Kings prepare for Linsanity at MSG

668924.jpg

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.
RELATED: West -- No blame for Lin's exit

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.

RELATED: What they're saying about Lin

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.

How the four Kings rookies fit in heading into 2017-18 season

How the four Kings rookies fit in heading into 2017-18 season

SACRAMENTO - The Sacramento Kings swung for the fences during the NBA Draft Thursday night. They filled holes, took a gamble and might have even come away with a steal or two in their four selections. There are major roster questions that still have to be answered in free agency or through trade, but here is a look at how the new faces fit into the current situation in Sacramento.

De’Aaron Fox, point guard, University of Kentucky
Sacramento let it be known early that Fox was a target. The speedy point guard put on a show in his lone season in Kentucky, averaging 16.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 29.6 minutes per game. He’ll need to improve his 3-point shooting (24.6 percent) to keep defenses from sagging off and clogging his running lanes, but his mechanics are sound.

According to Vlade Divac, “De’Aaron is our future.” Whether the team will look to add a veteran presence is still in question. Veterans Darren Collison and Ty Lawson have spoken about their willingness to return as a mentor, but Fox is expected to play major minutes in his rookie season as the Kings look to turn up the tempo.

Fox is a big time athlete with great size for the position. Standing a little over 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-6.5 wingspan, the left handed point guard projects well on both ends of the floor. He’ll need to add weight to his 170-pound frame, but the Kings have a strong strength and conditioning team that has been working overtime all summer building on last season’s draft class.

With both Collison and Lawson entering free agency unrestricted, Fox is likely the Kings starter on Day 1.

Justin Jackson, small forward, University of North Carolina
Jackson tested the draft waters a year ago and decided to return to the Tar Heels for one more season. The gamble paid off as Jackson and his North Carolina teammates rolled through the NCAA tournament and were crowned champs.

In addition to winning it all, Jackson showed major improvement in his junior year under Roy Williams. The 22-year-old wing posted 18.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 32.2 minutes per game. Jackson’s biggest improvement came as a perimeter shooter where he converted 36.8 percent of his 3-point shots, compared to just 29.2 percent as a sophomore.

Like Fox, Jackson needs to add strength and weight to compete in the NBA for 82 games a season. He is a wiry athlete that stands 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, but he weighed in at just 201 at the Draft combine (up from his 192 a season ago).

As of today, Jackson is the only true small forward on the Kings roster. They have options in Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson, but they will likely address the position in free agency or through trade. Jackson will play minutes as a rookie, but how many will be determined by how quickly he can adjust to the NBA level. He’s a mature scorer and he has defensive potential, but he will likely begin his career in a reserve role, at least initially.

Harry Giles, power forward/center, Duke University
There was a time when Giles ranked amongst the very best of high school player in the country. A series of bad breaks led Giles to tumble down the draft board where the Kings were more than willing to gamble at the 20th selection.

You can take his numbers at Duke and throw them out the window, he was never truly healthy in his time with Coach K. Standing 6-foot-10.5 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, the 232-pound big has an incredible frame. Unfortunately, the frame is supported by two surgically repaired knees.

Giles tore his ACL in both knees as a prep athlete in separate incidents and he needed a third procedure to clean up one of his knees last year. If there is good news here, it is that both knees were damaged in contact injuries, as opposed to the knee giving out in a non-contact situation. The scope that occurred later is also not out of the norm as the body attempts to adjust to the changes in the joint.

Like the Duke medical staff, the Kings will need to show patience in years one and two as Giles continues to heal from the series of surgeries. The Kings knew the risk of drafting the talented 19-year-old and they also know that players like Danny Manning, Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin went on to have very successful careers after bilateral ACL tears.   

Don’t expect Giles to play major minutes in year one, but the Kings fell in love with his talent in a pre-draft workout in Sacramento. The team has a bevy of bigs, including Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and Georgios Papagiannis. This is a risk/reward pick for the future. If Giles can get right, he could be the best big man taken in the 2017 NBA Draft and maybe even a lot more than that.

Frank Mason III, point guard, Kansas University

Despite collecting a room full of trophies in his senior year at Kansas, Mason slid to the early second round where the Kings shunned trade offers and pounced. Like Fox, the high-flying guard was a major target of the Kings, even coming to Sacramento twice for visits before draft night.

The 23-year-old Wooden Award winner dominated in his final season under Bill Self, averaging 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 36.1 minutes a night. He even shot 47.1 percent from behind the arc on 4.8 attempts per game. At 6-foot, 189-pounds, the biggest knock on Mason is his lack of size. He makes up for that with power and a 41-inch vertical.

Sacramento is in a tough situation when it comes to their point guard position. Fox was a no-brainer at number five and Mason is an NBA ready contributor at pick 34. But can they walk into a season with two rookies manning the point guard position? 

It’s possible. The Kings have Temple on the roster, who can steal some minutes, but Fox and Mason make an intriguing thunder and lightning pairing that should be a lot of fun to watch. Don’t be shocked if Mason earns a spot in the rotation in training camp and plays solid minutes in a sparkplug role off the bench as a rookie.

Purge of veterans continues as Kings waive Arron Afflalo

Purge of veterans continues as Kings waive Arron Afflalo

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings continued their purge of veteran contracts Friday afternoon. NBC Sports California has confirmed that the team opted out of the second year of Arron Afflalo’s 2-year, $25 million deal. They will instead pay the shooting guard a $1.5 million buyout, saving $11 million and allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Afflalo, 31, posted 8.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game. The 10-year NBA veteran played in 61 games, including 45 starts for the Kings last season while shooting 41.1 percent from behind the arc.

The former UCLA star is the second Kings veteran to have his option declined, joining Anthony Tolliver in the ranks of unrestricted free agents. Both Rudy Gay and Langston Galloway have chosen not to exercise player options with the team as the franchise turns to a youth movement.

Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos are the only remaining players players on the Kings’ roster with more than two years experience in the league. Sacramento will enter free agency with upwards of $55 million to spend in free agency once they sign their four rookies from Thursday evening’s NBA Draft.