Kings take on surging Bucks

monta_ellis_bucks_.jpg

Kings take on surging Bucks

Programming note: Kings-Bucks coverage kicks off at 5 p.m. today on Comcast SportsNet California (territorial restrictions apply)

(AP) -- With another strong offensive performance from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, the Milwaukee Bucks should have a good chance to match their longest winning streak of the season Wednesday night.

The backcourt duo can help the Bucks to a third consecutive victory as they try to avoid a third straight loss to the visiting Sacramento Kings.

Jennings scored 26 points and Ellis added 24 as the pair went 16 of 32 from the field Sunday to help Milwaukee (10-9) to a 97-88 win at Brooklyn. The guards outscored the Nets' star backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson by two striaght games. 26 points and combined to record eight steals.

"It was just another game," said Ellis, who shot a season-high 61.5 percent (8 of 13). "It just happened me (and Jennings) came out wanting to play hard."

While Ellis (18.7 points per game) and Jennings (17.2) are shooting a combined 40.2 percent, they remain the two most explosive offensive options for a Bucks team that has only one other player averaging double-figure points. Although their scoring has been comparable in wins and losses, the two are shooting 42.8 percent during the Bucks' victories and 37.7 percent in their defeats.

"It's the nature of our team; when Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are playing well, we usually win," coach Scott Skiles said.

The Bucks are playing well enough for a shot at matching their three-game winning streak from Nov. 12-17. Milwaukee also is trying for a season-high third consecutive victory at the Bradley Center, where it has held its last two opponents to an average of 90.5 points on 42.9 percent shooting - 9 of 32 (28.1 percent) from 3-point range.

Jennings was held to six points in a 97-90 loss to the Kings in their last visit to Milwaukee on March 23, 2011, and his 31 weren't enough in a 103-100 defeat at Sacramento last season.

The Kings (7-13) had their season-high three-game winning streak end with a 119-96 loss at Dallas on Monday. That defeat came two nights after Sacramento posted its first road win, 99-80 at Portland.

Playing a third consecutive game without injured guard Tyreke Evans, the Kings trailed 65-43 at halftime and allowed the Mavericks to shoot 55.2 percent overall. DeMarcus Cousins and Francisco Garcia each scored 25 points for Sacramento, which had yielded 87.3 points per game on 39.0 percent shooting during the three straight victories.

Garcia has received sporadic playing time this season but has totaled 37 points over the last two games while starting in place of Evans, who remains day to day with a sore knee that has sidelined him for five of the last six contests. Garcia went 7 of 12 from 3-point range against the Mavericks.

"You find someone that works hard enough to try and steal minutes, and obviously he has done that," coach Keith Smart said. "He's shooting the ball well right now."

Sacramento guard Marcus Thornton has totaled 24 points in his last four games while shooting 7 of 29 (24.1 percent), but he's scored 27 in each of the last two meetings with Milwaukee.

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.