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.


Patience needed for young and inexperienced Kings


Patience needed for young and inexperienced Kings

The Sacramento Kings are attempting to do something rarely seen in the NBA. They’ve paired four first round selections from the 2016 NBA Draft with another five rookies for the 2017-18 season. They’ll open the season with nine players with one year of NBA experience or less and three others with two years in the league or fewer if you include two-way contracts.

Veterans Vince Carter (40), Zach Randolph (36), George Hill (31), Garrett Temple (31) and Kosta Koufos (28) push the average age of the Kings to 26.1. According to RealGM, they’ll enter the 2017-18 season tied for the 15th youngest roster in the league.

If you remove the veterans, the Kings youthful core averages less than 22 years of age. But age doesn’t tell the entire story.

Entering his third NBA season, Willie Cauley-Stein has seen action in 141 of a possible 164 games. On the current roster, he might as well get lumped in with the veterans.

Buddy Hield donned a Kings uniform for 25 games last season after coming over in a midseason trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. He played 82 games in total between the two clubs, which is five more combined contests than his fellow 2016 draft mates Skal Labissiere (33 games), Georgios Papagiannis (22 games) and Malachi Richardson (22 games) played in.

Sacramento selected three first rounders in the 2017 NBA Draft, including De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. They also landed point guard Frank Mason III with an early second round pick and convinced 25-year-old former first rounder Bogdan Bogdanovic to leave the European game behind and join the club.

Without bringing two-way players Jack Cooley (16 games) and JaKarr Sampson (147 games) into the discussion, the Kings have a major experience issue. They’ll walk into the season with 10 players having a combined 300 games of NBA experience and 223 of those games were played by Cauley-Stein and Hield.  

Sacramento’s veteran group has appeared in 3718 regular season contests. Dave Joerger will have no choice but to turn to the group for plenty of minutes as the Kings’ young players learn on the fly.

Patience is necessary. Vlade Divac and his team have assembled a lot of talent, but they will need time to develop. Joerger has a strong staff in place, including Elston Turner, Bryan Gates, Duane Ticknor, Bob Thornton, Jason March and Larry Lewis. Phil Ricci was also added to the staff as a player development coach this season with the influx of young players.

Even with an expanded staff, there is no way Joerger can fit all 10 of his youngsters into the rotation. They’ll need playing time to develop and there is a good chance that some of these freshman and sophomore players will spend time with Darrick Martin and the Reno Bighorns.  

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'


DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'

Some professional athletes take a stand by kneeling on the sidelines or raising a fist into the air. Some write succinct tweets expressing their dismay with the current political climate in the United States of America. Others just get right to the point with a poignant off the cuff statement to a waiting camera.

Former Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins has certainly mastered the art of the cryptic tweet, but he’s also never been one to shy away from a direct question when asked. When an inquiry was thrown his direction about confederate statues in New Orleans and his home state of Alabama, Cousins was brief with his words, but very clear.

"Take all them mother****ers down," Cousins told TMZ while navigating a security line at the airport. "Take 'em all down.”

Cousins may not have chosen the most eloquent words, but his point of view is shared by plenty of others. He isn’t the first athlete to take a stand with regards to race in America over the last week as racial tensions have spilled out into the streets in Charlottesville, Virginia. Social media is filled with professional athletes adding their thoughts to the conversation.

The Warriors’ Kevin Durant has made it clear that he will not visit the White House and President Donald Trump, a visit most teams make following an NBA championship.

"Nah, I won't do that," the 8-time All-Star told ESPN on Thursday. "I don't respect who's in office right now.”

"I don't agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” Durant continued. “That's just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they'll all agree with me."

Garrett Temple has used Twitter to make his thoughts known as well. Recently named the Kings’ Players Voice Teammate of the Year by the National Basketball Players Association, Temple has used his position as an NBA player to speak out multiple times.

Over the last week, he’s fielded questions and had plenty of discussions through social media on the issues of race and equality. His Twitter timeline is littered with thoughtful replies and some not so thoughtful ideas as well. Plenty of fans thanking him for using his position to further the conversation and of course, there is the occasional, “stick to sports” comment.

Agree or disagree, today’s athletes have huge platforms to share their opinions. From Cousins to Temple, there are varying degrees of engagement, but the time of players staying out of the discussion is long gone.