Youth movement on full display in Kings' skid-busting win vs Magic

Youth movement on full display in Kings' skid-busting win vs Magic

SACRAMENTO -- With playoff chances a distant memory, fans want to see the young players take the court. That is exactly what they got Monday night at Golden 1 Center. The Kings rested four of their veterans, leaving two rookies and a second-year player to start. Somehow the still found a way to drop a sputtering Orlando Magic team by a final of 120-115.

“We needed it for sure,” rookie guard Buddy Hield said of the win. “Confidence, that’s all we needed, this helps with our confidence. As a young team, you just want to keep your head down all the time, you want to keep building.”

Hield scored 17 points with a variety of runners in the lane and a pair of 3-pointers. In 10 games with the Kings, he’s posted double-digit scoring all but once and he is averaging 14.2 points per game.

Second-year big Willie Cauley-Stein destroyed the Magic’s frontline in the pick-and-roll. The 7-footer finished with 18 points on 9-of-16 shooting and added seven rebounds. Since the All-Star break, Cauley-Stein is averaging 13.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for Dave Joerger.

Forward Skal Labissiere’s length and athleticism were on full display as the 20-year-old big flew all over the court in his 20 minutes of action. He went toe-to-toe with one of the most athletic players in the game in Aaron Gordon and came away with 11 points, seven rebounds and a career-high four blocks.

“I like playing with him, he makes good plays and he’s young, so he’s going to learn not to make the bonehead plays,” Cauley-Stein said of his fellow Kentucky alum. “We all go through it. Once he gets that under his belt, he’s going to be a hell of a player in this league.”

Even seldom used rookie, Georgios Papagiannis held his own in a career-high 12 minutes of action.

With just nine players in uniform, it took a team effort for Sacramento to snap their eight-game losing streak. While the young players were on full display, the five healthy veterans that saw action also helped out.

“It’s a good group and they get along and they go play hard,” Joerger said during post game.”That’s kind of the identity that we’re hoping to have going forward. Whoever plays, this is how we do it here. We have great fans, a wonderful arena and we go out and and we play really hard.”

Seven players scored in double-figures for Sacramento. It was a free flowing offensive explosion, that included 16 made 3-pointers and a stellar 53.7 percent shooting percentage overall.

Darren Collison broke down the Magic defense and found Cauley-Stein for dunks at the rim. It was the second game of 10 or more assists in the last three contests for the Kings starting point guard. He’s building a chemistry with Cauley-Stein on the floor that wasn’t there early in the season.

“That’s that trust,” Cauley-Stein said. “Whenever you need an outlet, throw that thing to the rim, I’m going to go get it. I’m not going to let you get a turnover.”

When Orlando took away the roll option, Collison found the Kings’ perimeter players for open 3-pointers. The veteran point guard finished the night with 19 points, 13 assists and three steals.

“Offensively, we did a great job of spreading the ball around and helping each other score,” Garrett Temple said.

Veteran power forward Anthony Tolliver got hot from long range, hitting 5-of-7 from deep for 19 points. Temple knocked down two 3-pointers as well on his way to 14 points. Ben McLemore hit 3-of-6 from long range for 14 points and Langston Galloway came off the Kings bench to drop in two makes from behind the arc.

With the win, the Kings improved to 26-41 on the season. The losing streak is in the rear window and they take their show on the road beginning Wednesday in Phoenix. With only 15 games remaining in the season, the youth movement is in full-effect in Sacramento.

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.