Kings kick it off tonight in Chicago

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Kings kick it off tonight in Chicago

Programming note: Kings-Bulls coverage begins today at 5 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California (Territorial restrictions apply)!

(AP) -- While many have been quick to dismiss the Chicago Bulls with Derrick Rose sidelined, coach Tom Thibodeau's team is eager to prove its doubters wrong.After six consecutive losing campaigns, the Sacramento Kings are also looking to surprise.Chicago tries to continue its recent domination of Sacramento as both teams kick off their seasons Wednesday night at the United Center.After finishing an Eastern Conference-best 50-16 last season, the Bulls entered the playoffs with legitimate title hopes before Rose tore his left ACL during Game 1 of a first-round loss to Philadelphia. It's still unknown when the league's 2010-11 MVP will be able to return to the court."We all know us being without D. Rose we'll probably be the underdog in every game we play," Carlos Boozer told the team's official website. "That's all right. We're ready for that challenge. We'll be ready to play every game."With Rose out, Chicago will look for even more from Luol Deng. The All-Star forward, who played through a torn ligament in his left wrist last year, ultimately opted against surgery and insists he's good to go."Trying to do too much would be the biggest mistake I could make," said Deng, whose average of 15.3 points ranked second on the team behind Rose's 21.8. "I know how good I could be when I'm myself. For all of us as a team, no one individual is going to do what Derrick did. As a group, we all have to commit. I'm really looking forward to it."While the Bulls won 18 of the 27 games Rose missed during the 2011-12 regular season thanks to impressive efforts from their bench, similar displays could be hard to come by with Omer Asik, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver no longer around. Chicago, though, brought back veteran guard Kirk Hinrich for a second go-round and could receive a spark from Nate Robinson."I think even if you win a championship, you come back the next day and people will doubt you," Deng said. "It's just the way it always is. I think as a team - we hear things all summer - you know what's being said. The best thing that we do as a team is we really focus on what we have to do day-in and day-out. We don't try to get caught up in what's going on outside these four walls."Chicago has taken seven of eight matchups from Sacramento, including four in a row by an average of 16.8 points.The Kings, who went 22-44 last season, compiled a West-worst 6-27 road record - one of several areas they're hoping to improve upon in 2012-13. Sacramento will also need to clamp down on defense after finishing last in the league in both opponent field-goal percentage (47.6) and points allowed (104.4)."We have to surprise people because we're no one in the NBA," coach Keith Smart said. "We have to pull out all the stops to try to grow as a team."After averaging 18.1 points and a team-best 11.0 rebounds, DeMarcus Cousins seems primed for another big season. The Kings will also be looking for second-year point guard Isaiah Thomas to take his game to the next level after he averaged 15.1 points and 5.4 assists over 41 games when playing at least 24 minutes.Selected fifth overall in this year's draft, Thomas Robinson could also contribute for the Kings, who went 5-2 during the preseason."I'm very pleased," Cousins told the team's official website. "(There's) definitely a big improvement with this team this year so far. We learned a lot. We improved a lot and accomplished a lot this preseason, so hopefully it can carry over to the regular season and we can turn things around here."

Kings fall flat after emotional win last time out

Kings fall flat after emotional win last time out

SACRAMENTO -- Managing expectations. The Sacramento Kings are neither the team that blasted the Denver Nuggets by a final of 116-100 on Thursday night, nor the group that was flattened 99-85 on Saturday afternoon by the Charlotte Hornets. They are likely somewhere in between.

As Dave Joerger searched for combinations that work together, the Kings struggled with massive bouts of inconsistency Saturday. They are a team of veteran role players and young talent, none of which have ever been a focal point of an NBA offense in their careers.

It’s a work in progress for all involved. Sacramento has 23 games remaining on the schedule and it will take plenty of those games to once again balance out the lineups.

“It’s tough right now, trying to acclimate everyone in and trying to move forward,” point guard Darren Collison said.

Willie Cauley-Stein had a breakout 29-point, 10-rebound game against Denver just two days ago, but things change when a team has time to gameplan. The second-year big scored just two points and grabbed two rebounds in 28 minutes of action against Charlotte as they clogged the middle and took away the pick-and-roll.

“I think teams are definitely going to start doing that now, playing the pick-and-roll where we’re not getting layups and dunks,” Cauley-Stein said. “They’re going to challenge us from the 3-point line. But me personally, I’ve just got to find other ways to make an impact.”

On top of the lack of scoring and rebounding, both Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos struggled to stay with mobile big man Frank Kaminsky on the perimeter. The 23-year-old center doubled his season average, finishing the night with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Kaminsky knocked in 5-of-9 from long range as the Kings’ big chose to take away All-Star Kemba Walker and sagged off the University of Wisconsin product. The rotations were slow, which is to be expected from a team that is just starting to come together.

“Tonight was a situation where you had a team that is a veteran team, a very physical team,” Joerger said in his postgame comments. “They pushed us around the court most of the night with their size and their experience at all positions.”

There were still some positives to take away from the lopsided loss. Skal Labissiere is finding a way to produce since making his way into the rotation. The 20-year-old rookie played 23 minutes off Joerger’s bench, scoring eight points on 4-of-10 shooting while grabbing 13 rebounds.

“Obviously, he’s got a lot of potential,” Anthony Tolliver said. “For him, I just tell him every day, ‘just go out there and play hard, man, everything else will take care of itself.’ As he starts to get more comfortable, that’s when he’s going to start to make a big impact.”

Taken with the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Labissiere has played very sparingly over the first two-thirds of the season, but with very little depth at the power position, he has received an opportunity and taken advantage of it. His length and athleticism were on full display against the Hornets.

Rookie Buddy Hield added 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, but 13 of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was long out of hand. He struggled to find a rhythm early, like most of the Kings perimeter players.  

Ben McLemore chipped in 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Like Hield all but two of those points came after the intermission and after the Kings had already fallen behind by double-digits.

Tyreke Evans started in his second game back with the Kings, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists. The veteran wing played well defensively, but he’s still searching for his place with this team.

Sacramento gets a shot to redeem themselves on Monday when the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves drop by Golden 1 Center. With the loss they fell a game and half behind the Nuggets in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Instant Replay: Flat Kings routed by Kaminsky, Hornets

Instant Replay: Flat Kings routed by Kaminsky, Hornets

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- It’s going to be a process. After a big win on Thursday night over the Denver Nuggets, the Sacramento Kings looked every bit the part of a team that had just completely revamped its roster on the fly. The result was a disappointing 99-85 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento left big man Frank Kaminsky open all night and he torched them from the perimeter. The second-year center scored 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point land while grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out three assists.

Nic Batum couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting just 4-of-17 from the field on the night. He stall managed to impact the game in a positive way for Charlotte, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds.

Marvin Williams chipped in 16 points and six rebounds. All-Star Kemba Walker scored just 12 points and dished out six assists and Marco Belinelli added 13 points and six rebounds in the win.

Rookie Skal Labissiere put up solid numbers for the second straight game. After bouncing back and forth between Sacramento and the Reno Bighorns all season long, the athletic big dropped in eight points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

Ben McLemore rallied late to score 18 points on 3-of-7 shooting from deep.

Buddy Hield went for 15, although most of his points came when the game was out of hand. Darren Collison added 10 points and five assists

Anthony Tolliver was one of the few players to find their range as the Kings fell behind early. The veteran knocked down 3-for-6 from long range on his way to 11 points.

Tyreke Evans turned back the clock and showed flashes of the player that averaged 20-5-5 as a rookie. The 27-year-old wing dropped in 11 points, five rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes starting at the small forward spot for Sacramento.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Kaminsky lit the Kings up. More of a stretch four than a true center, the second-year big looked very comfortable all night long.

TURNING POINT:
Charlotte finished the first half strong to take an 11 point lead into the break. Coming out of the intermission, the Hornets jumped all over the Kings, using a 12-0 run to start the third and push their lead to 23.

INJURY UPDATE:
Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson sat again with varying degrees of hamstring issues. Afflalo continues to be listed as day-to-day with hamstring stiffness. Temple is out for another few games with a left hamstring tear and rookie Richardson is out 4-6 weeks with a right hamstring thickness tear, but hopes to return before the season is finished. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings are back in action Monday evening when Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves roll through Sacramento.