Kings set sights on Warriors, Bay Area bragging rights

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Kings set sights on Warriors, Bay Area bragging rights

The Golden State Warriors got the job done in their first home game in more than two weeks.

A stop in Sacramento could produce similar results.

Off to their best start in 21 years, the Warriors will try to win for the 15th time in 19 games Wednesday night against the lowly Kings.

Playing in Oakland for the first time in 15 days, Golden State (17-8) held off Western Conference-worst New Orleans on Tuesday with a 103-96 victory. The Warriors closed on an 11-4 run in their first game back from a 6-1 stretch against the East - their first trip with that many victories.

"One of the hardest games in the NBA to play is your first game back at home after a road trip," forward David Lee said after scoring 26 points with nine rebounds. "I've been through too much losing to be disappointed in a win."

The Warriors, off to their best start since the 1991-92 team opened 21-8, will now try to improve their 10-5 road record and avoid a sweep in California's capital. Going for its first 3-0 road start since 1994-95 - and trying to spoil Sacramento's home opener - Golden State lost 94-92 on Nov. 5.

The Kings (7-17) were able to avoid an 0-4 start with that victory, but they're riding a season high-tying five-game skid into this contest.

Sacramento has lost by at least 10 points each time during that stretch following Monday's 101-90 defeat at Phoenix. The Kings led by as many as 19.

"I thought this was a night to steal one on the road after a game last night (a 122-97 home loss to Denver)," Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. "I thought they did everything the right way up until things started to go haywire in the second half."

The third quarter has been especially troublesome in the last two games as the Kings have been outscored by an average of 14.5 points.

"It's kind of disheartening," point guard Aaron Brooks said Monday after the Suns went on a 26-4 run that started late in the first half.

Another concern for Sacramento is the health of Tyreke Evans, who has missed six of the last 10 games with a pair of different knee injuries. It's uncertain if he'll return after sitting out Monday's contest.

The Kings, though, should have guard Marcus Thornton back after he was away from the team for four games to be with his ill mother in Louisiana.

Thornton had 16 points in the Nov. 5 victory while Evans shot 1 of 9 to finish with three points.

Whoever is in Sacramento's backcourt could have their hands full with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who lead all NBA duos with 129 3-pointers.

Thompson hit three 3s and scored a team-high 22 points against the Kings last month, while Curry hit two from long range and finished with 12 and eight assists. Curry missed a 3-point attempt as time expired as Golden State lost for the seventh time in 10 trips to Sacramento.

Lee, who had 20 points and a season-low six rebounds in that contest, will try to start a new double-double streak after he just missed his eighth straight Tuesday. He did, however, finish with at least 20 points for a ninth consecutive game.

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins could set a career high with a fifth consecutive double-double at home. Cousins has averaged 22.8 points and 16.3 rebounds in his last four in this series after finishing with 23 and 15 last month.

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.