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.

 

How the four Kings rookies fit in heading into 2017-18 season

How the four Kings rookies fit in heading into 2017-18 season

SACRAMENTO - The Sacramento Kings swung for the fences during the NBA Draft Thursday night. They filled holes, took a gamble and might have even come away with a steal or two in their four selections. There are major roster questions that still have to be answered in free agency or through trade, but here is a look at how the new faces fit into the current situation in Sacramento.

De’Aaron Fox, point guard, University of Kentucky
Sacramento let it be known early that Fox was a target. The speedy point guard put on a show in his lone season in Kentucky, averaging 16.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 29.6 minutes per game. He’ll need to improve his 3-point shooting (24.6 percent) to keep defenses from sagging off and clogging his running lanes, but his mechanics are sound.

According to Vlade Divac, “De’Aaron is our future.” Whether the team will look to add a veteran presence is still in question. Veterans Darren Collison and Ty Lawson have spoken about their willingness to return as a mentor, but Fox is expected to play major minutes in his rookie season as the Kings look to turn up the tempo.

Fox is a big time athlete with great size for the position. Standing a little over 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-6.5 wingspan, the left handed point guard projects well on both ends of the floor. He’ll need to add weight to his 170-pound frame, but the Kings have a strong strength and conditioning team that has been working overtime all summer building on last season’s draft class.

With both Collison and Lawson entering free agency unrestricted, Fox is likely the Kings starter on Day 1.

Justin Jackson, small forward, University of North Carolina
Jackson tested the draft waters a year ago and decided to return to the Tar Heels for one more season. The gamble paid off as Jackson and his North Carolina teammates rolled through the NCAA tournament and were crowned champs.

In addition to winning it all, Jackson showed major improvement in his junior year under Roy Williams. The 22-year-old wing posted 18.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 32.2 minutes per game. Jackson’s biggest improvement came as a perimeter shooter where he converted 36.8 percent of his 3-point shots, compared to just 29.2 percent as a sophomore.

Like Fox, Jackson needs to add strength and weight to compete in the NBA for 82 games a season. He is a wiry athlete that stands 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, but he weighed in at just 201 at the Draft combine (up from his 192 a season ago).

As of today, Jackson is the only true small forward on the Kings roster. They have options in Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson, but they will likely address the position in free agency or through trade. Jackson will play minutes as a rookie, but how many will be determined by how quickly he can adjust to the NBA level. He’s a mature scorer and he has defensive potential, but he will likely begin his career in a reserve role, at least initially.

Harry Giles, power forward/center, Duke University
There was a time when Giles ranked amongst the very best of high school player in the country. A series of bad breaks led Giles to tumble down the draft board where the Kings were more than willing to gamble at the 20th selection.

You can take his numbers at Duke and throw them out the window, he was never truly healthy in his time with Coach K. Standing 6-foot-10.5 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, the 232-pound big has an incredible frame. Unfortunately, the frame is supported by two surgically repaired knees.

Giles tore his ACL in both knees as a prep athlete in separate incidents and he needed a third procedure to clean up one of his knees last year. If there is good news here, it is that both knees were damaged in contact injuries, as opposed to the knee giving out in a non-contact situation. The scope that occurred later is also not out of the norm as the body attempts to adjust to the changes in the joint.

Like the Duke medical staff, the Kings will need to show patience in years one and two as Giles continues to heal from the series of surgeries. The Kings knew the risk of drafting the talented 19-year-old and they also know that players like Danny Manning, Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin went on to have very successful careers after bilateral ACL tears.   

Don’t expect Giles to play major minutes in year one, but the Kings fell in love with his talent in a pre-draft workout in Sacramento. The team has a bevy of bigs, including Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and Georgios Papagiannis. This is a risk/reward pick for the future. If Giles can get right, he could be the best big man taken in the 2017 NBA Draft and maybe even a lot more than that.

Frank Mason III, point guard, Kansas University
Despite collecting a room full of trophies in his senior year at Kansas, Mason slid to the early second round where the Kings shunned trade offers and pounced. Like Fox, the high-flying guard was a major target of the Kings, even coming to Sacramento twice for visits before draft night.

The 23-year-old Wooden Award winner dominated in his final season under Bill Self, averaging 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 36.1 minutes a night. He even shot 47.1 percent from behind the arc on 4.8 attempts per game. At 6-foot, 189-pounds, the biggest knock on Mason is his lack of size. He makes up for that with power and a 41-inch vertical.

Sacramento is in a tough situation when it comes to their point guard position. Fox was a no-brainer at number five and Mason is an NBA ready contributor at pick 34. But can they walk into a season with two rookies manning the point guard position? 

It’s possible. The Kings have Temple on the roster, who can steal some minutes, but Fox and Mason make an intriguing thunder and lightning pairing that should be a lot of fun to watch. Don’t be shocked if Mason earns a spot in the rotation in training camp and plays solid minutes in a sparkplug role off the bench as a rookie.

Purge of veterans continues as Kings waive Arron Afflalo

Purge of veterans continues as Kings waive Arron Afflalo

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings continued their purge of veteran contracts Friday afternoon. NBC Sports California has confirmed that the team opted out of the second year of Arron Afflalo’s 2-year, $25 million deal. They will instead pay the shooting guard a $1.5 million buyout, saving $11 million and allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Afflalo, 31, posted 8.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game. The 10-year NBA veteran played in 61 games, including 45 starts for the Kings last season while shooting 41.1 percent from behind the arc.

The former UCLA star is the second Kings veteran to have his option declined, joining Anthony Tolliver in the ranks of unrestricted free agents. Both Rudy Gay and Langston Galloway have chosen not to exercise player options with the team as the franchise turns to a youth movement.

Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos are the only remaining players players on the Kings’ roster with more than two years experience in the league. Sacramento will enter free agency with upwards of $55 million to spend in free agency once they sign their four rookies from Thursday evening’s NBA Draft.