Kings

Labissiere goes off, gives Kings promise for future

Labissiere goes off, gives Kings promise for future

Sacramento Kings fans need a little ray of hope, something to pin their dreams to after the trade of DeMarcus Cousins over All-Star weekend. Wednesday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, a 6-foot-11 rookie reached into the sky and single handedly pushed the dark clouds to the side. 

Skal Labissiere sold some jerseys in Sacramento’s 107-101 win over the Suns. His 32-point, 11-rebound performance has the NBA buzzing and even the broadcast team got caught up in the moment.

“Can the guys shoot 3s?” long time play-by-play announcer Grant Napear asked on the telecast as Labissiere rose up from behind the arc in the fourth quarter. “YES. HE. CAN. Oh boy! Fasten your seatbelts, the Skal Labissiere era is underway in Sacramento!”

The Kings have taken a cautious approach to bringing along the 20-year-old big out of Haiti, but they are quickly realizing they stumbled upon a gold mine. Labissiere has a million dollar smile, an incredible story of survival, and he might just have the game to tie it all together. 

“I just want to give glory to God, that was him out there,” the humble Labissiere told CSN California’s Kayte Christensen. “I spent a lot of time before the game in prayer and came out here and just played. I just played hard and my teammates did a really good at finding me. Coach put me in a good situation to succeed.”

Coach Dave Joerger used restraint in bringing along all of the Kings’ rookies this season. Labissiere played 17 games with the Reno Bighorns of the D-League early in the year, but since the trade of Cousins, the Kings have shifted into rebuild mode. 

Development coach Larry Lewis and the rest of the coaching staff have worked tirelessly to bring the Kings’ young core along. Labissiere needed to learn how to play through contact and he has stacked on muscle to his lanky frame in order to compete. He’s still a work in progress, but his 21-point fourth quarter shows that he might be something special. 

“It’s Skal’s night,” fellow rookie Buddy Hield said. “Skal’s doing things. I’m happy to see Skal playing with a lot of confidence. He’s got a lot of potential and I just can’t wait to see what other great things God has in store for him.”

Even the veterans were caught off guard by the eruption from one of their rookies. Garrett Temple was so focused on shutting down sharpshooter Devin Booker that he didn’t even notice that Labissiere had posted his first 30-point game of his career until late in the game.

“He’s always been a confident guy, the thing with Skal is he’s so quiet, so humble, you don’t see it until he gets in between those lines,” Temple said. “We thrive on his energy, everybody loves to see him play well.”

With his teammates feeding him on almost every possession down the stretch, the former University of Kentucky big answered the call. He shot an impressive 11-for-15 from the field and knocked down 9-of-11 from the line in a career-high 30 minutes of action.

“He just knows he can play the game,” Temple added. “He puts in the work and he trusts himself, he trusts his work.”

The hype will build from here, which will likely make life more difficult on Labissiere. The Suns aren’t known for their defensive prowess and the Kings rookie spent plenty of time matched up against a fellow 2016 draftee in Marquese Chriss. Chriss, a Sacramento-native who is far from a lockdown defender in his first season in the league, was clearly overmatched. 

It was Labissiere’s night, but plenty of other Kings contributed as Sacramento picked up their second straight victory. Willie Cauley-Stein stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, four steals and four blocks. Arron Afflalo added 14 points and Temple helped hold Booker to just 6-of-26 shooting on the night. 

More to the story

It was Labissiere’s party, but there was a another member of the Kings organization that had a big night on Wednesday. General manager Vlade Divac has taken a beating for plenty of his decisions since taking over the Kings’ front office a little under two years ago. 

One of those decisions was to trade the No. 8 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft for the No. 13, No. 28 and the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Suns selected Chriss at No. 8 and he’s started 61 games in his rookie season for Phoenix. With the 13th overall selection, Divac chose Georgios Papagiannis, who has played very sparingly in his rookie campaign and is considered a project. 

Divac backed that pick up by taking Labissiere with the No. 28 pick. After watching the two go head-to-head, there is no question that Labissiere is further along in his development and the argument could be made that he also has a much higher ceiling than Chriss. 

The trade will take a few more years to fully evaluate, but the early returns are good for Divac and his staff. 

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'

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AP

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'

Some professional athletes take a stand by kneeling on the sidelines or raising a fist into the air. Some write succinct tweets expressing their dismay with the current political climate in the United States of America. Others just get right to the point with a poignant off the cuff statement to a waiting camera.

Former Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins has certainly mastered the art of the cryptic tweet, but he’s also never been one to shy away from a direct question when asked. When an inquiry was thrown his direction about confederate statues in New Orleans and his home state of Alabama, Cousins was brief with his words, but very clear.

"Take all them mother****ers down," Cousins told TMZ while navigating a security line at the airport. "Take 'em all down.”

Cousins may not have chosen the most eloquent words, but his point of view is shared by plenty of others. He isn’t the first athlete to take a stand with regards to race in America over the last week as racial tensions have spilled out into the streets in Charlottesville, Virginia. Social media is filled with professional athletes adding their thoughts to the conversation.

The Warriors’ Kevin Durant has made it clear that he will not visit the White House and President Donald Trump, a visit most teams make following an NBA championship.

"Nah, I won't do that," the 8-time All-Star told ESPN on Thursday. "I don't respect who's in office right now.”

"I don't agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” Durant continued. “That's just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they'll all agree with me."

Garrett Temple has used Twitter to make his thoughts known as well. Recently named the Kings’ Players Voice Teammate of the Year by the National Basketball Players Association, Temple has used his position as an NBA player to speak out multiple times.

Over the last week, he’s fielded questions and had plenty of discussions through social media on the issues of race and equality. His Twitter timeline is littered with thoughtful replies and some not so thoughtful ideas as well. Plenty of fans thanking him for using his position to further the conversation and of course, there is the occasional, “stick to sports” comment.

Agree or disagree, today’s athletes have huge platforms to share their opinions. From Cousins to Temple, there are varying degrees of engagement, but the time of players staying out of the discussion is long gone.

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.