Spoilers? Kings look to do damage in Indy

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Spoilers? Kings look to do damage in Indy

March 25, 2011

KINGS (18-52) vs.
INDIANA (32-40)

Coverage begins at 4 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

INDIANA (AP) -- Tyler Hansbrough's return to the starting lineup has helped the Indiana Pacers build a sizable lead for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth.

RELATED: NBA conference standings

It's Danny Granger, though, who has excelled in recent matchups with the Sacramento Kings.

The Pacers will try to take another step toward ending their playoff drought Friday night by topping the visiting Kings, who could get leading scorer Tyreke Evans back from injury.

Hansbrough's late season surge began during the Pacers' six-game slide earlier this month. To shake his team out of that slump, interim coach Frank Vogel inserted the second-year forward into the starting five March 9.

That move paid dividends four days later as Hansbrough scored a team-high 29 points in a 106-93 win at New York. He followed with a career-best 30 in the finale of a home-and-home series, and he's averaged 21.0 points and 7.6 rebounds over the past 10 games.

REWIND: Granger, Hansbrough lead Pacers past Knicks

"He's given us a huge lift," Vogel said. "He's one of the big reasons why since I took over that I believe that this team can make a serious run. ... I've got a great deal of confidence in that young man, and he's shown that he can really play."

With Hansbrough's help, the Pacers (32-40) have won five of seven, and he scored 24 points in a pivotal 111-88 rout of Charlotte on Wednesday.

Granger led the way with 33 points as Indiana extended its lead on eighth place in the East to three games over the Bobcats and Milwaukee. Indiana also got some help from Sacramento, which prevailed 97-90 over the Bucks on Wednesday.

REWIND: Kings triumph over Delfino, Bucks

"We want to go into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NBA," Vogel said. "We're excited about the last 10 games. These guys are hungry. They're motivated.

"We know how close we are. We all want it very badly."

With Granger's help, the Pacers could move closer to their goal. Indiana's leading scorer has averaged 34.5 points in his last four games against the Kings (18-52), and he had a season-high 37 in a 107-98 win in Sacramento on Nov. 30 despite suffering from the flu.

Evans missed 10 of 14 shots in that game while finishing with 16 points. He has been sidelined since Feb. 13 due to plantar fasciitis, but the 2010 rookie of the year might see action Friday.

"It will be great to have him back," guard Beno Udrih said. "It will be interesting to see how (Coach Paul Westphal) is going to divide up the minutes."

RELATED: Kings stats

Udrih scored 25 points and Marcus Thornton had a team-best 27 in Wednesday's victory, which came two days after a 40-point drubbing at Chicago.

Since coming over in a trade with New Orleans on Feb. 23, Thornton has averaged 21.8 points in 15 games with the Kings. He averaged 7.8 in 46 contests with the Hornets.

"Mixing Tyreke in there gives us a very strong backcourt rotation," Westphal said. "The way Beno and Marcus are playing, it shows we have a chance to have a really, really good backcourt."

Indiana is seeking its third consecutive win at Conseco Fieldhouse against Sacramento and fifth in six overall matchups.

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the All-Star big man to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. 
#LoyaltyisLove #sactownkingforever

Cousins, 26, averaged 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 34.4 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. #LoyaltyisLove

A post shared by DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) on