Kings stumble after underestimating, disrespecting depleted Heat

Kings stumble after underestimating, disrespecting depleted Heat

SACRAMENTO -- Two teams playing on a second night of a back-to-back walked into Golden 1 Center Wednesday night. One team was playing to strengthen their playoff position after a huge win the night before. The other team was an undermanned 10-win team struggling to field an 8-man rotation.  

“A team that’s so decimated by injuries, I think we underestimated them,” veteran Garrett Temple said. “They got a lot of easy early on - a lot of easy 3’s. And when you give give a team hope, they are NBA players and they can play the game.”

The Sacramento Kings are running out of excuses for why they play down to their competition. The stunning 107-102 loss to the Miami Heat Wednesday was just another in a long list of winnable games this season that Sacramento let slip through its fingers.

What’s worse is that the Kings made a tremendous run, like they usually do. This time it was solely on the back of their second unit, who used a 19-0 run to erase a 19-point third quarter deficit. They even took a lead in the fourth quarter and then Dave Joerger turned back to a group of starters that had struggled mightily all night long.

With 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Kings leading 91-89, Joerger inserted DeMarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes into the game for Kosta Koufos and Anthony Tolliver. Four minutes later, Sacramento’s momentum was gone and they trailed 98-93.

Coach Dave Joerger gave his take during the post game interview.

“Fatigue, guys were out of gas - second night of a back-to-back,” Joerger said as to why he made the switch.

Whatever magic the Kings had captured quickly dissipated. It’s not an indictment on Cousins or Barnes, more on the flow of the game. Something was working and then it was gone.

Cousins was in no mood to talk to the media following the loss and neither were most of his teammates.

“No excuses,” Cousins said when asked whether fatigue played a role in the loss.

Temple took it a step further, completely destroying the notion that fatigue played a role.

“That’s B.S., if there was no camera, I’d use the whole word,” Temple said when asked about Joerger’s fatigue comment. “They were off a back-to-back as well. There was nothing about fatigue. Nobody plays 38 minutes a game on this team.”

“I don’t think we respected them early on and let them get hot and then it became a game,” Temple added.

A straight shooter, Temple played a huge role in the comeback. He finished the night with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed three steals in 31 minutes off the bench. He was part of a group that energized the team both in the first half and second half after sluggish starts by the first team.

“I’m very disappointed, the most disappointed I’ve been this season,” Temple said. “This is a game we have to win. After a big game in Denver to get that eight seed and then come in here against a decimated Miami Heat team that’s coming on a back-to-back as well - so that’s no excuse. This is a game we have to get. We’ve just got to get it. We can’t lose games like this. I just hope it doesn’t come back to bite us.”

Ty Lawson was a spark plug off the bench as well, scoring 15 points and handing out six assists in 29 minutes. Arron Afflalo had another solid game with the second group, scoring 15 points on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown. Tolliver chipped in 14 on 5-for-6 shooting.

The second unit scored a season-high 61 points and it could have been more.

With the loss, Sacramento fell to 15-20 on the season and wasted a valuable opportunity to go up two games on the Portland Trail Blazers, who lost to the Golden State Warriors.

The Kings return to the court Friday evening to face another injury depleted team in the Los Angeles Clippers before the schedule gets dramatically more difficult.

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.