Kings

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.
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.

Patience needed for young and inexperienced Kings

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AP

Patience needed for young and inexperienced Kings

The Sacramento Kings are attempting to do something rarely seen in the NBA. They’ve paired four first round selections from the 2016 NBA Draft with another five rookies for the 2017-18 season. They’ll open the season with nine players with one year of NBA experience or less and three others with two years in the league or fewer if you include two-way contracts.

Veterans Vince Carter (40), Zach Randolph (36), George Hill (31), Garrett Temple (31) and Kosta Koufos (28) push the average age of the Kings to 26.1. According to RealGM, they’ll enter the 2017-18 season tied for the 15th youngest roster in the league.

If you remove the veterans, the Kings youthful core averages less than 22 years of age. But age doesn’t tell the entire story.

Entering his third NBA season, Willie Cauley-Stein has seen action in 141 of a possible 164 games. On the current roster, he might as well get lumped in with the veterans.

Buddy Hield donned a Kings uniform for 25 games last season after coming over in a midseason trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. He played 82 games in total between the two clubs, which is five more combined contests than his fellow 2016 draft mates Skal Labissiere (33 games), Georgios Papagiannis (22 games) and Malachi Richardson (22 games) played in.

Sacramento selected three first rounders in the 2017 NBA Draft, including De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. They also landed point guard Frank Mason III with an early second round pick and convinced 25-year-old former first rounder Bogdan Bogdanovic to leave the European game behind and join the club.

Without bringing two-way players Jack Cooley (16 games) and JaKarr Sampson (147 games) into the discussion, the Kings have a major experience issue. They’ll walk into the season with 10 players having a combined 300 games of NBA experience and 223 of those games were played by Cauley-Stein and Hield.  

Sacramento’s veteran group has appeared in 3718 regular season contests. Dave Joerger will have no choice but to turn to the group for plenty of minutes as the Kings’ young players learn on the fly.

Patience is necessary. Vlade Divac and his team have assembled a lot of talent, but they will need time to develop. Joerger has a strong staff in place, including Elston Turner, Bryan Gates, Duane Ticknor, Bob Thornton, Jason March and Larry Lewis. Phil Ricci was also added to the staff as a player development coach this season with the influx of young players.

Even with an expanded staff, there is no way Joerger can fit all 10 of his youngsters into the rotation. They’ll need playing time to develop and there is a good chance that some of these freshman and sophomore players will spend time with Darrick Martin and the Reno Bighorns.  

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

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AP

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.