Kings stumble in Portland 101-89

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Kings stumble in Portland 101-89

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PORTLAND (AP) -- Jamal Crawford knew what had been holding him back: too much thinking and not enough shooting. His coach and teammates agreed.

Crawford scored a season-high 26 points and the Portland Trail Blazers returned home from a six-game road trip with a 101-89 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.

"All these guys said, just play'," said Crawford, who joined the Blazers last month as a free agent. "(They said) you've got to be the person you were before you came here. You can't try to fit it in."

Gerald Wallace had 20 points and eight rebounds and LaMarcus Aldridge added 13 points and 16 rebounds for the Blazers, who were coming off a 2-4 trip. Portland improved to 7-1 at the Rose Garden, playing there for the first time since Jan. 11.

"It felt good being home with the fans - we got some home cooking in," said Craig Smith, who had 10 points and seven rebounds for Portland.

A 13-year veteran, the 6-foot-5 Crawford has been tentative and inconsistent at times since joining Portland.

He is shooting 34 percent for the season, well below his career average. While Crawford is most comfortable at shooting guard, the Blazers have played him much of the time at point guard where he has had problems with turnovers. But there had been signs he was finding his range. He had 24 points Jan. 11 against Orlando and 22 against Atlanta on Wednesday.

"Coming into the game I just felt good," he said. "It was a fresh start. I just cleared my head and said this is day one all over again."

DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points and 13 rebounds, his 12th double-double of the season, for the Kings. Jimmer Fredette scored 13 points and Francisco Garcia added 12. Sacramento dropped to 2-9 on the road.

The Blazers beat the Kings 101-79 on Dec. 27 and have taken 11 of the last 12 in the series.

The last time the two teams met, the Kings were coached by Paul Westphal. He was fired after seven games and replaced with assistant Keith Smart, who is 4-7 since taking over.

Sacramento was missing second-leading scorer Marcus Thornton with a thigh bruise. The Kings had won two in a row but fell 128-95 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, despite Fredette's career-high 20 points.

Against the Blazers, Sacramento led early in the game but couldn't sustain it. Returning from missing a game with a hand injury, Wallace had 15 points and eight rebounds in the first half for the Blazers. Portland went on a 20-7 run at the end of the second quarter, briefly opening a 20-point lead and took a 53-38 advantage into the break.

"The second quarter got away from us toward the end," Smart said. "It only takes a couple moments in a game, or a quarter, for it to separate."

Portland went up 76-56 and the Kings didn't get any closer than 13 down until Isaiah Thomas and Fredette made 3-pointers in the last minute.

Notes: Portland was beginning its first back-to-back-to-back stretch of the season. The Blazers play Memphis Tuesday and Golden State Wednesday. ... Kings G John Salmons played after being hospitalized over the weekend in Memphis with food poisoning. He played 18 minutes and didn't score. ... Blazers C Marcus Camby played just 12 minutes. He sat much of the first half with three fouls and then left the game in the third quarter with a mild groin strain. He had just returned from missing three games with a sprained ankle.

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.