Kings

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.

The Maloofs' colossal charity bet on Mayweather-McGregor circus act

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AP

The Maloofs' colossal charity bet on Mayweather-McGregor circus act

Gavin and Joe Maloof have gambled plenty in their lives, which is in part how they ended up losing the Sacramento Kings. They ran big, they hit a dry well, and they ended up selling the works.

So their decision to bet $880,000 on Floyd Mayweather in his “thing” with Conor McGregor for a $160,000 payout seemed the perfectly daft idea for two guys who were painted as perfectly daft when they were running the Kings and their other businesses into a freeway abutment on I-80.

In fairness, they are planning to donate their winnings to a number of charities in the name of their hangover drink (Never Too Hungover, although I might have gone with the more lyrical HurlNoMore), so it’s not like their hearts aren’t a place close to the mythical “right place.”

But it does beg the question, “Why don’t they just give $160,000 and skip the scam?” Because it wasn’t about charity, it was about promotion, and while there’s nothing wrong with promotion, attaching it to one of the seediest carnival events of the modern era makes it seem, well, kind of creepy.

Or maybe “creepy” is too strong. Maybe’s it’s just opportunism, which is more, well, Vegas-y.

Kings fans will remember the Maloofs as the family that saved the foundering team from the clutches of owner Jim Thomas, and then remember them as the family whose clutches Vivek Ranadive had to save the team from 15 years later. It’s the nature of most ownerships – you do good to eliminate a prior evil, and eventually become evil yourselves when the fans turn on you.

But the Maloofs aren’t evil – even their most strident critics will say that. They just saw an opportunity to scratch a bunch of itches at once – good-heartedness, advertising, gambling and Vegas’ most important product – selling you things you could never imagine wanting.

It almost makes you wonder if they harbor a secret itch to take the $160,000 and double down on behalf of the charities for another of their pet projects – the Vegas Golden Knights. If they put it on the Knights to win the Stanley Cup at 200-1, that’s $32,000,000. Then if they took that and . . .

. . . and before you know it, they’re trapped in the fantasyland of Las Vegas at its weirdest. Maybe it’s just performance art with more money than most of us can eat.

Top seven Kings' games to watch during 2017-18 season

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USATSI

Top seven Kings' games to watch during 2017-18 season

The Sacramento Kings released their 2017-18 schedule Friday afternoon. While the league has added 10 days to the calendar, the Kings schedule is still packed with 16 sets of back-to-backs and a season-long six game road trip during the month of January. It’s a whirlwind of excitement that begins October 18 with at the Golden 1 Center. Here are seven games to look forward to as the Kings embark on their 33rd season in Sacramento.

Opening night 2017-18 - October 18 - Kings v. Rockets - Hope spring eternal with the tip off of another season of Kings basketball. Of the 17 players expected on the opening day roster, 10 are new to the team, including De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Vince Carter and George Hill. It’s a young an exciting squad with only five players with more than two seasons of NBA experience. The Kings open their schedule at home against James Harden, Chris Paul and high-powered Houston Rockets.

DeMarcus Cousins comes home - October 26 - Kings v. Pelicans - After 6-plus seasons in a Kings uniform, the 3-time All-Star returns to Sacramento for his first game from the visitors locker room. He’ll bring along another familiar face in former Kings point guard Rajon Rondo, who inked a one-year deal in New Orleans over the summer. Expect a ton of emotion, both from Cousins and a packed full house of Kings fans.

The Process vs. The Rebuild - November 9 - Kings v. 76ers - The 76ers have spent the last decade working on a plan to accumulate great young players while piling up losses at an alarming pace. Sacramento pulled the plug on the DeMarcus Cousins experience, instead choosing to go with a full youth movement. Fultz vs. Fox will headline the night, but there is plenty of intrigue as two of the youngest teams in the NBA battle it out.

Fox vs. Ball - November 22 - Kings v. Lakers - The rivalry between these two young guards is only going to get better with age. Fox likely won’t start the season with the first unit, like Ball, but he’ll get plenty of opportunity to shine. For better or worse, it’s Ball’s show in LA. Let the trash talking begin.

Rudy Gay makes his return - December 23 - Kings v. Spurs - Rudy Gay took a huge gamble and an even bigger pay cut when he opted out of the final year of his contract with the Kings. He and his rebuilt Achilles tendon  landed in San Antonio on a two-year, $17 million deal. He’ll likely play for a playoff spot for only the second time in his 11-year career.

Dennis Smith visits Sacramento - February 3 - Kings v. Mavericks - The Kings jumped all over the chance to draft De’Aaron Fox with the fifth overall selection and in doing so, they passed on another incredibly talented young guard in Dennis Smith. Dallas may have stumbled on a superstar and Smith likely has a list of all of the teams that passed him over in the 2017 NBA Draft.

The Champs come to play - February 4 - Kings v. Warriors - The Warriors and Kings have taken turns being awful over the last 30-plus years. While the Kings are predicted to miss the playoffs for the 12th straight season, Golden State is the odds on favorite to take home their third ring in four years.With just 90 miles separating the two fanbases, it should be an interesting mix of purple and yellow in the crowd.

Here's the Kings' full 2017-18 schedule: