Kings

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.

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'

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AP

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'

Some professional athletes take a stand by kneeling on the sidelines or raising a fist into the air. Some write succinct tweets expressing their dismay with the current political climate in the United States of America. Others just get right to the point with a poignant off the cuff statement to a waiting camera.

Former Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins has certainly mastered the art of the cryptic tweet, but he’s also never been one to shy away from a direct question when asked. When an inquiry was thrown his direction about confederate statues in New Orleans and his home state of Alabama, Cousins was brief with his words, but very clear.

"Take all them mother****ers down," Cousins told TMZ while navigating a security line at the airport. "Take 'em all down.”

Cousins may not have chosen the most eloquent words, but his point of view is shared by plenty of others. He isn’t the first athlete to take a stand with regards to race in America over the last week as racial tensions have spilled out into the streets in Charlottesville, Virginia. Social media is filled with professional athletes adding their thoughts to the conversation.

The Warriors’ Kevin Durant has made it clear that he will not visit the White House and President Donald Trump, a visit most teams make following an NBA championship.

"Nah, I won't do that," the 8-time All-Star told ESPN on Thursday. "I don't respect who's in office right now.”

"I don't agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” Durant continued. “That's just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they'll all agree with me."

Garrett Temple has used Twitter to make his thoughts known as well. Recently named the Kings’ Players Voice Teammate of the Year by the National Basketball Players Association, Temple has used his position as an NBA player to speak out multiple times.

Over the last week, he’s fielded questions and had plenty of discussions through social media on the issues of race and equality. His Twitter timeline is littered with thoughtful replies and some not so thoughtful ideas as well. Plenty of fans thanking him for using his position to further the conversation and of course, there is the occasional, “stick to sports” comment.

Agree or disagree, today’s athletes have huge platforms to share their opinions. From Cousins to Temple, there are varying degrees of engagement, but the time of players staying out of the discussion is long gone.

The Maloofs' colossal charity bet on Mayweather-McGregor circus act

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AP

The Maloofs' colossal charity bet on Mayweather-McGregor circus act

Gavin and Joe Maloof have gambled plenty in their lives, which is in part how they ended up losing the Sacramento Kings. They ran big, they hit a dry well, and they ended up selling the works.

So their decision to bet $880,000 on Floyd Mayweather in his “thing” with Conor McGregor for a $160,000 payout seemed the perfectly daft idea for two guys who were painted as perfectly daft when they were running the Kings and their other businesses into a freeway abutment on I-80.

In fairness, they are planning to donate their winnings to a number of charities in the name of their hangover drink (Never Too Hungover, although I might have gone with the more lyrical HurlNoMore), so it’s not like their hearts aren’t a place close to the mythical “right place.”

But it does beg the question, “Why don’t they just give $160,000 and skip the scam?” Because it wasn’t about charity, it was about promotion, and while there’s nothing wrong with promotion, attaching it to one of the seediest carnival events of the modern era makes it seem, well, kind of creepy.

Or maybe “creepy” is too strong. Maybe’s it’s just opportunism, which is more, well, Vegas-y.

Kings fans will remember the Maloofs as the family that saved the foundering team from the clutches of owner Jim Thomas, and then remember them as the family whose clutches Vivek Ranadive had to save the team from 15 years later. It’s the nature of most ownerships – you do good to eliminate a prior evil, and eventually become evil yourselves when the fans turn on you.

But the Maloofs aren’t evil – even their most strident critics will say that. They just saw an opportunity to scratch a bunch of itches at once – good-heartedness, advertising, gambling and Vegas’ most important product – selling you things you could never imagine wanting.

It almost makes you wonder if they harbor a secret itch to take the $160,000 and double down on behalf of the charities for another of their pet projects – the Vegas Golden Knights. If they put it on the Knights to win the Stanley Cup at 200-1, that’s $32,000,000. Then if they took that and . . .

. . . and before you know it, they’re trapped in the fantasyland of Las Vegas at its weirdest. Maybe it’s just performance art with more money than most of us can eat.