Kings running towards a freight train?

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Kings running towards a freight train?

LOS ANGELES (AP) - These are heady days for the long-suffering Los Angeles Clippers. They've tied a franchise record with an 11-game winning streak and at 19-6 are tied for the second-best record in the NBA.

Still, Chris Paul wants to keep the fans' euphoria in check, saying, "We're not trying to peak now. We're trying to build something."

While the Lakers, their Staples Center co-tenants, continue to stumble with a losing record and an early-season coaching change, the Clippers are flying high led by All-Stars Paul and Blake Griffin. Bolstered by one of the league's deepest benches, which was remade in the offseason, Paul and Griffin haven't been seeing much playing time in the fourth quarter.

That's when they become cheerleaders for free agent additions Jamal Crawford and former Laker Matt Barnes, along with Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf, the latter two being the other former Lakers on the team.

"They have their identity and it starts on defense," Griffin said.

The Clippers have shown they're capable of winning without big numbers from Griffin. They are 13-3 in games when he scores less than 20 points. He's averaging 18.0 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Veterans Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, another free-agent pickup, have been vocal with their leadership and support while rehabbing injuries.

"We're all playing for one goal and not individual accolades," Paul said.

The Pacific Division leading-Clippers have taken advantage of a soft stretch in their schedule to win those 11 straight games, with victories over some of the league's worst teams, including New Orleans, Charlotte, Toronto, Detroit, Phoenix and Sacramento, their next opponent on Friday night.

"Eleven in a row. Not bad, is it?" owner Donald Sterling said before leading a locker room cheer after a 93-77 victory against the Hornets on Wednesday night.

Before the streak began, they knocked off some of the league's best. They have wins over Memphis, the Lakers, San Antonio (twice), Atlanta and defending NBA champion Miami.

"They have a chance to win it all," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said.

Even the team's veteran announcer, Ralph Lawler, is on his own winning streak. His "Lawler's Law," which dictates that the team reaching 100 points first will win, is 19-0 this season.

Paul and Griffin have clearly clicked on and off the court in their second season together. They frequently kid each other during their dual postgame interview sessions held in a separate room next to the locker room.

Paul regularly rallies his teammates for outings on the road, including dinners and trips to a mall or movie theater. The team took in the new Tom Cruise flick "Jack Reacher" on their last trip, a 4-0 venture as part of the current winning streak.

There's a family feeling in the locker room, too, with Paul's 3-year-old son and Barnes' twins among the kids cracking up the players after games. Big man DeAndre Jordan has a drawing of himself done by Caron Butler's 8-year-old daughter taped to his locker.

"I've never been on a team this close," said Crawford, averaging 16.6 points off the bench. "Everybody here is pulling for each other, whether it's your night or somebody else's night. Everybody has a role to play."

Willie Green, who has started 22 games in place of Billups, sat when the veteran guard recently returned for three games before getting hurt again.

"He didn't complain and he didn't play a minute," Paul said, giving an example of the attitude permeating the team.

The last time this franchise won 11 in a row was as the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75.

"Most of the guys weren't even born then," coach Vinny Del Negro points out. "We want to make our own history and that's only going to happen if we have the right mentality."

Del Negro preaches defense first and the Clippers have bought into it.

"We can score on any given night," Paul said. "As long as we defend, we give ourselves opportunities to win."

They should have a great opportunity to beat the Kings, who have won only one of their 11 road games. That includes a 116-81 drubbing at the hands of the Clippers on Dec. 1.

Sacramento (8-17) did manage to end a five-game losing streak with a 131-127 home win over Golden State on Wednesday, getting 24 points from DeMarcus Cousins and 23 from Aaron Brooks to help hold off a late Warriors rally.

"We showed a little bit of character and fired back," Brooks said.

Tyreke Evans missed his second straight game with a knee problem and his status is unclear for Friday.

Casspi thanks Kings after trade to Pelicans: 'Definitely isn't easy'

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USATSI

Casspi thanks Kings after trade to Pelicans: 'Definitely isn't easy'

The Kings traded Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the forward to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

I want to thank the Sacramento Kings organization for the opportunity to play basketball in front of the great fans of Sacramento. My wife and I felt in Sacramento like being home and this is something we both will cherish for ever. This definitely isn't easy for me and my family to leave, and you all know how much I love our city, organization and fans but the time has come. I want to wish nothing but success to my Kings. I will definitely will follow and cheer from afar. 
Always a big part of my heart, 
Omri #18

Casspi, 28, averaged 5.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 18 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

For Vlade Divac, trading DeMarcus Cousins difficult but necessary

For Vlade Divac, trading DeMarcus Cousins difficult but necessary

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings had an epiphany. After seven years of trying things with DeMarcus Cousins, it was time to give it a go without him.

Vlade Divac stood in front of a firing squad of reporters Monday afternoon, fielding questions as to how the Kings not only moved on from their franchise player, but carefully maneuvering around why they received so little in return.

“I decided to make a decision at the best time, best offer we had,” Divac said. “Moving forward was very important for us to think about our culture and try to win. You can’t win if you don’t have a culture.”

[RATTO: The Ranadive Paradox: Every choice Kings face almost guarantees failure]

Culture was the word of the day and Divac knows a thing or two about that. The sharp move away from both Cousins and veteran Matt Barnes, who was waived to make room for the incoming Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway, set the Kings on a new path.

Divac was quick to point out that Sacramento had a better offer on the table the day before they pulled the trigger to send their star big to New Orleans. But the offer was rescinded, presumably when, according to league sources, teams around the league were informed that Cousins would not sign an extension with a new team, making him a short term rental.

Sacramento went with what they deemed was the best possible offer after collecting information from teams around the league over the past few months. The Kings kept the door open to a potential long term extension with Cousins, but in the end, another six seasons with the talented, but unpredictable big left them with serious questions.

Despite his status as a three-time All-Star and gold medal Olympiad, Cousins still found the waters treacherous with regards to officiating.

According to a league source, the team grew tired of the constant issues on the court. After promising the star big that they had no intentions of moving him during a private meeting on Feb 2, he went out two days later in an overtime win against the Golden State Warriors and picked up his 14th technical foul.

[RELATED: Report: Vivek Ranadive thinks Buddy Hield has Steph Curry potential]

Following the win, Cousins was also fined $25,000 by the league for making an inappropriate statement and gesture towards a Warriors fan in the tunnel.

Two days later he added technicals 15 and 16 against the Chicago Bulls and was suspended for the Kings’ matchup with the Boston Celtics.

Sacramento would go on to beat the Celtics with a massive team effort without Cousins. While it wasn’t the deciding factor, these events helped set the stage for his exit.

The trade comes at a time when the Kings sit just a game and a half out of the playoff picture. Kings fans have waited more than a decade for their team to get into the postseason and losing Cousins will likely end most of that talk.

“We’re going to play hard, we’re going to play with a lot of fun and improve everyday and try and compete and try to make the playoffs,” Divac said when asked what the fans should know about this move. “If not, we’re setting up ourselves in a good place to move forward to make a winning culture.”

Following the scrum, CSN California had an opportunity to discuss some of the topics with Divac in more depth.

Midway through his second season running the team, Divac had made building a relationship with Cousins a high priority. The two could often be seen having conversations both on and off the court.

“It was very difficult, I like him, he’s such a talented guy,” Divac told CSN. “I was really think hard about where we are going, where we are now, what we want to achieve and I made the decision to go other way.”

According to a league source, the entire basketball operations side was part of the discussion on the situation, including head coach Dave Joerger.

The Kings have built their team around the talented big each of the last seven season with the hope of turning the franchise around. Despite being in the conversation for the eighth seed, the Kings sit nine games under .500 with 25 contest left. Even if they found postseason paydirt, the Golden State Warriors would be waiting in round one.

The franchise was ready for a change. The dramatic shift in direction is jarring for everyone involved, but the Kings are confident they made the right decision for what is best for the franchise.

“I wouldn’t do it if I don’t feel comfortable,” Divac said. “Now we have a clear direction (of) what we want to do. I wouldn’t make a deal if I don’t feel comfortable.”

Sacramento returns to the court on Thursday evening when Michael Malone and the Denver Nuggets come through town. The team hasn’t shut the door on making more moves, but nothing is pending. It could be a wild couple of days in Kingsland.