Lin's 13 assists lead Knicks past Kings 100-85

672826.jpg

Lin's 13 assists lead Knicks past Kings 100-85

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Not needed to save the Knicks again, Jeremy Lin grabbed a spot on the bench next to Carmelo Anthony in the third quarter and shared a laugh with the injured All-Star."We were just having fun and kind of talking about how we're both excited for when he comes back," Lin said.Hey Melo, no need to rush. Lin and the Knicks just keep on winning.

Lin put aside his record-setting scoring to hand out a career-best 13 assists, and New York got back to .500 with its seventh straight victory, 100-85 over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.Lin added 10 points, focusing more on his role as a distributor while others torched the Kings for 51 percent shooting. Landry Fields had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Bill Walker and Steve Novak each chipped in 14 points as the Knicks put seven players in double figures for the first time since April 5, 2009, at Toronto."As a point guard, my field goal attempts have been really high and I don't think that's necessarily good," Lin said. "I think it's more of my job to distribute and get people in rhythm."Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts, most by any NBA player since the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976. His 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left Tuesday allowed the Knicks to pull out a 90-87 victory in a game they trailed nearly the whole way.The Knicks (15-15) led this one almost throughout, evening their record for the first time since they were 6-6 after a loss to Oklahoma City on Jan. 14. They host hapless New Orleans on Friday, hoping Anthony will return from a strained right groin.Lin, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, played 26 minutes before checking out for good late in the third quarter."We wanted to be aggressive, make it hard for (Lin), but he still ran the team and got assists," Sacramento's Tyreke Evans said. "They made shots. It seemed like they were making everything tonight."Evans scored 19 points for the Kings, who had won four in a row in New York. DeMarcus Cousins added 15 but shot only 7 of 18 and grabbed just four rebounds.Already the NBA's biggest story, Linsanity had peaked about 24 hours earlier with the former Harvard guard's winner in Toronto. The shot was replayed on the overhead video board at the Garden, triggering a huge ovation as if it had just happened live.But Lin would have few other scoring highlights, taking only six shots.Fans, quite a few wearing Lin's jerseys or holding masks of his face, loved it anyway. They chanted "MVP! MVP!" as he was interviewed on the court after the game and held up signs such as "Lin Your Face," "Linderella," and - of course - "Marry Me Jeremy.""It's crazy. Thank you for the energy as always," he said to the crowd.Then he was peppered with an array of questions usually reserved for superstars, from his thoughts about President Barack Obama watching him, to whether it was time to get a new haircut.But for Lin, the only focus is basketball."I knew him before he was Linmania. He's still the same humble guy," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "The guy has not changed a bit, which is real special for a young man."Lin played last season in Golden State for Smart, who praised Lin's work ethic and attitude, but never imagined "the perfect storm" that would lead to these results."It's good Monday morning quarterbacks are here now, but no one could have predicted this guy being this big in this place here," Smart said before the game.Lin opened the game with a three-point play, giving him nine straight points dating to late Tuesday, but passed more than shot as the Knicks scored easily in the first half. Lin beat the defense with penetration and dishes to shooters, or by throwing lob passes over the top.The Knicks led 25-17 after one quarter, then blew it open late in the second. Novak converted a four-point play, Lin hooked up with Fields for an alley-oop dunk, then made a free throw to cap a run of seven straight points and make it an 18-point game. The Knicks closed the scoring when Lin drove and threw a wraparound pass to Tyson Chandler for a dunk with 1.7 seconds left, extending it to 54-36."I just thought we played really exceptionally well the first quarter," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Just the ball was moving, every time we drew up a play they ran it perfectly. Every time I think there was an opportunity to make a great pass, they did it."Lin had six points and nine assists in the first half. He found Fields for a layup that made it a 25-point game early in the third, and the Knicks coasted from there.Notes: Kings rookie guard Isaiah Thomas was booed when his name was announced after checking in late in the first quarter. The names are pronounced the same, but he's not related to former Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas. "I knew it was going to happen here," Thomas said. "I was expecting something. Spike Lee told me next time you come to New York, you better change your name." ... The Knicks last won seven in a row near the end of last season. ... Former vice president Al Gore and ex-heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson were at the game.

Kings searching for balance without DeMarcus Cousins

Kings searching for balance without DeMarcus Cousins

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings looked every bit the part of a team trying to reinvent itself on the fly Monday evening when the Minnesota Timberwolves rolled through Golden 1 Center. It wasn’t pretty. A young and athletic T-Wolves club ran circles around the home team, coming away with a 102-88 victory.

There is a gaping hole in the middle of the Kings rotation left by the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans. Sacramento doesn’t have another 28 points per game scorer on the roster. If they have a chance to compete on a nightly basis, it will take a team effort, but also a player or two stepping out of their comfort zone and into a feature role.

“It’s going to take some time,” Darren Collison said. “It’s always going to take an adjustment period when you have a situation like this.”

Sacramento has had very little time to practice as a unit. They’ve played just three games together and had varying degrees of success. They are using stripped down offensive sets to simplify things and the defensive rotations are still a work in progress.

“I don’t feel that the comfort level is there 100 percent yet and it shows a little bit,” Kosta Koufos said.

It’s going to be a process as coach Dave Joerger tries to work newcomers Tyreke Evans and Buddy Hield into the rotation, as well as rookie Skal Labissiere, who has spent most of the season with the Reno Bighorns.

“That was a welcome to the NBA moment for me, it just shows you that anything can happen at anytime,” Labissiere said of the trade. “Everything is still pretty new to me. I’m shocked by it, but things happen, that’s the nature of the game.”

Joerger is trying to balance a game plan for his regulars and then pepper in players that don’t know the plays. So far it’s been a roller coaster ride for everyone involved.

“Our problem right now is trying to figure out the best way to move forward on a consistent basis and have more continuity,” Collison said. “There’s nothing you can do about that. We’ve just got to continue to help each other, figure out how we’re going to play together.”

As one of the primary ball handlers, Collison is still getting used to playing without Cousins, like the rest of the team. The star big not only led the Kings in points and rebounds, but also assists. Collison was the beneficiary of plenty of those passes from Cousins and the big man’s presence on the floor opened up driving lanes and spacing for Collison to work.

Willie Cauley-Stein is quickly learning that carrying the scoring load night in and night out is much more difficult than it looks. Like many of his teammates, he hasn’t been a primary scoring option for an NBA team, let alone a player that the entire offense runs through.

“This is the first time in my whole life I’ve been in this position, but this is one of the things I’ve been wanting to do my whole life, so it’s lit,” Cauley-Stein said.

The second-year center spent three years at Kentucky playing second fiddle to players like Towns and Lakers power forward Julius Randle. Cauley-Stein posted 29 points in his first game without Cousins, but just two points in Sacramento’s next contest following the trade. In game three, Cauley-Stein found a happy medium.

The 7-footer managed to drop in 14 points, six rebounds and five assists against the T-Wolves. He’s a quick learner, but trying to replace a player like Cousins, who boasted the league’s second highest usage rate (37.5 percent) is an incredibly tall order.

Patience is needed, but also a little bit of perspective. Dealing a franchise cornerstone in the middle of a season left a void in the center of the Kings’ universe. The race to fill the loss will likely take a lot more than the 22 games remaining on the schedule.

Sacramento will get another chance to pick up a win Wednesday when the Brooklyn Nets swing by Golden 1 Center. They sport the NBA’s worst record, but they are catching a Kings team in a major state of flux.

Kings could lose 2017 first-round pick obtained in Cousins trade

Kings could lose 2017 first-round pick obtained in Cousins trade

The highly touted 2017 NBA Draft is four months away and the Sacramento Kings have gone from a team with no stake in the conversation to a franchise with plenty of possibilities. Like everything else in Sacramento, it’s complicated. The Kings could have zero, one or two first round picks in the upcoming draft.

Kings Pick

All the way back on June 30 of 2011, Geoff Petrie dealt a protected first round pick (2012-2017) along with Omri Casspi to the Cleveland Cavaliers for power forward J.J. Hickson. Hickson didn’t even make it through the season with the Kings. After attempting to deal him at the trade deadline and finding no takers, Petrie waived Hickson on March 12, 2012.

The Cavs used the pick as part of a larger package to obtain forward Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 6, 2014. Chicago has waited patiently to use the pick, but per the original trade, if the selection falls in the Top 10 this season (post lottery), it is not relayed this season and it becomes a protected second round pick. If the pick falls in the between selections 56-60 (mathematically unlikely at this point), the Kings keep the second round pick as well and the original trade is satisfied.

To complicate matters, if the pick falls between 1-10 this season and the Kings retain the selection, the Philadelphia 76ers have the right to swap picks. The pick swap stems from the July 9, 2015 trade that sent Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Nik Stauskas, a protected first round selection (now an unprotected 2019 first round selection) and the rights to swap picks in 2016 and 2017 for the rights to Arturas Gudaitis, Luka Mitrovic and a future second round pick. The Sixers currently have the fifth worst record in the NBA.

What does it mean?

If the Kings make the playoffs, the pick is instantly relayed to the Chicago Bulls. If the Kings miss the playoffs, but land 11, 12, 13 or 14 in the draft following the lottery, the Bulls get the pick. If Sacramento lands anywhere in the Top 10 following the lottery, they retain the pick, but the Sixers have the opportunity to swap selections.

Pelicans Pick

On Feb 20, 2017, the Kings traded All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins, along with forward Omri Casspi (again) to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a protected first round selection and the Philadelphia 76ers 2017 second round pick.

The protections are a bit complicated on the Pelicans first round pick. If New Orleans makes the playoffs, the Kings instantly take the pick. If the Pelicans miss the playoffs and go into the lottery, the Kings are safe in 2017, as long as they don’t win the lottery and move into the top three spots.

If the Pelicans move into the top three in 2017 and keep the pick, it becomes a Top 1 protected pick for the next three seasons. In the nearly impossible scenario that the Pelicans draw a top three pick in 2017 and then follow that up with three straight no. 1 overall selections, the Kings receive the Timberwolves 2021 pick.

What does it all mean?

New Orleans currently sports the NBA’s sixth worst record and they trail the Denver Nuggets by 3.5 games for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race. If the season were to end today, they would fall in the middle of the lottery. As long as the Pelicans don’t move into the Top 3, Sacramento gets the pick. If they win one of the top three picks, there is a high likelihood that the Kings will receive the selection in 2018.