Cauley-Stein not only Kings player to thrive in first game without Cousins

Cauley-Stein not only Kings player to thrive in first game without Cousins

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings fell behind by eight at the 6:23 mark of the first quarter and the tension inside of Golden 1 Center was palpable. A spattering of boos could be heard from a fanbase that had just watched their franchise cornerstone sent packing over the weekend. The worst fears seemed to be playing out.

And then Willie Cauley-Stein happened.

Head coach Dave Joerger summoned the second-year big man into the game and he responded with a dunk off a Ben McLemore pass. He followed that up with a put back slam and then a driving lay-up and then a 15-foot jumper. By the end of the first quarter, Cauley-Stein had poured in eight points on 4-of-4 shooting and Sacramento held a 29-26 lead.

“He didn’t feel us,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “We didn’t have great execution with our pick-and-roll defense. He got behind us. We weren’t covering the rim. It was easy for him.”

The lanky 7-footer has been waiting for his opportunity and with DeMarcus Cousins now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, he is getting his shot.

Cauley-Stein continued his strong play in the second quarter as the Kings pushed their lead as high as 20. In 15 minutes of action before the break, Cauley-Stein posted 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting. He finished the night with a career-high 29 points and chipped in 10 rebounds in the win, but he wasn’t the only Kings player to post big numbers.

Sacramento used a team effort to pull off a 116-100 shocking victory. Six players scored in double-figures, including rookie Buddy Hield and veteran Tyreke Evans who joined the Kings in the Cousins trade over the weekend.

“Everybody’s unselfish,” Hield said. “When you play unselfish, I feel like everything is possible. Guys aren’t worried about who’s getting the most shots up. It doesn’t matter in this group.”

The rookie out of Oklahoma turned heads in his first appearance in a Kings uniform, scoring 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He knocked down a 3-pointer and showed a pretty tear drop in the lane.  

“Buddy is real confident, especially for a rookie,” point guard Darren Collison said. “He can shoot the ball really well. He can create a little bit off the pick-and-roll and he gets after it on defense too.”

Evans dropped in 15 points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out three assists off Dave Joerger’s bench. This is the second go-around in Sacramento for the former Rookie of the Year and there is a clear need for his ball-handling skills on the current version of the Kings.

In addition to Cauley-Stein, Hield and Evans, seldom used rookie Skal Labissiere put in a solid effort in his 14 minutes of action. The Haitian-born big man will likely play plenty of minutes down the stretch as the Kings adjust to their new, guard heavy roster.

Labissiere brought an energy and excitement to the game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He was active, which the veterans in Sacramento have seen in practice sessions, but Labissiere hasn’t been given the chance in real game action until Thursday night.

“Skal has been working since he got here,” Collison said. “I’ve seen that kid work after the games, in the gym by himself, before practice, after practice, before games, after the games. So it’s good to see that work finally paying off for him.”

Collison added 15 points and 10 assists in 32 minutes. Ty Lawson chipped in eight points and six assists starting alongside Collison and Ben McLemore knocked down two 3-pointers on his way to 10 points.

It was a team effort for a group that has had very little time to gel together. The Kings’ second unit scored an incredible 72 points on the night, outscoring the Nuggets reserves by 28.

With the win, Sacramento moved to within a half game of Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race. They head back to Golden 1 Center on Saturday afternoon for a 2pm start against the Charlotte Hornets who have lost 12 of their last 13 games, including an overtime stunner on Thursday against the Detroit Pistons.

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.