Kings seek season-high win streak vs. Clips

687986.jpg

Kings seek season-high win streak vs. Clips

While struggling to close out games recently, the Los Angeles Clippers have watched their lead in the Pacific Division shrink.Visiting the team at the bottom of the division might not help.The Clippers will try to get a six-game road trip off to a good start Thursday night when they begin their season series with the Sacramento Kings, who have played well at home lately.Los Angeles suffered its third loss in four games Tuesday, 109-97 to Minnesota.

The Clippers led by seven late in the third quarter but faded, unable to keep up with the Timberwolves depth. Minnesota, which opened the fourth quarter on a 17-6 run, received 72 bench points compared to 11 for Los Angeles.Blake Griffin had 18 points and five rebounds in the first quarter before finishing with 30 points - one in the fourth - and seven boards. Chris Paul had 27 points, his average during the Clippers' 1-3 slump.Caron Butler was 1 of 10 from the field for two points and is averaging 7.0 on 29.8 percent shooting over the last five games.Trying to fend off the Los Angeles Lakers in the Pacific, the Clippers (20-12) look to end their late-game struggles. They were held to nine points through the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter Tuesday, went scoreless in the final three minutes of a 104-97 defeat to Golden State on Feb. 20 and blew a 13-point lead in a loss to San Antonio two nights earlier."That's something we've got to learn, how to put teams away," Paul said.Los Angeles allowed at least 103 points in each of those three defeats - about seven above its average - and now faces a Kings team which has scored more than 100 in a season-high three straight games.The Clippers have lost seven of eight and 23 of 26 in Sacramento, where they'll play the first of six road games in nine nights."We'll see what we're made of now," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We have a tough road trip coming up. We're going to have to play on a higher level, especially on the road now, but maybe that will help us come together more."Los Angeles may not enjoy playing in Sacramento, but it's looking like the Kings won't be leaving in the near future. On Monday, the Kings and the NBA announced a tentative deal to keep the team in Sacramento, quieting rumors about a potential move.The Kings are in last place in the Pacific but have won four of five at Arco Arena, including a victory over West-leading Oklahoma City, and are 7-3 there since the calendar flipped to 2012.Now they'll try to match a season high with a third straight win overall."All I want to do is keep this team in close games because in close games anything can happen," coach Keith Smart said.Sacramento (12-22) had dropped six straight before winning at Washington last Wednesday, then came out of the All-Star break with a 103-96 victory over Utah on Tuesday.DeMarcus Cousins had 22 points and 18 rebounds, including eight offensive boards. He's averaged 19.9 points and 12.8 rebounds in his last 12 games."I think as he grows as a pro there's going to be a lot of nights where people won't have an answer for him," Smart said.Cousins, though, averaged 7.8 points on 30.0 percent shooting in four matchups with the Clippers last season.

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.