and install new directives.   

“You’re just trying to keep building and we just keep working at it and guys are trying to make a change from one system to another system and it’s always difficult no matter what the system,” Joerger told CSN California.

Joerger left a veteran team where four of his core players had played together for six seasons. That is not a luxury he has in Sacramento. Outside of Cousins, no player has been on the roster more than three seasons. Continuity of coaches aren’t the only issues that the Kings players have faced.

After losing to the Clippers Tuesday night at the Golden 1 Center, Joerger pointed to this exact issue.

“We’re not saying we want to be like the Clippers, we want to be like all those teams, where we can keep our guys together long-term and build that chemistry and build your system,” Joerger said. “We’re trying to run something that we’ve been working on for two-weeks. They’re running stuff they’ve been running for six years.”

Before coming to the Kings, Rudy Gay had spent time with Joerger in Memphis when he was an assistant coach. They know each other well, but this is different. This is the first time Gay has worked with Joerger as a frontman. While the experience is new, the veteran wing appreciates the system being implemented, even if he doesn’t know how long his stay in Sacramento will be.

“It’s not difficult at all, this is what I prefer,” Gay said following practice earlier this week. “I prefer structure. My whole career I’ve had structure and that’s what I prefer and what I excel in.”

Gay has made it known that he would like a new basketball home, but it has nothing to do with Joerger or his system. He has seen the value of structure in his previous stops and he has also seen what a free flowing system can do. He even had a message for his teammates on the subject.

“Whether they like it or not, it works,” Gay said.

Joerger ran a 147-99 record in three seasons in Memphis. He led the Grizzlies to the playoffs in all three seasons, a place the Kings haven’t been in a decade. He has a tried and true system that even the Kings’ young players are drawn to.

“Joerger’s (system) is all about reading, it’s just making your basketball IQ higher,” Cauley-Stein told CSN California. “It’s really teaching me the game.”

Cauley-Stein, who just had his third-year option picked up by the team on Friday, is trying to transition from John Calipari’s style at Kentucky, to Karl’s system in his rookie season, and now to Joerger’s game plan.

“It’s not tough, it’s just different,” Cauley-Stein said of the transition. “You just have to get used to it. I like it better honestly. More structure. A reason why you’re running something instead of just free playing pickup.”

The reaction from the rest of the roster has been similar. From Cousins’, “I love it, I love it, I love it,” quote to veteran Anthony Tolliver, who is new to the team, but fully on board with the structured system.

“If you’re used to playing free-flowing and not calling plays everytime, to calling plays every time and being more organized, honestly, I prefer being in a system like this,” Tolliver said. “I just feel like things are more predictable. I feel like everyone stays involved more and the ball moves better.”

Tolliver’s experience is similar to what Cauley-Stein is seeing. Free flowing can often mean isolation or exclusionary. As role players in this system, it’s important that you are prepared to be a viable part of the offense, not just a pawn.

“You’re alway touching the ball, you always get to make a pass, you get a chance to make plays, it’s fun to play like that,” Cauley-Stein said. “You don’t get stuck in the dunkers zone or stuck in on the baseline and watch them play 4-on-4.”

For Joerger, it’s a tough transition. He is used to rolling out a small group of newbies and have his veterans there to help drive home the point. He now has a collection of players that have either played in a completely different system or are new to the team.

“I just keep telling myself - ‘stay on task, stay on task, stay on task,’” Joerger said. “That means being demanding on what’s important to us, how we go about our business, how we practice everyday. Stay on task.”

There will be good nights and bad as the Kings move through the 2016-17 season. Some nights everything will click and they will have no issues competing. Other nights they will win on talent alone. Don’t discount how dominant a players like Cousins and Gay can be. Lastly, there will be those nights when fans boo and they get run out of the gym. This is the NBA and the level of talent is incredible. Chemistry and cohesion take time. A new system will take time. The Kings will once again ask for patience. They’ll ask you to look at the big picture.

Joerger will stay on task. Cousins will roam the high post. But nothing is guaranteed. They are trying to building on rock this time and not sand. It’s not exactly a new concept, but a novel one in Sacramento.