Kings' skid hits four with close loss in Utah

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Kings' skid hits four with close loss in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 21 points and C.J. Miles added 20 as the Utah Jazz snapped a two-game losing streak, defeating Sacramento 96-93 and spoiling Jimmer Fredette's return to the state where "Jimmermania" began.Fredette had a chance to give the Kings the win with 4.2 seconds left, but launched an air-ball 3-pointer.Hayward's free throw sealed it for Utah (11-7).Tyreke Evans led Sacramento (6-14) with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting.Fredette, a former Brigham Young star and last year's national player of the year, finished with 14 points and 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. But he was just 5 of 13 overall.The Kings were down 13 points in the fourth quarter, but Evans and Isaiah Thomas brought them back.Evans' 5-footer with 30 seconds left cut the lead to one, and after Devin Harris made one of two free throws for a 95-93 lead, the stage for Fredette. He missed.Fredette received a standing ovation from many fans during pregame introductions, with a few scattered boos.The reaction was mixed once the game started. Many booed every time he touched the ball, but when he hit his first 3-pointer with 1:29 left in the first, an equal number jumped to their feet.Late in the game, fans chanted "We Want Jimmer," and he re-entered.He had a chance to come up big in the state where he finished last season with a 28.9-point scoring average in guiding the Cougars to a 32-5 mark and a trip to the NCAA round of 16.Instead, it was another example of his up-and-down rookie season.Fredette was just 1 of 5 shooting in the first quarter, with 3 points and a steal. He started the second quarter with a turnover, dribbling the ball out of bounds, and spent the next 5 minutes on the bench.He finished the half strong, with a 3-pointer that pulled Sacramento within 45-41 and a crossover dribble where he blew by Al Jefferson for a driving layup.He finished the first half with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.Fredette acknowledged before the game that consistency was an issue, and Saturday was no different.While he hit early 3s, he also drove into trouble. He was swatted by Jefferson and rookie Enes Kanter, and had the ball stolen away by Earl Watson, Devin Harris and Miles.Utah's top two scorers struggled in the first half, with Jefferson hitting just 3 of 8 shots for eight points and Paul Millsap shooting 2 of 6 for six points.Still, the Jazz led by as many as nine points in the first half thanks to a 6-0 run on consecutive baskets by Derrick Favors, Miles and Hayward.The Kings came back, finishing the half on a 9-4 run to pull within 49-47 at halftime. Fredette started the run with a 3-pointer, and DeMarcus Cousins scored a pair of baskets.The Kings tied it at 56 early in the third. But Miles, staying in for injured Raja Bell, fueled a 9-0 run. Miles scored seven straight points, and Hayward capped it with a dunk.The Kings responded with their own 9-2 run, started by John Salmons and capped by Fredette's third 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 69-65.Utah came right back with another 9-2 run as Kanter blocked Fredette, and guard Earl Watson drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 78-67 Jazz lead going into the fourth.Notes: Former BYU wide receiver Austin Collie, now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, was in attendance Saturday. ... Big man Chuck Hayes, who had missed the previous 11 games with a dislocated left shoulder, returned to action Saturday for Sacramento and played 20 minutes but did not score. ... Jazz guard Raja Bell left in the second quarter with strained right adductor and did not return. He finished with three points.

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.