Kings surrender huge lead in loss to Spurs: 'Kind of played into their game'

Kings surrender huge lead in loss to Spurs: 'Kind of played into their game'

Losing never feels good. Blowing a 28-point lead adds to the insult. The Sacramento Kings are in a tailspin and there is not a lot anyone can do to stop it.

Sacramento had the Spurs on the ropes for the entire first half, delivering body blows to a team looking for their 50th win of the season. Without Kawhi Leonard or LaMarcus Aldridge to slow the onslaught, the Kings built what should have been an insurmountable lead.

But this isn’t the same Sacramento Kings team that beat the Cavs, the Warriors, the Celtics and the Raptors earlier in the year. This is a team in transition, making San Antonio’s 114-110 come-from-behind win almost expected.

“Hats off to them, they played terrific, especially the last three quarters - making shots, getting to the line and they took care of the basketball after the first quarter,” coach Dave Joerger told media members following the loss. “Good for them, and congratulations on their 50th win.”

Joerger’s team built their big lead with monster first quarters from both Tyreke Evans and Kosta Koufos. Evans, who joined the Kings as part of the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, scored 13 of his 26 points in the 12 minutes of the game.

“I’m just getting back after 11 months (off due to injury),” Evans told reporters. “I’m trying to get my feet wet and just get my legs back.”

The 27-year-old wing started at the small forward position for Joerger and looked very comfortable against one of the league’s best defenses.

Koufos scored 10 of his 12 points in the opening quarter as the Kings jumped out to the 37-15 lead. The veteran big added 10 rebounds for his third straight double-double.

The veterans weren’t the only players to find success against the vaunted Spurs defense. Rookies Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere continue to show that they belong.

“We’ve got some good young talent and for them to come out here and play against that type of caliber of defense, the way the Spurs are playing, that’s something they want to take from them,” Collison said.

Hield shot the lights out early. He finished the night with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arc in just 18 minutes of action. Since joining the Kings seven games ago, the 23-year-old out of Oklahoma University is averaging 12.9 points on 51.6 shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from long range in 23.7 minutes a night.

Labissiere toiled on the Kings bench for most of the season, traveling back and forth between the parent club and the Reno Bighorns of the D-League. Since the Cousins trade, he’s finally gotten an opportunity and he’s taking full advantage.

“Sky’s the limit for him,” Evans said of the 6-foot-11 rookie out of Kentucky. “He’s young, talented, athletic. He can do a lot, he just has to keep working and get better.”

The 20-year-old Haitian-born big shows no fear. He attacked San Antonio’s veteran frontline, coming away with a career-high 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and chipped in six rebounds in 15 minutes of floor time.

“I’m impressed with Skal,” point guard Darren Collison said. “It seems like his continuing improvement keeps growing and that’s what you want.”

Joerger has taken it slow with the 28th overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, but it might be time to turn the lanky forward loose. He’s shown the ability to rebound outside of his area and his turnaround baseline jumper is nearly impossible to defend.

Labissiere brings an energy and excitement to a Kings lineup that has now lost six straight and fallen four games out of the race for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff chase.

In the end, Joerger turned back to his veterans, who couldn’t stem the tide against one of the league’s best. After building a huge lead, San Antonio steadily chipped away, outscoring the Kings 99-67 after the first quarter.

“They got us off our spots, it’s hard for us to have the same continuity that we had in the first half,” Collison said. “You’ve got to give them credit, that’s what they’re known for, especially in their building and we kind of played into their game.”

With the win, the Spurs notched their 18th consecutive 50-win season. The last time the Spurs didn’t post 50 wins was in the strike shortened 1998-99 season when they won 74 percent of their games and took home the NBA title.

Following the loss, the Kings flew home to Sacramento where they will play back-to-back games at Golden 1 Center on Friday and Saturday night. They’ll face John Wall and the Wizards first, and then matchup against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

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.