Coming off their first loss of the season, the San Antonio Spurs look to get back to winning against a team they've dominated in recent years.The Sacramento Kings have won both of their home games, but they'll have a tall task trying to make it three in a row Friday night against a Spurs team that has won eight straight at Sleep Train Arena.San Antonio (4-1) has had its way with the Kings (2-3) for the past six seasons, winning 19 of 21 meetings by an average of 8.9 points.It's averaged 106.6 points during its winning streak in Sacramento, and has put up 119.0 points per game while shooting an astounding 56.5 percent in three wins there over the past two seasons.After picking up back-to-back home wins for the first time since a three-game run March 16-20, though, the Kings are out to prove they're no longer a Western Conference doormat."It's a new year, a new team - we're not concerned about last year," Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said. "We're trying to change things around in Sacramento."The Spurs aren't trying to do anything different to one of the league's most successful teams, yet their 4-0 start was a franchise first. They didn't come close to stretching their run to five, though, shooting a season-low 41.1 percent Wednesday in a 106-84 loss to the Clippers at Staples Center."They kicked our (rear end)," coach Gregg Popovich said. "We hung in there for a half, but after that I don't think we played with the same intensity that they did, and it showed."San Antonio shot just 41.1 percent after hitting 48.8 percent during its unbeaten beginning, while the Kings' ability to knock down some open looks has gotten them back on track. Sacramento shot 37.5 percent during its 0-3 start, but it's hit 47.2 percent in its two victories.The Kings shot 48.8 percent in Wednesday's 105-103 win over Detroit."When we started 0-3, it was a reminder for us to relax," said point guard Isaiah Thomas, who's scored 25 points in 42 minutes of Sacramento's two wins. "It's relax if you're playing, relax if you're not. It refers to everything we're doing as a team."After averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in Sacramento's first two games, Cousins has turned it on with three consecutive double-doubles. He finished with 21 points and 11 boards in the Kings' 105-103 victory over Detroit on Wednesday.Cousins averaged 20.0 points and 11.0 rebounds in the three meetings with San Antonio last season, while Thomas had a career-high 28 points and 10 assists in a 117-112 loss March 28.Marcus Thornton, now coming off the bench, shot 49.0 percent and averaged 18.3 points in three starts against the Spurs last season.San Antonio hasn't lost back-to-back road games in the regular season since Jan. 27 and 29, but it could have trouble Friday if Tony Parker continues to struggle. The four-time All-Star has scored a combined 10 points on 5 of 20 shooting in his last two games.Manu Ginobili, who scored nine points on 2 of 8 shooting in 19 minutes in Los Angeles, continues to work his way back from a back injury that kept him out of the first two games.Perhaps he'll fare better against the Kings. Ginobili has averaged 20.5 points and shot 61.7 percent in his last four games versus Sacramento.One Spur who's had little trouble connecting is Danny Green, who's shooting 56.8 percent overall and has hit 12 of 22 (54.5) from 3-point range. Green, though, might have a tough time finding good looks against a Sacramento team that's defending the arc better than anyone (24.2).Kings forward Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick in this year's draft, was suspended for two games Thursday for elbowing Detroit's Jonas Jerebko in the neck.NEWS: Kings' Robinson suspended
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.
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.