Jimmermania begins in Sacramento

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Jimmermania begins in Sacramento

The Kings opened their shortened training camp this past Saturday with former BYU sensation and first-round draft pick Jimmer Fredette as the star attraction.

Fredette joins a backcourt with tremendous scoring potential as former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans and volume scorer Marcus Thornton are preparing to do damage in their first full season together.

Just this offseason, Sacramento was in jeopardy of losing the team when owners Joe and Gavin Maloof threatened to relocate to Anaheim. Instead, the city rallied around the slogan "Here We Build," raising over 800K towards a new arena and delaying the process until at least March. At the same time, the team brought in through the draft the cult-phenomenon college player from BYU.
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Hundreds of fans greeted Fredette's arrival at the airport over the summer after the Kings acquired him in a draft-day trade with the Bucks. Thousands flocked to a pep rally soon after, including an abnormally large number of television cameras, which doesn't faze Jimmer.

"I got more used to it toward the middle to the end of the season. There were a lot more people wanting interviews, it felt like more of an NBA atmosphere with all the media attention I was getting," Fredette said. "I think that will help with the transition to the NBA. Now I just need to transition playing wise."

TV cameras and fans aren't the only ones the No. 10 overall pick is popular with. Second-year big man DeMarcus Cousins said, "Jimmer's my dude. I'm trying to get Jimmer to move in with me."

And head coach Paul Westphal's praise might not be as glorious, but the third-year coach seems to think Fredette will factor into the offense right away. "I think Jimmer's presence, along with John Salmons and Marcus Thornton, all those guys can handle, shoot and pass," Westphal said. "And the more players we have like that, the better it is for Tyreke and for all of our players."

"I have big expectations for myself," Fredette told Jim Kozimor on Kings media day. "It seems like they want me to score the basketball." This statement came minutes after newly-acquired Chuck Hayes told Kozimor he just needs to "do exactly what he did in college -- shoot the ball."

After finishing dead last in the Pacific Division with a record of 24-58, owner Joe Maloof said he is "sure the team will be a lot better than they were last year." Having Jimmer in the fold figures to be a part of that confidence.
Jimmermania begins Saturday when Fredette takes the floor in his first-ever NBA game, an exhibition with the cross-town-rival Golden State Warriors.
Nate Stuhlbarg is a web producer at CSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @StuhlbargCSN.

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Coward move' by Kings owner Ranadive, GM Divac

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Coward move' by Kings owner Ranadive, GM Divac

Last Sunday night, DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the Pelicans.

The move stunned the basketball world and the All-Star big man himself.

After Cousins' debut in a Pelicans uniform on Thursday night, he opened up to Marc Spears of The Undefeated.

"Nah. For what? It was a coward move, so I’m pretty sure I will get a coward response," Cousins said when asked if he wants to talk to Kings owner Vivek Ranadive or GM Vlade Divac. "For what?

"And I’ve seen this happen before. I’ve been there through all same types … I was there with Mike Malone’s. I’ve seen how they operate. I know what kind of answer I will get anyway. So, what is the point?"

Cousins also revealed a story about the Kings telling him he would not be traded.

"A week before the trade," Cousins started. "The sick part about it is that Vlade came in my house with my agent. We sat in my theater and just talked. That was maybe three weeks ago. We sat there and (he) told me what moves he wanted to make. All of that. I just didn’t understand.

"I got a text from the owner right before I went to All-Star. He was asking me about a player, how I felt about him and making a move. The owner! When it happened, I was just in shock. I didn’t understand."

Cousins registered 27 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, five steals and four blocks against the Rockets, but the Pelicans lost by 30.

Cauley-Stein not only Kings player to thrive in first game without Cousins

Cauley-Stein not only Kings player to thrive in first game without Cousins

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings fell behind by eight at the 6:23 mark of the first quarter and the tension inside of Golden 1 Center was palpable. A spattering of boos could be heard from a fanbase that had just watched their franchise cornerstone sent packing over the weekend. The worst fears seemed to be playing out.

And then Willie Cauley-Stein happened.

Head coach Dave Joerger summoned the second-year big man into the game and he responded with a dunk off a Ben McLemore pass. He followed that up with a put back slam and then a driving lay-up and then a 15-foot jumper. By the end of the first quarter, Cauley-Stein had poured in eight points on 4-of-4 shooting and Sacramento held a 29-26 lead.

“He didn’t feel us,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “We didn’t have great execution with our pick-and-roll defense. He got behind us. We weren’t covering the rim. It was easy for him.”

The lanky 7-footer has been waiting for his opportunity and with DeMarcus Cousins now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, he is getting his shot.

Cauley-Stein continued his strong play in the second quarter as the Kings pushed their lead as high as 20. In 15 minutes of action before the break, Cauley-Stein posted 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting. He finished the night with a career-high 29 points and chipped in 10 rebounds in the win, but he wasn’t the only Kings player to post big numbers.

Sacramento used a team effort to pull off a 116-100 shocking victory. Six players scored in double-figures, including rookie Buddy Hield and veteran Tyreke Evans who joined the Kings in the Cousins trade over the weekend.

“Everybody’s unselfish,” Hield said. “When you play unselfish, I feel like everything is possible. Guys aren’t worried about who’s getting the most shots up. It doesn’t matter in this group.”

The rookie out of Oklahoma turned heads in his first appearance in a Kings uniform, scoring 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He knocked down a 3-pointer and showed a pretty tear drop in the lane.  

“Buddy is real confident, especially for a rookie,” point guard Darren Collison said. “He can shoot the ball really well. He can create a little bit off the pick-and-roll and he gets after it on defense too.”

Evans dropped in 15 points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out three assists off Dave Joerger’s bench. This is the second go-around in Sacramento for the former Rookie of the Year and there is a clear need for his ball-handling skills on the current version of the Kings.

In addition to Cauley-Stein, Hield and Evans, seldom used rookie Skal Labissiere put in a solid effort in his 14 minutes of action. The Haitian-born big man will likely play plenty of minutes down the stretch as the Kings adjust to their new, guard heavy roster.

Labissiere brought an energy and excitement to the game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He was active, which the veterans in Sacramento have seen in practice sessions, but Labissiere hasn’t been given the chance in real game action until Thursday night.

“Skal has been working since he got here,” Collison said. “I’ve seen that kid work after the games, in the gym by himself, before practice, after practice, before games, after the games. So it’s good to see that work finally paying off for him.”

Collison added 15 points and 10 assists in 32 minutes. Ty Lawson chipped in eight points and six assists starting alongside Collison and Ben McLemore knocked down two 3-pointers on his way to 10 points.

It was a team effort for a group that has had very little time to gel together. The Kings’ second unit scored an incredible 72 points on the night, outscoring the Nuggets reserves by 28.

With the win, Sacramento moved to within a half game of Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race. They head back to Golden 1 Center on Saturday afternoon for a 2pm start against the Charlotte Hornets who have lost 12 of their last 13 games, including an overtime stunner on Thursday against the Detroit Pistons.