An impressive fourth-quarter run against the Sacramento Kings helped the Utah Jazz remain undefeated at home.Now, the Jazz will try to extend their season-high three-game winning streak with a home-and-home sweep Saturday night.Down by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter on Friday, Utah (7-6) rallied for a 104-102 victory as Gordon Hayward's 22-foot jumper with 4.5 seconds left was the difference. He finished with a team-high 23 points."We turned the ball over (13 times), unfinished plays, everything we had done to get in that position on the road, in this building against a good team where you don't win that often," Kings coach Keith Smart told the league's official website after his team fell to 0-5 on the road. "Too much one-on-one and it cost us the game."The Jazz, meanwhile, improved to 5-0 at home and moved above the break-even point for the first time since an opening night win over Dallas."I thought we won with a lot of grit, gut, staying together," coach Tyrone Corbin said.The Jazz may need that type of effort again considering close finishes between these teams have become common. They split four contests last season, with the games decided by a total of 12 points.In their last visit to Sacramento on March 22, the Jazz won 103-102 as Al Jefferson delivered the game-winner with 0.9 seconds left.Utah goes for its first back-to-back road wins since that contest. A victory would also give the Jazz their first 4-0 run since finishing 2011-12 on a five-game surge.Losers of six of seven, the Kings (3-9) will try to prevent that from happening as they open a stretch of five of six at home.They'll try to win two straight at home after ending a four-game skid there with Wednesday's 113-97 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.Sacramento made a season-best 10 3-pointers on Friday as Aaron Brooks, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette each hit three, but it needs to improve on the glass after pulling down a season-low 31 boards to Utah's 43.DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes combined for 32 points and 18 rebounds in the loss, while Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors totaled 65 points and 27 boards.If Jazz point guard Mo Williams can't go after spraining his ankle Friday, Jamaal Tinsley will likely step in. The veteran grabbed six rebounds, handed out 12 assists and stole the ball from Brooks with 14.9 seconds left to help set up Hayward's final shot.Utah backup Earl Watson could also see more action after totaling two assists and two rebounds in nine minutes Friday. It was his first appearance of 2012-13 after undergoing season-ending knee surgery in April.
The Sacramento Kings are attempting to do something rarely seen in the NBA. They’ve paired four first round selections from the 2016 NBA Draft with another five rookies for the 2017-18 season. They’ll open the season with nine players with one year of NBA experience or less and three others with two years in the league or fewer if you include two-way contracts.
Veterans Vince Carter (40), Zach Randolph (36), George Hill (31), Garrett Temple (31) and Kosta Koufos (28) push the average age of the Kings to 26.1. According to RealGM, they’ll enter the 2017-18 season tied for the 15th youngest roster in the league.
If you remove the veterans, the Kings youthful core averages less than 22 years of age. But age doesn’t tell the entire story.
Entering his third NBA season, Willie Cauley-Stein has seen action in 141 of a possible 164 games. On the current roster, he might as well get lumped in with the veterans.
Buddy Hield donned a Kings uniform for 25 games last season after coming over in a midseason trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. He played 82 games in total between the two clubs, which is five more combined contests than his fellow 2016 draft mates Skal Labissiere (33 games), Georgios Papagiannis (22 games) and Malachi Richardson (22 games) played in.
Sacramento selected three first rounders in the 2017 NBA Draft, including De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. They also landed point guard Frank Mason III with an early second round pick and convinced 25-year-old former first rounder Bogdan Bogdanovic to leave the European game behind and join the club.
Without bringing two-way players Jack Cooley (16 games) and JaKarr Sampson (147 games) into the discussion, the Kings have a major experience issue. They’ll walk into the season with 10 players having a combined 300 games of NBA experience and 223 of those games were played by Cauley-Stein and Hield.
Sacramento’s veteran group has appeared in 3718 regular season contests. Dave Joerger will have no choice but to turn to the group for plenty of minutes as the Kings’ young players learn on the fly.
Patience is necessary. Vlade Divac and his team have assembled a lot of talent, but they will need time to develop. Joerger has a strong staff in place, including Elston Turner, Bryan Gates, Duane Ticknor, Bob Thornton, Jason March and Larry Lewis. Phil Ricci was also added to the staff as a player development coach this season with the influx of young players.
Even with an expanded staff, there is no way Joerger can fit all 10 of his youngsters into the rotation. They’ll need playing time to develop and there is a good chance that some of these freshman and sophomore players will spend time with Darrick Martin and the Reno Bighorns.
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.