Kings

NBA Gameday: Kings visit Westbrook, Thunder looking for third straight win

NBA Gameday: Kings visit Westbrook, Thunder looking for third straight win

The Sacramento Kings are back at it Saturday afternoon, looking for their third straight win. They’ll face MVP candidate Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in the first game of a back-to-back.

Skal Labissiere took a major step forward in his development in the Kings last game, dropping in a career-high 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting to go with 11 rebounds. The smooth shooting rookie out of the University of Kentucky is blossoming since the All-Star break and looking to build off his recent success.

The Thunder are in the thick of the playoff chase. They currently sit in the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff chase, but they trail the Los Angeles Clippers by just a half game for fifth in the standings with just 14 games remaining in the season.

OPENING LINE

Thunder by 12.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Skal Labissiere vs. Domantas Sabonis -- Neither of these rookies may start the game, but expect Labissiere to get plenty of playing time after his breakout performance against the Suns. Sabonis started the first 64 games of the year for OKC, but has given way to veteran Taj Gibson over the last four contests. Taken with the 11th overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, Sabonis is a highly skilled stretch four with range. Dave Joerger likes to match up his young players against players with similar experience. Expect these two to see a lot of each other in the Saturday matinee.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 27-41, third place in Pacific

Thunder: 39-29, second place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: SF Tyreke Evans (sore left ankle) out, Arron Afflalo (personal - not with team) out, Ben McLemore (personal - not with team) out, SG Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) out, F Rudy Gay (torn left Achilles) out for season.

Thunder: No injuries to report.

SERIES HISTORY

The season series between these two teams is knotted at 1-1 after the Thunder took down the Kings at Chesapeake Energy on Jan. 15. The Thunder hold a 141-85 all-time lead over the Kings and an 84-49 advantage in the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE

“I just want to give glory to God, that was him out there. 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.” -Labissiere after his big game against the Phoenix Suns

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.