After 'heck of a trip,' Kings settle in at home, look to close gap in standings

After 'heck of a trip,' Kings settle in at home, look to close gap in standings

The road trip is over. After a 1-6 homestand to start the month and the devastating injury to veteran Rudy Gay, no one knew what to expect when the Kings ventured out on an eight game swing back east.

3-5 isn’t something to throw a parade over, but with all things considered, it’s a good showing for Sacramento.

“It’s been a heck of a trip for us, I couldn’t be prouder of our guys, they’re playing their tails off,” Dave Joerger told media following the loss to Houston Tuesday night. “Ran out of gas there last night in Philly a little bit but we fought to the end. Then really ran out legs today.”

As the saying goes, “home is where the heart is,” but in the NBA, the road is usually where teams come together, both on and off the court.

The Sacramento Kings came into the season with an entirely new coaching staff, but also eight new faces on the roster. While they sit at just 19-30 on the year, this isn’t a pushover team. They compete on a nightly basis and despite their inability to either avoid huge deficits of hold onto big leads, each night usually comes down to the final few minutes of the game.

“The comradery is good, the chemistry has been good, the ball movement has been good, even when we’re losing games,” Joerger said.

Quality road wins in Detroit, Cleveland and Charlotte jump off the page. Tough, competitive losses in Chicago, Indiana and Philadelphia by a combined 10 points leave the Kings wondering, “what if?”

Sacramento is showing that they can go toe-to-toe with almost any team, not named the Houston Rockets. But even that game falls firmly in the “scheduling loss” category with the team playing their fourth game in five nights.

They return home Friday night where they draw the Phoenix Suns to kick off another strange anomaly in the schedule. The Kings play 11 of their next 13 games at Golden 1 Center and the two road games are against in-state opponents in the Warriors and Lakers.

No time changes. No long plane rides. Just a lot of home cooking and sleeping in your own bed.

The loss of both Gay and wing Garrett Temple, who injured his left hamstring in Houston, is a concern. Omri Casspi continues to miss games with a lower leg injury, but there is hope that he may be available sometime next week.

Joerger will have to get create with his rotations and rely heavily on young players. But this is nothing he isn’t used to. Last season in Memphis, Joerger faced similar challenges when he lost veterans Mike Conley Jr., Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol for long stretches. Overall, Joerger was forced to play 28 different players, including plenty of D-League call ups.

For many teams, this is the dog days of the schedule. It’s the time when contenders put it in autopilot and prepare for the playoffs. But for a team like Sacramento that sits just three games out of the final spot in the Western Conference playoff chase, this is an opportunity to close the gap on the group ahead of them in the standings.

During this stretch of games, the Kings play eight teams with with a sub-.500 record, including the Nuggets, which they are chasing in the standings.

Even with huge crowds filling up Golden 1 Center, the Kings are just 8-13 at home this season. This is the moment where they can either defend their home court and get right back in it or fall by the wayside and prepare for another early summer.


Vince Carter 'very humbled' to pass Patrick Ewing on all-time scoring list

Vince Carter 'very humbled' to pass Patrick Ewing on all-time scoring list

SACRAMENTO -- Half man, half amazing. Vincanity. Air-Canada. V.C.

Vince Carter has plenty of nicknames on his bio. He also has plenty of achievements over his long NBA career. On Monday night in Sacramento, he added a new one.  

With his seven point performance in the Kings’ 106-90 loss to the Detroit Pistons, the 41-year-old forward surpassed a former teammate on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

“It means a lot, because in my days in Orlando, I played with Pat Ewing and know him very well,” Carter said following the game.

Carter came into the night needing five points to tie Ewing’s 24,815 mark for 22nd place on the all-time scoring list.

In the early second quarter, Carter stole a pass from Andre Drummond at the top of the key  and flew down for a breakaway jam to move within three points of Ewing.

“It’s fun for everyone, just to show I can still do it,” Carter said of the dunk. “I think I’ve proven I can, but it’s still fun. I told James Ennis on the way, I said, ‘stay back, don’t foul me.’”

Ennis likely couldn’t have caught Carter either way, but the slam got the Kings crowd going.

At the 4:12 mark of the second, Carter drilled a 12-footer to move within one point of Ewing and with 29.5 seconds remaining in the third, Carter knocked down a 26-foot 3-pointer that rattled around and tried to spin out.

That was the last bucket of the evening for Carter, giving him 24,817 for his 20-year career. He now sits alone in 22nd place, two points ahead of the former New York Knicks star center.

“That’s crazy,” 20-year-old De’Aaron Fox said. “That’s a lot of buckets. Top-25, that’s huge - a lot of guys won’t get close to that.”

Carter now sits just 375 points behind legendary Laker, Jerry West for 21st place and 462 shy of Reggie Miller for a spot in the top 20.

“When you talk about (being) in the top 25 in scoring all-time, you just look at the list of the greats and elite players and the best of the best that still play, and to be in that group, I’m very humbled and thankful for it,” Carter told the media scrum surrounding his locker.

Carter was away from the team over the weekend dealing with a death in the family. He returned to Sacramento to play on Monday, but did so with a heavy heart.

For most of his life, the basketball court has been his place to escape. After two decades as a pro, it still has that effect.

“I just still love it, it’s been great to me, it gives me an opportunity to be around the younger generation and still be around the game I love and accomplish things like this,” Carter said.

He’s played sparingly for Sacramento this season, but his impact on the bench, in practice and behind the scenes as a leader and mentor to the young Kings has been immeasurable.

Carter hasn’t committed to retiring following the season. He will weigh his options, but there is a possibly he will look for one last run at an NBA championship.

Carter passes Ewing on all-time scoring list


Carter passes Ewing on all-time scoring list

SACRAMENTO -- Moving on up. Vince Carter came into Monday evening’s matchup against the Detroit Pistons needing just five points to surpass Patrick Ewing for 22nd place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He got that and a little more.

Carter, 41, picked off a Pistons pass in the second quarter and hammered down a breakaway dunk to score his first two points of the evening. He knocked down a jumper in the lane before halftime to get within one point of Ewing and then moved ahead of the 7-footer with a 3-pointer in the third quarter.

The 20-year NBA veteran now sits at 24,817 points. He is 375 points behind the great Jerry West’s 25,192, who currently sits in 21st place on the all-time list.