Kings fall to the Blazers 109-91

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Kings fall to the Blazers 109-91

BOX SCORE

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Trail Blazers wanted to put Sunday's loss to Sacramento behind them as quickly as possible.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and the Blazers beat the Kings 109-91 Wednesday night to earn their revenge.

"The way we played (three) days ago wasn't us," said Nicolas Batum, who had 18 points for Portland. "We wanted to get back on track against this team. It was so good to beat them in a big way."

J.J. Hickson added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Blazers, who built a double-digit lead in the second quarter and then ran away from the Kings, leading by as many as 26 points. Rookie point guard Damian Lillard had 17 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

John Salmons led the Kings with 19 points. Reserve Isaiah Thomas had 12 points and Jason Thompson added 11. The Kings are 1-12 on the road this season - the only win coming Dec. 8 against the Blazers.

Portland has won nine of its last 10 games at home. The Blazers tied up the season series with the Kings after losing to them 108-96 on Sunday in Sacramento, which snapped the Blazers' five-game winning streak. Sacramento shot 56 percent from the field in that game, but after a good start Wednesday, went cold and shot just 40 percent for the game.

"We knew we got away from it in Sacramento," Lillard said. "We focused more on defense. The last game, we just lost it. They took us to the rim and got what they wanted on offense. We just had to make a point to play better defense."

Sacramento took a pounding in the post without leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins, who did not make the trip despite being reinstated from an indefinite suspension.

Cousins had been suspended after an argument with coach Keith Smart during halftime of a game Friday. Cousins missed Sunday's game, but practiced Monday after the suspension was lifted. Still, Smart chose to keep him home Wednesday. Without him, the Kings were outrebounded 53-35.

"Obviously, everyone played well at home and we didn't have that tonight," Smart said. "They rebounded the ball well and got out on the fast break."

The Blazers took a 62-44 lead into halftime after an electrifying first half in which they shot 57 percent. The game was tied at 37 in the second quarter but Sacramento's turnovers and defensive breakdowns allowed Portland to go on a 25-7 run into halftime, punctuated by rim-shaking dunks by Hickson, Lillard and rookie center Meyers Leonard.

"They just got going and it's hard to stop a team that gets it going at home," Thomas said. "Especially when they have shooters and guys that can go to the hole and dunk."

Notes: The Kings have lost seven of their last nine in Portland. . . . Sacramento G Tyreke Evans sat out for the fifth straight game with a sore left knee that has kept him out of 10 games this season. . . . Portland was playing without G Wesley Matthews, who has missed two straight with a hip injury. . . . Hickson has nine straight double-doubles, the most for a Blazer since Kermit Washington in 1980.

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.