Draft positioning taking a hit as young Kings continue to win games

Draft positioning taking a hit as young Kings continue to win games

SACRAMENTO -- Despite shutting down most of their veteran core, the Sacramento Kings continue to find ways to win. Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks, it became abundantly clear hours before the game that neither team was going to field a full roster. The two teams tried to one up the other, with Sacramento added both of their point guards to the inactive list two hours before tip-off.

You can take away their depth. You can limit them to just eight uniformed players. But you can’t ask a group of NBA players to lose a basketball game, regardless of what it might mean for the upcoming draft.

“It’s tough not to think about it,” veteran Garrett Temple told NBC Sports California after the Kings’ 98-87 win over the Dallas Mavericks. “We know what everybody else knows, but the guys that are playing, there is no person on this team that can physically go out on the court and try to lose. It’s just not in our DNA, otherwise we wouldn’t be in the NBA.”

Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison, Kosta Koufos, Ty Lawson and Anthony Tolliver all sat for Sacramento for one reason or another. If there was a playoff game tomorrow, the five would have been in uniform.

There isn’t a playoff game tomorrow. And for the 11th straight season, the Kings will finish on the outside looking of the NBA’s postseason. The team has shifted the focus to the young players, that includes three rookies and a second-year player. For them, this is valuable time on the court to adjust to the NBA game and they aren’t taking it lightly.

“It’s all about learning how to win, especially for us - the young crew,” rookie Skal Labissiere said. “So it feels good to go out there and get some wins. We’re learning how to close out games.”

Labissiere, along with fellow rookies Buddy Hield and Georgios Papagiannis, as well as sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein, all scored in double-figures in the win. They are all showing signs that they can play in the league, even if it is against less than top tier talent.

Cauley-Stein set a new career-high with 16 rebounds and chipped in 12 points and three steals. Papagiannis finished with 13 points, one off his career-high and he continued to clear space for his perimeter players with immense screens.

Fresh off his second NBA Rookie of the Month award, Hield dropped in 16 points on 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, giving him double figure scoring in 18-of-21 games in a Kings uniform.

“There are a lot of good rookies in the league, especially in the Western Conference,” Hield said. “I was really happy I got it, but I got to keep working.”

Opposing teams have made adjustments to guarding Labissiere, but he still managed to finish with 11 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes of action.

“It’s all about learning how to adjust to things and I’m still learning how to do that,” Labissiere said.

Ben McLemore went off in the second half to score 21 of his 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 from behind the arc in 16 minutes after the intermission. And Langston Galloway finished with 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds starting at the point guard spot for the first time as a King.

“They played hard and made plays and I think at the same time, some of these guys are getting 33.34 minutes” coach Dave Joerger said. “Willie, Skal, we’re playing really young guys. It’s a great experience for them, and to also play to win, compete - that’s what it’s all about. They did that tonight.”

On the downside, the Kings moved the down the board in the draft lottery with the victory. They began the night tied for the sixth worst record in the league with the Knicks, but New York held a 2-0 advantage in the season series.

Following the Dallas game, the Kings are now tied in the win column with the Minnesota Timberwolves with 31 and they hold a 3-1 advantage in the season series with the T-Wolves. With four games remaining, the Kings are teetering on moving from seven to eight in the lottery order.

Joerger is going to play the players he has available and the squad is going to do their best to compete.

“As long as we have five players to play, we’re going to go out there and try to win,” Temple said.

The Kings return to the court Friday night at Staples Center where the 22-55 Los Angeles Lakers will play host. It’s another opportunity for a win.


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.

The Maloofs' colossal charity bet on Mayweather-McGregor circus act


The Maloofs' colossal charity bet on Mayweather-McGregor circus act

Gavin and Joe Maloof have gambled plenty in their lives, which is in part how they ended up losing the Sacramento Kings. They ran big, they hit a dry well, and they ended up selling the works.

So their decision to bet $880,000 on Floyd Mayweather in his “thing” with Conor McGregor for a $160,000 payout seemed the perfectly daft idea for two guys who were painted as perfectly daft when they were running the Kings and their other businesses into a freeway abutment on I-80.

In fairness, they are planning to donate their winnings to a number of charities in the name of their hangover drink (Never Too Hungover, although I might have gone with the more lyrical HurlNoMore), so it’s not like their hearts aren’t a place close to the mythical “right place.”

But it does beg the question, “Why don’t they just give $160,000 and skip the scam?” Because it wasn’t about charity, it was about promotion, and while there’s nothing wrong with promotion, attaching it to one of the seediest carnival events of the modern era makes it seem, well, kind of creepy.

Or maybe “creepy” is too strong. Maybe’s it’s just opportunism, which is more, well, Vegas-y.

Kings fans will remember the Maloofs as the family that saved the foundering team from the clutches of owner Jim Thomas, and then remember them as the family whose clutches Vivek Ranadive had to save the team from 15 years later. It’s the nature of most ownerships – you do good to eliminate a prior evil, and eventually become evil yourselves when the fans turn on you.

But the Maloofs aren’t evil – even their most strident critics will say that. They just saw an opportunity to scratch a bunch of itches at once – good-heartedness, advertising, gambling and Vegas’ most important product – selling you things you could never imagine wanting.

It almost makes you wonder if they harbor a secret itch to take the $160,000 and double down on behalf of the charities for another of their pet projects – the Vegas Golden Knights. If they put it on the Knights to win the Stanley Cup at 200-1, that’s $32,000,000. Then if they took that and . . .

. . . and before you know it, they’re trapped in the fantasyland of Las Vegas at its weirdest. Maybe it’s just performance art with more money than most of us can eat.