Despite loss in LA, Kings fight, show 'how much potential we have'

Despite loss in LA, Kings fight, show 'how much potential we have'

Two teams embarking on a youth movement went head-to-head Friday night at Staples Center. The Sacramento Kings, armed with plenty of first and second-year players, stumbled down the stretch to a Los Angeles Lakers team that boasts seven hoopsters born in 1993 or later. In the end, the home team managed a 98-94 win, sending the Kings to their 48th defeat of the season.

Los Angeles officially shut down veterans Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov and Nick Young a while ago, leaving a young core of players to fend for themselves.

Sacramento is in a similar situation. They have rotated their veterans in and out of the lineup for the last few weeks while the youth play major minutes.

The game went down to the wire, with both teams exchanging hoops in the final minutes. A costly turnover hurt the Kings chances late and the Lakers escaped with a win.

“We fought, when they made their run, we responded back,” rookie Buddy Hield told media following the game. “It shows how much potential we have. It kinda sucks and it kinda of hurts, not executing on that play.”

Hield didn’t read the defense on an inbounds pass with the Kings trailing by two and five seconds remaining in the game. Veteran Corey Brewer stepped in and stole the pass, effectively ending the game.

“It’s good for them,” Dave Joerger said of the crunch time battle. “We work on it, we spend time on it and then you get these opportunities and it’s good for them.”

Playing against fellow 2016 first rounder Brandon Ingram, Hield managed to score 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, but his four turnovers stand out. Ingram finished with 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting in the Lakers win.

At least one of the Kings’ young players is getting the veteran treatment. Second-year big man Willie Cauley-Stein came out hot, scoring 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting through the mid-third quarter. He added seven rebounds and three blocks in just 23 minutes of action as he sat during the fourth quarter and watched the rookies go to work.

“I’m just getting comfortable, starting to find my pace and starting to get real confident on both sides of the floor,” Cauley-Stein told reporters following the game. “It’s going to be real interesting and I’m excited for what’s to come.”

The eccentric 7-footer out of the University of Kentucky laid out his summer plans during postgame, including an unconventional course he has decided to partake in.

“I plan on doing this Navy Seals training for the first six weeks,” Cauley-Stein said.

With an elongated summer, Cauley-Stein will have plenty of time to get back to basketball basics. Going through something like Seal training can only help the wiry big get stronger and build his endurance.

Sacramento’s lack of strength in the post was on full display all night. The Lakers scored 60 points in the paint and came away with 16 offensive rebounds. Julius Randle bullied the Kings in the post, coming away with 25 points and six rebounds, five of which were on the offensives end.

“We turned the ball over 23 times, they threw us around in the paint and they got off 16 offensive rebounds,” Joerger said. “And maybe we aren’t in that situation down the stretch.”

Skal Labissiere, like Cauley-Stein, understands he has to get stronger over the summer. The rookie forward finished the night with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, but he managed just three rebounds in 33 minutes of action.

19-year-old Georgios Papagiannis scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as he continues to show improvement late in the season. Veteran point guard Darren Collison scored 15 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed five rebounds.

The loss snapped the Kings two-game win streak and dropped them to 31-48 on the season. They return home to Sacramento for a Sunday matinee against the Houston Rockets at Golden 1 Center.


Calipari sees Labissiere's progress during rookie season: 'I give Sac credit'

Calipari sees Labissiere's progress during rookie season: 'I give Sac credit'

Nothing has come easy for Skal Labissiere. He survived the earthquakes in Haiti. He moved to the United States speaking only only French and Haitian Creole as a young teenager. And his lone season at Kentucky he went from a top five prospect to a player that nearly fell out of the first round.

The knock on Labissiere coming out of Kentucky was that he didn’t like contact. Maybe it went farther than that, but there was no question that when he left for the NBA, he didn’t exactly walk away on the best of terms with head coach John Calipari.

When the Kings took on the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in the final week of the regular season, Calipari sat in the stands watching a small group of his former players. During the telecast, NBC Sports California’s Kayte Christensen caught up with the legendary coach and he couldn’t stop gushing about his Wildcats alums, specifically the play of Labissiere.

“I look at Skal and the progress - I give Sac credit,” Calipari told Christensen. “These guys are working with him. He’s playing more confident. They’re putting him in positions he can have success. I didn’t do as good a job as they did.”

Labissiere went off for 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting against Los Angeles. He added three rebounds and two blocks, but the Kings stumbled down the stretch, allowing the Lakers to come away with the 98-94 victory.

In his freshman season at Kentucky, Labissiere scored more than 19 points just once, a 26 point outburst in his second game of the year against NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology). His highwater mark in his rookie season for the Kings was a 32-point, 11-rebound performance against the Phoenix Suns on March 15.

“He’s getting stronger, he’s growing, you can see him maturing physically, which was a big part of it,” Calipari said. “He had a good season with us, but, I used him wrong. Now I see him now, it’s amazing he’ll speak for me after I’m watching him play like this.”

The 21-year-old power forward has a smile that lights up a room. He even uses it as a defense mechanism when things get uncomfortable. Speaking about his time in Kentucky seems uncomfortable for the 6-foot-11 forward.

“Coach Cal, he does a really good job of getting guys ready for the next level,” Labissiere told NBC Sports California. “I appreciate him.”

Labissiere is looking ahead, not backwards. He is a an incredible talent and he is thankful for the job that Dave Joerger and his staff have done with him during his first season in the NBA.

“Coach Joerger, every since I was drafted here, he’s always believed in me,” Labissiere said. “He’s always putting me in the right positions, making me work on different things that normally I didn’t do in college. He’s making me do different things and believing in me. I love playing for him.”

Kentucky has produced some of the best big men in the game, including DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s a hotbed for talent, but specifically for centers and power forwards that take their game to the next level in the pros.

Labissiere would love to be included in that list, but he isn’t trying to be someone he’s not. His focus is on improving and helping his team win games.

“I don’t know, I’m just working for myself, doing what I’m supposed to do,” Labissiere said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m just going to keep doing my thing.”

The Kings have big plans for Labissiere and the rest of their young core this summer. Labissiere will likely join the team’s three other 2016 first round picks in Las Vegas for Summer League in July. Another two or three rookies from the 2017 NBA Draft will likely join them as Sacramento attempts to build some early chemistry amongst.

Following Summer League, Labissiere is scheduled to travel to Haiti where he will hold a basketball camp in his home country. It’s the first time he’s been back to Haiti since moving to the US following the earthquake in 2010.

Labissiere wasn’t the only Kentucky product on display for Sacramento against the Lakers. Willie Cauley-Stein spent three seasons under Calipari before going sixth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Cauley-Stein put up solid numbers in front of his former coach, finishing the game against the Lakers with 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in just 23 minutes of action.

“Willie is doing what he does,” Calipari said. “He’s flying up and down that floor, he’s blocking shots. He seems to have some freedoms to do some of the stuff he does well.”

Cauley-Stein is a completely different player two season removed from his time at Kentucky. He finished strong down the stretch for Sacramento, showing a newfound confidence in his scoring ability.

“It’s a great feeling, I don’t think he’s watched me play like that since I left,” Cauley-Stein said. “It was cool to get a chance to see him and show him things I’ve worked on and I’ve gotten better. It was really satisfying, [him] telling me I got better, so I know I’m [going] in the right direction.”

It’s clear that Labissiere and Cauley-Stein had a very different experience at Kentucky. The end result might work out just fine for the Sacramento Kings. The duo played alongside one another for plenty of games down the stretch as the team’s starting frontcourt. It’s a look Kings fans might get used to seeing going forward.


Source: Kings hire Perry as Executive VP of Basketball Operations

Source: Kings hire Perry as Executive VP of Basketball Operations

SACRAMENTO -- The changes keep coming in Sacramento. NBC Sports California has confirmed that the Kings have hired former Orlando Magic executive, Scott Perry, to fill the role of Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

Perry will report directly to Vlade Divac, who will retain final say in player personnel decisions.

Perry spent the last five seasons in Orlando as Vice President of Basketball Operations and Assistant General Manager. He was let go from the Magic last week following the dismissal of General Manager Rob Hennigan.

Perry, 53, began his career as an executive with the Detroit Pistons where he held the position of Director of Player Personnel from 2000-2007. He briefly left the Pistons, joining the Seattle Supersonics organization as an Assistant General Manager of the team for the 2007-08 season, before spending another four years as Detroit’s Vice President of Basketball Operations from 2008-2012.

Highly regarded around the league, Perry adds another experienced basketball mind to the Kings front office.

During his postseason media availability last week, Vlade Divac spoke openly about his willingness to accept additional help.

“We’re open always to improve - the team, the front office, everything is open for improvement,” Divac said. “I’m very happy and confident in what we have right now, but like I said, we should be open if something can you better.”

With the addition of Luke Bornn on Wednesday to head up the team’s analytics department, and Perry on Friday, the Kings appear to be building a stronger infrastructure as they move into a full youth movement.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical was first with the information.