Stuckey too much for Kings in loss to Detroit

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Stuckey too much for Kings in loss to Detroit

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Lawrence Frank loves defense. His Detroit Pistons managed to play just enough of it Friday night.After allowing 88 points through the first three quarters, the Pistons outscored the Sacramento Kings in the fourth to win 114-108."That was fun," Frank said after the Pistons scored 28 points compared to the Kings' 20 in the final quarter. "It wasn't exactly the kind of the grind-it-out defensive epic you used to see here in the 80s, but our guys made just enough stops at the end to win it."

Rodney Stuckey scored a season-high 36 points and rookie Brandon Knight added 23 points and 10 assists."I love playing with Brandon, and he is improving every day," said Stuckey, who missed a career high by four points. "We're going to have a lot of years together, and it is only going to get better."Detroit has won six of its last eight games after a 4-20 start."There's been a lot of improvement since Christmas," Knight said. "Our offense has been pretty good all along, but we're playing a lot better on the defensive end."Tayshaun Prince finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Stuckey was 12 for 20 from the floor and 11 for 12 from the free-throw line."We were getting easy buckets just by pushing the ball," Stuckey said. "We were getting out on the break, Brandon was pushing the ball, and I was getting rim attacks. That's my game."DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 26 points and 15 rebounds, while Marcus Thornton added 24."We did everything well until late in the game," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "We made some critical mistakes - just plays that we're not thinking the game all the way through. This was a tough loss, because we played so great and then gave it right back."The Kings threatened to pull away several times in the first three quarters, but couldn't stop Stuckey. His pair of free throws at the end of the third gave him 31 points and pulled Detroit within 88-86.Knight's layup put the Pistons ahead with 10:15 to play. After the teams traded the advantage several times, the rookie had a three-point play to make it 102-100 Detroit with four minutes left.The Kings scored the next four points, but Knight came through again, hitting a 3-pointer to put the Pistons up 105-104 with 2:17 left.Stuckey followed with a triple of his own on Detroit's next possession to make it a four-point game."That was just great teamwork all around," Knight said. "Tayshaun found me for a 3, and then Body (Ben Wallace) laid two perfect screens to open up the next two baskets. Everyone was doing their thing."Cousins and Knight traded baskets, and the Pistons clinched the game from the free-throw line."That was tough, man," Tyreke Evans said. "We have to learn to clean our game and close teams out. That's what good teams do."Notes: Isaiah Thomas made the first start of his career in the building where his namesake won NBA titles with the Pistons in 1989 and 1990. Thomas finished with 13 points and four assists. Isiah Thomas had 31 points in his first start, back in 1981. ... Cousins decisively won the battle of the second-year post players, as Detroit's Greg Monroe finished with three points and eight rebounds. Cousins was picked fifth and Monroe seventh in the 2010 draft.

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.