Kings learn another lesson in loss to Rockets

Kings learn another lesson in loss to Rockets

SACRAMENTO -- Every game is another opportunity for the Sacramento Kings’ young players to learn. The Kings fell behind by as many as 22 to the high-powered Rockets Sunday afternoon, but they kept fighting. In the end, the playoff bound team from Houston was too much to handle as they came away with the 135-128 victory. 

After playing against a bull in Julius Randle Friday in Los Angeles, rookie Skal Labissiere drew a completely different style of player Sunday at Golden 1 Center. Sacramento native Ryan Anderson torched the rookie in the opening 6:18 of the first quarter, dropping in a perfect 4-of-4 from behind the arc.

“There’s a level of experience that you have to have,” coach Dave Joerger said of Labissiere. “They’re playing at a doctoral thesis level and here is a young guy in his first year and you’re trying to spit some words out of what coverage we should be in and it just takes experience.”

“It’s not that they’re trying to mess up - they are trying to do the best they can,” Joerger added. 

Joerger went to his bench quick, turning to veteran Anthony Tolliver to stem the tide. When he turned back to Labissiere in the second quarter, the rookie big looked like a completely different player.

Labissiere dropped in 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in second, helping the Kings avoid the early blowout.

“I was impressed as I always am with him, but he kept attacking offensively,” Joerger said. “If you want to take me out in the deep water and shoot these jumpers, then let’s try to get you down here in the posit. I think he was aggressive.”

The rookie forward continued to plug away in the second half, finishing the night with a team-high 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting. He added six rebounds, three assists and two steals in 31 minutes of action. 

“It’s just learning how to adjust,” Labissiere said. “You play different guys in the league. Guys in the NBA are talented so you’ve just got to figure out how to guard people, make it hard for them at least.”

Labissiere’s experience was a microcosm of the Kings night. Buddy Hield faced off with MVP candidate James Harden and came out on the wrong end of the stat sheet. The rookie shooting guard started off hot, scoring 10 points in the first quarter. And then the Rockets made adjustments, limiting Hield to 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

Harden found a way to keep all of the Kings’ guards off balance, scoring 35 points, handing out 15 assists and grabbing 11 rebounds on his way to his 21st triple-double of the season.

“You learn a lot,” Hield said of the experience. “He’s super talented. One of the best in the league. One of the best scorers. One of the best passers. He’s just one of the best offensive players in the league.”

Willie Cauley-Stein played well, scoring 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 25 minutes of action. With his guards on skates most of the night trying to stay in front of the Rockets’ guards, big man Clint Capella shot 8-of-8 from the field, finishing with 18 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes of play. 

“Even veteran teams struggle playing against that kind of system and what they’re doing to the rest of the league right now,” Joerger said. “It was a good experience for our guys, and we never quit. We played hard all the way through and I’m proud of our guys for that.”

Sacramento received plenty of contributions from their veterans. Ty Lawson scored 20 points and dished out 11 assists. He broke down the Rockets defense and set up his teammates for easy baskets.

Ben McLemore shook off a tough start to score 18 points on 3-of-7 shooting from long range. Garrett Temple added 13 points and Langston Galloway chipped in 10 off the bench in the loss.

The Kings return to the court Tuesday when they finish up their home schedule against the Phoenix Suns. They’ll face a young, but athletic Suns team that has strung together back-to-back wins after dropping 13 straight. 

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'


DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'

Some professional athletes take a stand by kneeling on the sidelines or raising a fist into the air. Some write succinct tweets expressing their dismay with the current political climate in the United States of America. Others just get right to the point with a poignant off the cuff statement to a waiting camera.

Former Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins has certainly mastered the art of the cryptic tweet, but he’s also never been one to shy away from a direct question when asked. When an inquiry was thrown his direction about confederate statues in New Orleans and his home state of Alabama, Cousins was brief with his words, but very clear.

"Take all them mother****ers down," Cousins told TMZ while navigating a security line at the airport. "Take 'em all down.”

Cousins may not have chosen the most eloquent words, but his point of view is shared by plenty of others. He isn’t the first athlete to take a stand with regards to race in America over the last week as racial tensions have spilled out into the streets in Charlottesville, Virginia. Social media is filled with professional athletes adding their thoughts to the conversation.

The Warriors’ Kevin Durant has made it clear that he will not visit the White House and President Donald Trump, a visit most teams make following an NBA championship.

"Nah, I won't do that," the 8-time All-Star told ESPN on Thursday. "I don't respect who's in office right now.”

"I don't agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” Durant continued. “That's just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they'll all agree with me."

Garrett Temple has used Twitter to make his thoughts known as well. Recently named the Kings’ Players Voice Teammate of the Year by the National Basketball Players Association, Temple has used his position as an NBA player to speak out multiple times.

Over the last week, he’s fielded questions and had plenty of discussions through social media on the issues of race and equality. His Twitter timeline is littered with thoughtful replies and some not so thoughtful ideas as well. Plenty of fans thanking him for using his position to further the conversation and of course, there is the occasional, “stick to sports” comment.

Agree or disagree, today’s athletes have huge platforms to share their opinions. From Cousins to Temple, there are varying degrees of engagement, but the time of players staying out of the discussion is long gone.

The Maloofs' colossal charity bet on Mayweather-McGregor circus act


The Maloofs' colossal charity bet on Mayweather-McGregor circus act

Gavin and Joe Maloof have gambled plenty in their lives, which is in part how they ended up losing the Sacramento Kings. They ran big, they hit a dry well, and they ended up selling the works.

So their decision to bet $880,000 on Floyd Mayweather in his “thing” with Conor McGregor for a $160,000 payout seemed the perfectly daft idea for two guys who were painted as perfectly daft when they were running the Kings and their other businesses into a freeway abutment on I-80.

In fairness, they are planning to donate their winnings to a number of charities in the name of their hangover drink (Never Too Hungover, although I might have gone with the more lyrical HurlNoMore), so it’s not like their hearts aren’t a place close to the mythical “right place.”

But it does beg the question, “Why don’t they just give $160,000 and skip the scam?” Because it wasn’t about charity, it was about promotion, and while there’s nothing wrong with promotion, attaching it to one of the seediest carnival events of the modern era makes it seem, well, kind of creepy.

Or maybe “creepy” is too strong. Maybe’s it’s just opportunism, which is more, well, Vegas-y.

Kings fans will remember the Maloofs as the family that saved the foundering team from the clutches of owner Jim Thomas, and then remember them as the family whose clutches Vivek Ranadive had to save the team from 15 years later. It’s the nature of most ownerships – you do good to eliminate a prior evil, and eventually become evil yourselves when the fans turn on you.

But the Maloofs aren’t evil – even their most strident critics will say that. They just saw an opportunity to scratch a bunch of itches at once – good-heartedness, advertising, gambling and Vegas’ most important product – selling you things you could never imagine wanting.

It almost makes you wonder if they harbor a secret itch to take the $160,000 and double down on behalf of the charities for another of their pet projects – the Vegas Golden Knights. If they put it on the Knights to win the Stanley Cup at 200-1, that’s $32,000,000. Then if they took that and . . .

. . . and before you know it, they’re trapped in the fantasyland of Las Vegas at its weirdest. Maybe it’s just performance art with more money than most of us can eat.