Cousins carries the load, but Kings are learning to play together

Cousins carries the load, but Kings are learning to play together

It’s going to take a team effort. The Sacramento Kings are quickly learning that their path to success for the 2016-17 season is not one or two players delivering on a nightly basis. If they are going to compete, everyone has to contribute. 

“I think we’re understanding better, we’re understanding that we can only win by playing together,” DeMarcus Cousins told CSN’s Kayte Christensen following the Kings’ 109-106 win over the Hornets Saturday night in Charlotte. “Moving the ball, having a team oriented defense. The iso ball and all of that is out of play now. The only way we win games is to play together.” 

Cousins is the wrecking ball. He is the player that the team relies on to do major damage both as a scorer and rebounder, but they also need him to facilitate for other. On Saturday night in Charlotte, the three-time All-Star dropped in 26 points, 18 rebounds and four assists. 

“He’s understanding that defenses are giving him all types of looks and he’s being a lot more poised and patient,” Darren Collison told reporters following the win. 

Sacramento’s star player has made it a point of emphasis to get his teammates involved and increase his assist numbers this season. He’s averaging a career-best 4.4 dimes per game this season, but over his last 18 games, he’s increased that number to 6.2. 

“DeMarcus is doing exceptionally well getting us involved,” Collison added. “It’s our job to knock down the shots. He can only do so much, but when we give him the added help, it makes him look good as well.”

Collison has been a major beneficiary of Cousins’ recent play. The 29-year-old point guard dropped in 17 points against the Hornets on 7-of-11 shooting and over the last four games, he’s averaging 19.5 points per game as the Kings’ second scoring option.

Everyone is getting involved in the action. After falling out of the rotation for stints this season, Arron Afflalo has found his groove as a spot up 3-point shooter and occasional post up player. The 10-year NBA vet has posted double-figure scoring in three straight games and he’s now shooting an impressive 41.4 percent from behind the arc on the season.

Like Afflalo, second-year big Willie Cauley-Stein is finding his niche with the team and contributing in a big way.

“I’m just letting the game come to me, just being in good spots, always being engaged and trying to be aware of where guys are and where the holes are in the defense and just trying to flash and get as many touches as I can while I’m in there,” Cauley-Stein told Christensen.

The wiry 7-footer scored 13 points in 14 minutes off coach Dave Joerger’s bench. He shot 6-of-7 from the floor and he’s quietly becoming the disruptive defensive force the Kings thought they were getting when they selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Something feels different with this group. Even the young players are noticing the change. 

“The team camaraderie is just very vet oriented,” Cauley-Stein added.”There’s no beef between anybody. Everybody knows their roles, not anybody is trying to play out of their roles.”

Garrett Temple played incredible perimeter defense. Ty Lawson wrang up nine assists off the bench. Anthony Tolliver hit 4-of-8 from 3-point land on his way to 14 points. 

Even the players that didn’t post big stats made an impact as the Kings shook off the tough loss in Indiana from the night before.

“We’re getting to a level where this needs to be how we play every night as far as how hard we play,” Joerger said. “We’ve been playing hard, but you look at last night - that was a heck of a basketball game, tonight was a heck of a basketball game. Guys diving on the floor like it’s a playoff game.”

The Kings get a much needed day off on Sunday before returning to the court Monday afternoon in Philly against the upstart Sixers. They finish out their road trip Tuesday in Houston against the high powered Rockets and then return home.

It’s been a brutal stretch, but the Kings are 3-3 on the road trip and still have a chance to build on that win total. Following the contest against the Rockets, they play 11 of the next 13 games at Golden 1 Center.

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.