Kings seek fifth win in six tries facing Suns

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Kings seek fifth win in six tries facing Suns

(AP) -- After a win over the Western Conference leaders in their last game, the Sacramento Kings are feeling positive about the direction their young team is headed.The Kings look to win their fourth straight at home Saturday night when they take on the Phoenix Suns.Sacramento is in the midst of its best stretch of the season, winning four of five, and is coming off a 106-101 victory over West-leading Oklahoma City on Thursday.Tyreke Evans scored 22 points while DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and nine rebounds.

The Kings (10-16) scored 28 points off 23 turnovers and had 17 offensive rebounds. It was the third time in four games they topped 100 points after reaching that mark just twice in the previous 22 games."We've improved as a team, we're on the right path now," Cousins said. "We're a lot better than our record shows. We've grown so much from the team we used to be."Cousins and Evans have both taken steps forward under coach Keith Smart. Cousins, who clashed with Paul Westphal before he was fired Jan. 5, is averaging 19.5 points and 14.8 rebounds over the last four games. Evans has averaged 21.4 points in the last seven games after putting up 15.9 per game to start the season."We're trying to build. These two guys are the stones right now," Smart said. "Now they're young and they get excited, but ... if they can keep this process up, we're going to get there."Sacramento, which improved to 7-4 at home with Thursday's win, has won three consecutive home games for the first time since a four-game run Nov. 25-Dec. 2, 2009.The Kings have yet to face Phoenix this season but have won three straight meetings after losing 17 of the previous 19.While Sacramento is feeling confident about its direction, the Suns (11-15) may have come away from their last game feeling like they took a step back.After winning three straight while averaging 100.3 points, Phoenix lost 96-89 at home to Houston on Thursday. The Suns were held to 13 points in the fourth quarter and were outrebounded 44-31."Such a winnable game for us," said Steve Nash, who had 13 assists and averages a league-best 10.1. "We didn't convert in so many areas, so it makes it a really disappointing loss. You're going to have cold patches but you've got to find other ways to stay in the game."The loss spoiled an otherwise good day for Nash, who was named to the All-Star team for the eighth time and became just the fourth player at age 38 or older to make it.Sacramento has certainly been witness to Nash's consistency over the years. In the last 10 games between the teams, he's averaged 23.9 points and 12.6 assists.While the Suns have struggled at home, they are playing better on the road, winning two straight and three of four. Phoenix will play its next three on the road."We're going to continue to work hard, go on this road trip and do the best we can," said Channing Frye, who had a season-high 21 points and 10 rebounds Thursday.Frye has made nine 3-pointers over the past three games after an eight-game stretch during which he went 4 for 23 from beyond the arc.

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.

Kings add new stat guru Luke Bornn to front office

Kings add new stat guru Luke Bornn to front office

SACRAMENTO -- Changes are coming to the Sacramento Kings. The team quietly made news on Monday evening when it was reported that Roland Beech, the Kings VP of Basketball Results, will not return after two years on the job.

But Sacramento hasn’t abandoned the analytics movement. In fact, they are about to invest heavily in a new group, with a new face at the helm. -- Luke Bornn, who will join the Kings front office as the new VP of Analytics and Strategy, NBC Sports California has learned.

In accepting the role, Bornn, 31, will leave soccer giant A.S. Roma as well as his positions as an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University and visiting scholar at Harvard University. He’ll be taxed with building a new department in Sacramento that will look to bring in some of the brightest minds in the field of analytics.

He is a stat head for sure, but one with a focus on creating a system of sketching and mapping the spatial movements of players using the incredible technologies now available to teams through the NBA’s SportVU system.

“We’ll be looking at more advanced modeling tools often with the player tracking data to try and get a deeper understanding of player performance,” Bornn told NBC Sports California. “There is a lot of what happens on the court that really is not picked up by the box score. A lot of players that make big contributions make it in ways that don’t appear. It’s not an assist, it’s not a rebound, it’s not a block.”

According to their site, “SportVU utilizes a six-camera system installed in basketball arenas to track the real-time positions of players and the ball 25 times per second. Utilizing this tracking data, STATS is able to create a wealth of innovative statistics based on speed, distance, player separation and ball possession.”

Introduced to the basketball data world while working at Harvard in 2012 by Kirk Goldsberry, who now works for the San Antonio Spurs front office, Bornn is already well known in the basketball world for his work.

“Kirk and I sort of hit it off,” Bornn said. “He had just gotten SportVU data and he basically said to me, ‘I have this data, but I have no idea what to do with it, I have the basketball side, but I don’t have the technical side.’ I had the technical side and so it started a long collaboration of working with player tracking data.”

Bornn has co-authored papers presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in each of the previous four years, including four straight Sloan finalist papers.

Every team in the league has someone looking over this data, but Bornn hopes to tailor the information to the needs of the Kings’ staff.

“It’s not about me coming in and saying, ‘Here is how to think about the game and here’s the magic numbers,’” Bornn said. “It’s really about me going to them and saying, ‘How do you think about the game, what is it that you care about, is there questions you want answered and can I help you with that?’”  

The plan is for Bornn and his team to build a database of sorts that is accessible to players, coaches and the front office that relies heavily on video to show information, instead of just numbers on a page. They will have your conventional statistics, but an array of other options as well specifically created for the team.

“My role with the Kings will be all encompassing,” Bornn said. “It’s player evaluation, opponent scouting, it’s performance - with the sports science group there. We’ll be looking at all aspects, from the basics of stats, all the way to the more advanced metrics.”

From developing oncourt strategies to charting player health, Bornn and his team will make information accessible to the Kings’ front office, coaching and medical staff with the hope of adding yet another resource for the franchise.

Predicting player injuries is one of the hot button topics in the NBA at this moment with the league going as far as elongating the All-Star break and taking another 10 days onto the schedule to help spread out back-to-back games. It’s a complex issue that is in its fledgling stages.

“In terms of injuries, that’s where everyone wants to go and I think that’s where we’ll aim to go as well, but right now, that’s very much an unsolved problem,” Bornn said.

It appears that the Kings are jumping into the analytics field with both feet. Bornn is moving to Sacramento with his family and will be on the ground as the Kings prepare for a very important 2017 NBA Draft and then free agency.