Kings assume spoiler role facing Jazz

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Kings assume spoiler role facing Jazz

The Utah Jazz were at their lowest point of the season when they left Sacramento last month.

The Jazz could be back in the Western Conference playoff picture with a victory in this visit to California's capital, but knocking off the resurgent Kings could be a challenge.

Utah goes for a season high-tying fifth consecutive win Thursday night when the Kings try to close out the franchise's longest homestand with a fourth straight victory.

Arriving in Sacramento with just three victories in 13 games, the Jazz (24-22) dropped their season-high fourth in a row Feb. 28, losing 103-96 to fall a season-worst three games below .500.

Utah, though, is on a roll heading into this contest, with its last two victories coming over the West's elite. After winning 103-99 at the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, the Jazz beat conference-leading Oklahoma City 97-90 at home Tuesday.

"It's all about confidence right now," said Al Jefferson, who had 16 points after missing the previous two games to attend his grandmother's funeral.

If Utah can match a 5-0 run from Jan. 2-10 and Houston loses to Golden State earlier Thursday, the Jazz will hold the eighth spot in the West. They were 2 12 games out of the conference's final playoff position following the Feb. 28 defeat.

"We should be very confident right now," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We're understanding that we need to count on each other, especially at the defensive end of the floor and depending on each other to make the right plays."

The Jazz are holding opponents to 96.5 points on 43.0 percent shooting during their current run, but slowing down the Kings (17-29) could be difficult.

Led by Marcus Thornton's 30.3 points per game, Sacramento is averaging 118.0 during its three-game winning streak.

More importantly, it appears the Kings are getting along as well as they have all season. Coach Keith Smart has a rule that any player out with an injury doesn't lose his spot, but Tyreke Evans - who was ready to return after missing two games with a sprained left ankle - requested prior to Tuesday's 119-110 win over Memphis that John Salmons stay in the starting lineup.

"They're starting to like each other," said Smart, whose team will try to win four straight at home for the first time since Nov. 25-Dec. 2, 2009. "And they're getting closer to that other 'L' word."

It's unclear if Evans will come off the bench again Thursday, but Smart will want to make sure to give him plenty of minutes. Evans had a season-high 31 points in a 96-93 loss in Salt Lake City on Jan. 28, and his 22.6 average versus Utah is his highest against any team.

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins scored 22 points with 18 rebounds on Feb. 28 and is averaging 21.3 points and 13.7 boards in three home games against Utah.

The Jazz, who open a stretch of 11 of 17 outside Utah, have the second-fewest road wins (six) in the West, ahead of only Sacramento's four.

The Kings are trying to win two straight in this series for the first time since 2006-07.

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.

Kings add new stat guru Luke Bornn to front office

Kings add new stat guru Luke Bornn to front office

SACRAMENTO -- Changes are coming to the Sacramento Kings. The team quietly made news on Monday evening when it was reported that Roland Beech, the Kings VP of Basketball Results, will not return after two years on the job.

But Sacramento hasn’t abandoned the analytics movement. In fact, they are about to invest heavily in a new group, with a new face at the helm. -- Luke Bornn, who will join the Kings front office as the new VP of Analytics and Strategy, NBC Sports California has learned.

In accepting the role, Bornn, 31, will leave soccer giant A.S. Roma as well as his positions as an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University and visiting scholar at Harvard University. He’ll be taxed with building a new department in Sacramento that will look to bring in some of the brightest minds in the field of analytics.

He is a stat head for sure, but one with a focus on creating a system of sketching and mapping the spatial movements of players using the incredible technologies now available to teams through the NBA’s SportVU system.

“We’ll be looking at more advanced modeling tools often with the player tracking data to try and get a deeper understanding of player performance,” Bornn told NBC Sports California. “There is a lot of what happens on the court that really is not picked up by the box score. A lot of players that make big contributions make it in ways that don’t appear. It’s not an assist, it’s not a rebound, it’s not a block.”

According to their site, “SportVU utilizes a six-camera system installed in basketball arenas to track the real-time positions of players and the ball 25 times per second. Utilizing this tracking data, STATS is able to create a wealth of innovative statistics based on speed, distance, player separation and ball possession.”

Introduced to the basketball data world while working at Harvard in 2012 by Kirk Goldsberry, who now works for the San Antonio Spurs front office, Bornn is already well known in the basketball world for his work.

“Kirk and I sort of hit it off,” Bornn said. “He had just gotten SportVU data and he basically said to me, ‘I have this data, but I have no idea what to do with it, I have the basketball side, but I don’t have the technical side.’ I had the technical side and so it started a long collaboration of working with player tracking data.”

Bornn has co-authored papers presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in each of the previous four years, including four straight Sloan finalist papers.

Every team in the league has someone looking over this data, but Bornn hopes to tailor the information to the needs of the Kings’ staff.

“It’s not about me coming in and saying, ‘Here is how to think about the game and here’s the magic numbers,’” Bornn said. “It’s really about me going to them and saying, ‘How do you think about the game, what is it that you care about, is there questions you want answered and can I help you with that?’”  

The plan is for Bornn and his team to build a database of sorts that is accessible to players, coaches and the front office that relies heavily on video to show information, instead of just numbers on a page. They will have your conventional statistics, but an array of other options as well specifically created for the team.

“My role with the Kings will be all encompassing,” Bornn said. “It’s player evaluation, opponent scouting, it’s performance - with the sports science group there. We’ll be looking at all aspects, from the basics of stats, all the way to the more advanced metrics.”

From developing oncourt strategies to charting player health, Bornn and his team will make information accessible to the Kings’ front office, coaching and medical staff with the hope of adding yet another resource for the franchise.

Predicting player injuries is one of the hot button topics in the NBA at this moment with the league going as far as elongating the All-Star break and taking another 10 days onto the schedule to help spread out back-to-back games. It’s a complex issue that is in its fledgling stages.

“In terms of injuries, that’s where everyone wants to go and I think that’s where we’ll aim to go as well, but right now, that’s very much an unsolved problem,” Bornn said.

It appears that the Kings are jumping into the analytics field with both feet. Bornn is moving to Sacramento with his family and will be on the ground as the Kings prepare for a very important 2017 NBA Draft and then free agency.