Kings escape with 95-92 win over Blazers

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Kings escape with 95-92 win over Blazers

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SACRAMENTO -- John Salmons can't remember a worse shooting slump.He's hoping the 19 points he scored to help the Sacramento Kings to a rare win over Portland on Thursday night will help him forget it.Marcus Thornton scored 20 points the Kings, who snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Portland 95-92 Thursday night.The Blazers had beaten the Kings in 12 of the previous 13 games, but Sacramento ran off five straight points late in the game and held off Portland, which missed two 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds, including a nice look from Jamal Crawford just prior to the buzzer soundings.

Salmons entered the game shooting 35 percent from the field and 21 percent on 3-pointers. After making three 3-pointers and eight of 14 shots overall, Salmons was asked if he had ever shot this poorly for such a prolonged stretch."Not this bad. Not this bad," said Salmons, who also had eight rebounds. "It's human nature to be frustrated. But you've got to stay with it and keep going. But it hasn't been easy."Kings coach Keith Smart understood what this game meant to Salmons, a quiet veteran who normally speaks much louder on the court than he does in the locker room."He's too proud of a pro to have a season-long bad game," Smart said. "I always knew that from knowing him around the league as a pro, that somewhere down the line his game is going to come back to him. The guy is really working. I'm happy that he played well, and so is the team."LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Blazers, who have lost four straight on the road, where they are 3-9 this season. Jamal Crawford scored 17 points and Raymond Felton 15 points and 10 assists. Portland made just 8-of-16 free throws.Tyreke Evans scored 18 points, Marcus Thornton and Jason Thompson added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings.Salmons broke an 88-88 tie with a jumper and Thompson put back a shot in traffic, giving the Kings a 92-88 lead with 1:53 left. A jumper by Evans gave Sacramento a 95-90 cushion with 15.2 seconds remaining."We've seen this team three times so far, that's how crazy this season has been," Thompson said. "We prepared for them, the extra practice this week helped. We definitely needed this win. It's nice to smile after a game and laugh."Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who averaged nearly 21 points and 12 rebounds in the previous games, was in foul trouble early. He played 14 minutes, and didn't leave the bench in the fourth quarter, finishing with eight points and six rebounds.After squandering a six-point lead and allowing the Blazers to go ahead by a basket, Thornton hit a 3-pointer and next time down court made a fastbreak layup to put the Kings in front 84-81 with five minutes left."We really had control of this game and had a flow going," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "But in the second half it's pretty much what it has been for us - turnovers, a lot of one-on-one play, and lack of ball movement. We just self-destruct on the road."Salmons, who entered the game in a season-long slump and was shooting 35 percent, opening the fourth quarter with his third 3-pointer of the game. Isaiah Thomas quickly followed with a basket to give Sacramento a 76-69 advantage.Evans and Thompson both scored seven points in the third quarter. The Kings overcame nine-point halftime deficit, outscoring Portland 24-13 to take a 71-69 lead into the fourth.Trailing since early in the first quarter, the Kings pulled even when Evans got loose on a fastbreak and his emphatic dunk tied the game at 63 with 3:39 left in the third period. Evans later followed with a three-point play to give Sacramento a 68-65 lead.After shooting over 60 percent in the opening half, the Blazers went cold to start the third quarter. They had just two points in the first five minutes before Matthews connected on a 3-pointer for a 61-55 lead.The Kings had no answer for Aldridge in the opening half. The smooth-shooting forward continually got open for mid-range jumpers and made them, scoring 19 points to help Portland take a 56-47 lead into the half.The Blazers ran off 11 straight points early in the second quarter to build a 13-point lead. The Blazers received second-quarter points from an unlikely source - Kurt Thomas. The 39-year-old veteran forward scored eight points in the spurt.NOTES: Kings rookie Jimmer Fredette didn't play for the first time in 22 games. . Aldridge made his first six shots and had 12 points in the opening quarter when the Blazers led 30-27. . Nicolas Batum, a key person off the bench for Portland, missed his second straight game with a bone bruise in his left knee. . Salmons made four of five shots and had 10 first-quarter points.

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Hassan WhitesideGreat WIN 4 the kings tonight KingAllDay
Feb 03 via Echofon Favorite Retweet Reply

Hield after rookie season with Kings: 'I’m never going to take a step back'

Hield after rookie season with Kings: 'I’m never going to take a step back'

The Sacramento Kings interrupted the NBA’s showcase weekend with the trade of DeMarcus Cousins. The three-time All-Star was stunned by the move, as were plenty of others around the association.

With all the focus on Cousins and what might have been, rookie Buddy Hield packed up his belongings in New Orleans and moved into a downtown Sacramento motel room. It’s a business. Players are reminded of that all the time, but for a first year player, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

“When you get traded, it’s like a wake up (call),” Hield told NBC Sports California. “First time it happened to me, first year it was like, okay, maybe what I was doing wasn’t good enough for the team to keep me. So you go into your own element and try to make yourself better.”

Hield, the sixth overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, wasn’t setting the world on fire with the Pelicans. Averaging 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game, the 23-year-old wing started the final 36 in a Pelicans uniform for head coach Alvin Gentry.

The Kings liked Hield in the draft and the jumped at the opportunity to add him as part of the mega-deal for Cousins. It took seven games for Dave Joerger and his staff to elevate Hield to the starting shooting guard position and he spent the remaining 18 games of the season looking more like the star scorer from Oklahoma University that fans had become accustom to.

In his 25 game audition in Kings uniform, Hield posted 15.1 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the field and a sparkling 42.8 percent from behind the arc. He set a new career-high in scoring multiple times, including a 30-point outburst late in the season against the Phoenix Suns.

When most first year players were hitting the rookie wall, Hield found himself in a new situation and excelled. The Freeport, Bahama native is known for his tireless work ethic. He could be seen out on the court before anyone else every game night hoisting hundreds of 3-point shots in pregame and behind the scenes, he was known to be in the gym two or three times a day.

“I wear down, but there’s a drive to keep me going,” Hield said. “Just knowing my struggles to get here, how long the process was of me getting to the NBA. That’s what keeps me going. I get tired, but I know where I came from and how hard it was to get here. I just can’t give up.”

Hield showed flashes of being a high-end scorer during his short time with the Kings, but he also showed his youth. He has a laundry list of items to work on over the summer, including improving his shot selection, ball handling and becoming a better defensive player.

“I need a lot of things, this summer is great for me because next year it will show how big of a jump I can make,” Hield said. “After that, we build off of that. Just keep building. I’m never going to take a step back. My motto is we always look ahead, we never look back.”

There is no question that Hield is driven to succeed. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, which was only amplified by his rookie season trade to the Kings. He’ll likely open the 2017-18 training camp as the favorite to win the starting shooting guard position, but the field is crowded and there is no room for regression.

“My rookie season was cool, it was okay, I wasn’t satisfied with it,” Hield added. “Many people might be satisfied with it, but I’m trying to build and make progress and try to get this franchise to the playoffs.”

This attitude is part of the reason the Kings coveted Hield in the draft and made the trade to get him. He has the want to be great and the commitment to do the work. Time will tell what his ceiling is as a player, but betting against him would foolish.

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.