Coach Mike D'Antoni may be somewhat wobbly on his surgically replaced knee, but the Los Angeles Lakers seem to be finding their stride.Another meeting with the Sacramento Kings may keep their run going.Coming off D'Antoni's winning debut on the bench, the Lakers look to continue their surge Wednesday night when they try to send the Kings to a sixth consecutive defeat.Los Angeles (6-5) named D'Antoni coach on Nov. 12 after firing Mike Brown following a 1-4 start. D'Antoni's debut, though, had been delayed due to recovery from knee replacement surgery, but he was finally on the sideline for Tuesday's 95-90 win over Brooklyn."With this team, there's no reason not to win every game," D'Antoni said. "That's our goal. It's not, 'Let's get two out of three.' We can win every game we play. ... I feel like we're the best team in the league. We've got the most talent, so they can do what they want. We've just got to keep perfecting things."While D'Antoni was not actively roaming the sidelines much in Tuesday's win, the Lakers have won five of six games since the coaching change, including a season-high three in a row."We're definitely playing with better flow," said forward Pau Gasol, who has 17 points in each of the last two games. "We're playing with more confidence, looser out there. We're playing together and moving the ball, just playing basketball and not really worrying about actions; just playing the game."Production from Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard is also helping.Bryant leads the NBA with 26.3 points per game, and Howard is among the leaders with 20.3 points and 11.7 rebounds. Both came up big in D'Antoni's debut, as Bryant scored 25 points - six coming in the final two minutes - while Howard contributed 23 with 15 boards.The All-Star center is pulling down an average of 14.6 rebounds over the past five games, including 18 with 23 points in a 103-90 victory over Sacramento (2-8) on Nov. 11.Bryant was held to 20 points in that meeting, but he's averaged 33.3 points in his last 13 games at Sleep Train Arena.The Lakers, though, have lost the last two visits, including last season's finale on April 26 when Bryant was rested ahead of the playoffs.The Kings are averaging 89.6 points during a five-game slide that continued with Sunday's 99-90 loss to the Nets. Coach Keith Smart tried to stop the skid by starting Aaron Brooks at the point and John Salmons at forward, but they combined for six points and seven rebounds."Overall, when you make some changes like we have it's hard, but they were smiling for the most part," Smart said. "This is an adjustment period. That's something we have to go through to get out team turned around."DeMarcus Cousins is trying to do his part, leading Sacramento with 17.8 points per game and 10.3 boards. The center scored 23 of his season-high 29 points in the second half Sunday, bouncing back from a nine-point effort on 4 of 15 shooting in a loss to Atlanta on Thursday in his return from a two-game suspension.The team-imposed ban forced him to miss the Nov. 11 loss to Los Angeles.
Sacramento — Sacramento Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé released the following statement.
“I have a deep respect for our nation’s unwavering commitment to free speech and support all Americans’ right to freely express themselves. The President's recent comments are deeply disappointing, because our focus should be on fostering a culture of sensitivity and inclusion. Our mission at the Sacramento Kings has always been to unite our community and use our platform to create positive change, so we continue to stand with our players, and all people, who use their platform to raise awareness and make Sacramento and our country proud.”
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It’s been a summer of change for the Sacramento Kings. A roster upheaval has 10 new players vying for minutes once training camp opens on Tuesday. The coaching staff has been bolstered and fresh blood was added to the front office in the form of analytics guru Luke Bornn and assistant general manager Brandon Williams. On Thursday, one more piece to the puzzle was brought in to help develop the team’s young core.
With the hiring of Galen Duncan as the franchise’s new Vice President of the Kings Academy and Professional Development, Sacramento is making a major investment in the future of their team.
According to the team’s official press release, “Duncan is responsible for implementation of the Kings Academy program, a developmental, player-centric curriculum aligning multi-faceted organizational philosophies and ideals to help athletes mature into well-rounded professionals. Under Duncan’s oversight, Kings Academy will augment on-court progress with access to practical material and experiences that help balance on-court priorities and personal responsibilities with opportunities to become impactful contributors in the community.”
After 10 years with the Detroit Lions, Duncan is making the jump to the NBA game. He’s already had a taste of the league, working with the league office as part of the NBA Rookie Transition Program.
With five rookies and another four sophomores on the roster, the Kings are investing in a seasoned mentor and life coach. Armed with a Ph.D. in health psychology from Walden University, Duncan will aid the players in everything from finding an apartment to dealing with the stress of life as a 19-year-old millionaire with no experience paying a bill.
“My passion has always been sports,” Duncan told NBC Sports California. “Sports has done wonderful things for me. I don’t care what level they’re at or how much money they make, I think there is something to learn and I have something to teach.”
With the Lions, he brought incoming rookie classes through everything from etiquette courses to teaching them how to tie ties. His goal is to transform a group of young men into professionals, who just happen to be professional athletes.
It’s not just about making a polished product for the media and general public. Duncan will work with players on a variety of personal issues, including money management, dealing with family and professional on-court performance.
“Unfortunately, sometimes family can be your worst enemy,” Duncan said. “But if structured correctly and if nurtured, I think the education goes beyond just the player. I think you have to educate the family as well about what they’re doing.”
The transition to the NBA game will be interesting for Duncan. He comes from a game where the incoming rookie class can be anywhere from 10-15 players. He hasn’t dealt with 19-year-olds at the NFL level and guaranteed contracts are new as well, but the job is very similar.
Sacramento has always had a support staff to help with the transition to the NBA game, but the addition of Duncan is a new level of commitment by the team. They have a huge group of young players and they are making an investment into their futures and the future of the franchise. It’s a clear step in the right direction.