Kings limp into Denver looking for an upset

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Kings limp into Denver looking for an upset

KINGS (2-4) vs.
DENVER (4-2)
6 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California (CSN Plus -- blackouts may apply)
(APCSN) -- The Denver Nuggets played well in their back-to-back-to-back stretch. The Sacramento Kings are hoping things start looking up after a rough start to theirs.The Nuggets will try to keep their perfect home record intact when they face the Kings on Wednesday night.Denver (4-2) opened a stretch of three games in three nights with a 92-89 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, but bounced back with a 99-90 win over the Lakers the following night before recording a 91-86 victory over Milwaukee on Monday.The Nuggets, playing without starting forward Nene (bruised heel), showed signs of fatigue, shooting 39.8 percent while committing 16 turnovers, but outscored the Bucks 23-12 in the fourth quarter.Danilo Gallinari finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Ty Lawson had 16 points and six assists."They didn't look like they had three games in three nights," Milwaukee's Stephen Jackson said. "That says a lot about how good of shape they're in, and they didn't have Nene, so you've got to credit them for that."
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The win was Denver's third in as many home games this season. They shut down the Bucks in the fourth quarter after holding the Lakers to 19 points in the final period on Sunday. Those teams shot a combined 40.9 percent and were 9 of 42 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range."In the fourth quarter it's very easy to find extra energy," Gallinari said of feeding off the crowd. "You have a tight game, you want to win, especially at home."Gallinari has elevated his play of late, collecting 41 points, 14 rebounds and five steals in the last two games. He had 34 points and 14 boards in his three previous contests.The Nuggets may need another big game from him if Nene is sidelined again Wednesday, although Al Harrington has been playing effectively off the bench. He had 17 points and eight boards Monday and is averaging 15.7 points and 6.5 rebounds.Like Denver, Sacramento (2-4) began its back-to-back-to-back series with a 113-96 loss to Memphis on Tuesday, but it could have a tougher time bouncing back.
REWIND: Cousins comes off the bench, Kings lose to Memphis 113-96
The Kings were outscored 31-17 in the first quarter, shooting 5 of 20. Rookie Jimmer Fredette scored a season-high 17 points, shooting 4 of 6 from 3-point range, while J.J. Hickson contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds.DeMarcus Cousins came off the bench and had four points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. Cousins was told on Sunday to stay away from the team by coach Paul Westphal after demanding a trade.
This is what Westphal told the media on New Years day:
"When a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwillingunable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely. DeMarcus Cousins has demanded to be traded. In the best interest of our team as we go forward, he has been directed by me, with the support of management, to stay at home from the New Orleans game."
REWIND: Kings: Cousins demands trade Cousins says he didn't demand trade
So, has the situation been resolved?
"I wouldn't say it's resolved," Westphal said before Tuesday's game. "We will see how it plays out. I think DeMarcus has to continue to show maturity and a desire to go the same direction as his teammates. We're all hoping that happens."Cousins is third on the team with 11.2 points per game and adds 10.6 rebounds.
Sacramento will close this three-game stretch Thursday against Milwaukee. The Kings starters should be rested after Westphal pulled most of them early Tuesday. No starter played more than 27 minutes.The Kings have lost four of five overall against the Nuggets and five straight in Denver since a 118-115 win on April 5, 2008.
The Associated Press contributed to this report

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.