Kings fall to Timberwolves 92-80, start season 0-2

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Kings fall to Timberwolves 92-80, start season 0-2

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- J.J. Barea had 21 points and five assists in 28 minutes for Minnesota, helping the Timberwolves overcome a weak shooting performance in their season opener and beat the Sacramento Kings 92-80 on Friday night.Brandon Roy pitched in 10 points, six assists and five rebounds and Andrei Kirilenko added 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists as both players returned to NBA action for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season.Isaiah Thomas had 14 of his 20 points in the third quarter for the Kings, who trailed for most of the game but overtook the Wolves for a stretch after halftime. Reserve Marcus Thornton had 15 points, but DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans were quiet.Barea and his bench buddies led the way for the Wolves, who will be without stars Ricky Rubio (left knee surgery) and Kevin Love (broken right hand) for at least the first month of the season. Greg Stiemsma hounded Cousins around the basket and had nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 16 minutes.The Wolves shot 2 for 17 from 3-point range.Nikola Pekovic, who finished 2 for 8 from the field in a bruising matchup against Cousins, finally made his first basket with 4:10 left when he got loose on a fast break and dropped in a layup off a slick pass from Kirilenko to stretch the lead to 82-74 and finally give the home team a comfortable cushion again.Cousins led the Kings in almost every significant statistical category last season, but with Pekovic and Stiemsma bothering him in the paint he had just 11 points and four rebounds. Evans, who had 21 points and eight rebounds in the Kings' opener, finished with six points on 3-for-14 shooting.The Wolves built a 45-27 lead in the second quarter, but their inability to sink any outside shots caught up with them, and the lead shrunk to nine points by halftime. Then the Kings, with Thomas making three 3-pointers in the period, came surging out of the locker room. The Wolves missed 10 of their first 12 shots in the second half.The sharp-dressed men behind the bench - Rubio was in a charcoal suit coat; Love wore dark gray - could only watch while the errant shots piled up from all corners of the court. Some of it was simply bad luck, balls that rolled around the rim and inexplicably rolled out. Many of the misses looked like smart plays, but they just wouldn't go in.The Kings have a streak of six straight losing seasons that coincides with the amount of time since coach Rick Adelman was fired. Now he's with the Wolves, trying to turn them into the perennial playoff team he had in Sacramento.Any improvement for the Kings this season will start with defense. They were by far the easiest team to score against in 2011-12, allowing an average of more than 104 points per game. They've shown at least a few signs this week they're more willing and capable of distracting their opponent enough to stay competitive. They lost 93-87 in Chicago two nights before.After falling behind 61-56, the reserves led the Wolves on a 12-0 spurt to regain command of the game. With Stiemsma's long arms and soft touch in the post, Barea's quickness and confidence and the hustle by Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham, the second group sure looked sharper than the first.Adelman was stingy with playing time for Derrick Williams in his rookie season. But the second pick in last year's draft has the ability to score in bunches and the Wolves will need that punch while Love is out, so he took the All-Star's place at power forward. Williams had all kinds of trouble finding an easy path to the basket and finishing his layups once he got there, but he wasn't the only one. Williams had eight points and seven rebounds.NOTES: Adelman said he'd prefer to keep his starting lineup the same while Love is out. Cunningham's energy off the bench was another factor, Adelman said, in giving Williams the start. ... Kings swingman John Salmons has rejoined the team after a two-week absence to be with his wife and newborn child, but he's not ready for game action yet. Coach Keith Smart said his conditioning needs to be built back up before he'll use him. ... Kings backup point guard Aaron Brooks broke a tooth diving on the floor for a loose ball against the Bulls. "He put it under his pillow, but he didn't get any money," Smart quipped. ... This was the fourth time in seven years that the Timberwolves opened their season at home against the Kings. Sacramento was the opponent for six of the franchise's 24 openers.

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.

 

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.