Kings prepare for Linsanity at MSG

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Kings prepare for Linsanity at MSG

(APCSN) -- Just five starts into his NBA career, Jeremy Lin may be running out of ways to outdo himself.

Riding high with a burgeoning national following after more late clutch play, Lin leads the surging New York Knicks into the opener of a five-game homestand Wednesday night versus the Sacramento Kings.

Inserted into the starting lineup by coach Mike D'Antoni out of desperation just nine days ago following a career-high 25-point effort off the bench in a win against New Jersey on Feb. 4, Lin has skyrocketed to stardom with his unprecedented play with New York's first unit.
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He has averaged 27.2 points - the highest scoring average for someone starting his first five games since the ABA-NBA merger - and 8.8 assists while shooting 50.0 percent as a starter in helping New York (14-15) grab the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race and extend its current winning streak to six games.

The legend of Linsanity grew again exponentially - his Twitter account now has more than 270,000 followers - in Toronto on Tuesday night, when he hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with five-tenths of a second to play that capped a game-ending 13-1 run and gave the Knicks a 90-87 victory. The point guard, whose three-point play with 1:05 left tied the game at 87, also had a career-high 11 assists.

"I'm thankful that the coach and my teammates trust me with the ball at the end of the game," he said. "I like having it at the end of the game. I'm just very thankful."

Lin will undoubtedly get a hero's welcome at a raucous Madison Square Garden, likely to be feted by a crowd that has already taken to the Asian-American as one of its own - they have serenaded him with chants of "M-V-P" during his equally meteoric and unlikely rise to national acclaim during this win streak.

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Lin's winning shot also overshadowed the return of Amar'e Stoudemire, who had 21 points and nine rebounds after missing four games following the death of his brother. The power forward seemed at ease running pick-and-rolls with Lin, who assisted on five of Stoudemire's baskets.

"I don't know what's going on in New York right now, but Jeremy's playing great," Stoudemire said. "He's playing phenomenal right now, it's amazing to watch him play out there. He's doing a phenomenal job."

The Raptors occasionally flustered Lin by double-teaming him above the top of the key, which contributed to him matching a season high with eight turnovers. While he has recorded at least seven assists in each game during New York's win streak, Lin also has committed six or more turnovers in four of them.

Whether the Kings can do similar things with Marcus Thornton likely to draw Lin defensively is uncertain. Sacramento (10-18) allowed a Chicago team without injured reigning MVP Derrick Rose to shoot 52.4 percent in a 121-115 loss Tuesday night.

The Kings nearly rallied from a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit as Thornton, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins combined to score 78 points, but were unable to finish the rally as they fell to 3-13 on the road.

"They're a tough team," Evans said. "They play together. They run that high pick-and-roll good with the bigs. They ran it all night on us and got a lot of fouls. That's what killed us."

Sacramento has dropped six of seven on the road but has made the most of its recent trips to New York, winning four straight and six of seven there after dropping 16 of the previous 17.

The Knicks had an easy time in Sacramento on New Year's Eve, rolling to a 114-92 win as rookie Josh Harrellson had 14 points and 12 rebounds in his first NBA start in place of the injured Stoudemire.

In that game, Jeremy Lin registered one rebound, one assist, one steal, two turnovers, and committed four fouls in four minutes of action.

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.