Kings look for Tyreke to add some punch

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Kings look for Tyreke to add some punch

(AP) -- The Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors have scuffled in recent years as two of the NBA's worst teams. This season looks no different.

Both will look for improved defense as they try to snap slumps Wednesday night, with the Kings hoping to avoid a fourth straight loss while handing the Raptors an eighth in a row on the road.

The clubs are in last place in their respective divisions after going a combined 55-87 last season. Neither team has finished with a winning record in any of the past five seasons.

Both currently rank toward the bottom of the league in points allowed, with Toronto giving up 101.9 per game and Sacramento 100.5.

The Kings (4-12) are fresh off allowing their highest point total of the season in a 116-81 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. In suffering the most lopsided defeat in series history between the Pacific Division foes, Sacramento forced just five turnovers and let Los Angeles shoot 54.7 percent.

"It was very frustrating," said Jason Thompson, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds. "They were pretty much getting anything they wanted on the offensive end, and we obviously didn't make it better by not scoring in the beginning. We got ourselves into a hole that we couldn't get out of."

Even as they've struggled, the Kings have usually boasted a potent offense, averaging 99.4 points over the last three seasons. But Sacramento is scoring 93.6 per game this season - its lowest mark since 1997-98.

The Kings' 34 first-half points Saturday were a season low.

"We didn't really come out with any energy," said DeMarcus Cousins, held to eight points and six boards. "And it showed."

The Raptors (4-14) also suffered from a slow start in their last game, falling behind 61-44 in the first half Monday at Denver. They cut the deficit to one with 2:18 left but could not take the lead, losing 113-110 after DeMar DeRozan missed a 3-pointer as time expired.

"We made a commitment in the second half to play defense the whole time," said point guard Kyle Lowry, who scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter.

"We have to play like we did in the second half in the first 24."

That was the opener of a five-game trip for Toronto, which is 1-10 in road games. The current seven-game slide away from home is the Raptors' longest since dropping their final eight road games of the 2010-11 season.

They're 2-13 all-time in Sacramento, allowing an average of 105.5 points.

The Kings' offense could be tougher for the Raptors to slow down if Tyreke Evans returns. He practiced Monday after sitting out two games with a bruised left knee, and coach Keith Smart told the team's official website he expects Evans to play. He's averaging 20.5 points in four career games against the Raptors, including 29 in a 98-91 win at Toronto on Jan. 11 in the teams' only meeting last season.

Cousins posted 21 points and 19 rebounds in that game, but he has only one double-double in his past nine games after ranking sixth in league last season with 36.

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.