Draft positioning taking a hit as young Kings continue to win games

Draft positioning taking a hit as young Kings continue to win games

SACRAMENTO -- Despite shutting down most of their veteran core, the Sacramento Kings continue to find ways to win. Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks, it became abundantly clear hours before the game that neither team was going to field a full roster. The two teams tried to one up the other, with Sacramento added both of their point guards to the inactive list two hours before tip-off.

You can take away their depth. You can limit them to just eight uniformed players. But you can’t ask a group of NBA players to lose a basketball game, regardless of what it might mean for the upcoming draft.

“It’s tough not to think about it,” veteran Garrett Temple told NBC Sports California after the Kings’ 98-87 win over the Dallas Mavericks. “We know what everybody else knows, but the guys that are playing, there is no person on this team that can physically go out on the court and try to lose. It’s just not in our DNA, otherwise we wouldn’t be in the NBA.”

Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison, Kosta Koufos, Ty Lawson and Anthony Tolliver all sat for Sacramento for one reason or another. If there was a playoff game tomorrow, the five would have been in uniform.

There isn’t a playoff game tomorrow. And for the 11th straight season, the Kings will finish on the outside looking of the NBA’s postseason. The team has shifted the focus to the young players, that includes three rookies and a second-year player. For them, this is valuable time on the court to adjust to the NBA game and they aren’t taking it lightly.

“It’s all about learning how to win, especially for us - the young crew,” rookie Skal Labissiere said. “So it feels good to go out there and get some wins. We’re learning how to close out games.”

Labissiere, along with fellow rookies Buddy Hield and Georgios Papagiannis, as well as sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein, all scored in double-figures in the win. They are all showing signs that they can play in the league, even if it is against less than top tier talent.

Cauley-Stein set a new career-high with 16 rebounds and chipped in 12 points and three steals. Papagiannis finished with 13 points, one off his career-high and he continued to clear space for his perimeter players with immense screens.

Fresh off his second NBA Rookie of the Month award, Hield dropped in 16 points on 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, giving him double figure scoring in 18-of-21 games in a Kings uniform.

“There are a lot of good rookies in the league, especially in the Western Conference,” Hield said. “I was really happy I got it, but I got to keep working.”

Opposing teams have made adjustments to guarding Labissiere, but he still managed to finish with 11 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes of action.

“It’s all about learning how to adjust to things and I’m still learning how to do that,” Labissiere said.

Ben McLemore went off in the second half to score 21 of his 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 from behind the arc in 16 minutes after the intermission. And Langston Galloway finished with 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds starting at the point guard spot for the first time as a King.

“They played hard and made plays and I think at the same time, some of these guys are getting 33.34 minutes” coach Dave Joerger said. “Willie, Skal, we’re playing really young guys. It’s a great experience for them, and to also play to win, compete - that’s what it’s all about. They did that tonight.”

On the downside, the Kings moved the down the board in the draft lottery with the victory. They began the night tied for the sixth worst record in the league with the Knicks, but New York held a 2-0 advantage in the season series.

Following the Dallas game, the Kings are now tied in the win column with the Minnesota Timberwolves with 31 and they hold a 3-1 advantage in the season series with the T-Wolves. With four games remaining, the Kings are teetering on moving from seven to eight in the lottery order.

Joerger is going to play the players he has available and the squad is going to do their best to compete.

“As long as we have five players to play, we’re going to go out there and try to win,” Temple said.

The Kings return to the court Friday night at Staples Center where the 22-55 Los Angeles Lakers will play host. It’s another opportunity for a win.


Kings look to get healthy with opener just days away


Kings look to get healthy with opener just days away

SACRAMENTO - All hands on deck. The Sacramento Kings open the 2017-18 schedule Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets at Golden 1 Center and it looks like they might do so with a full arsenal of players at their disposal.

Point guard De’Aaron Fox returned to practice on Sunday and then participated in the team’s annual Fanfest. If his dance moves are any indication, the 19-year-old’s back is feeling just fine.

Veteran George Hill tweaked his groin Friday against the Golden State Warriors, leaving his availability for opening night in question. Hill, 31, who has a history of groin injuries, was on the court Monday practicing and said he is ready to play.

“Everything is feeling good right now,” Hill said Monday following practice.

The only player who didn’t practice on Monday is rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic, who sprained his right ankle against the Warriors. According to head coach Dave Joerger,  the team is hopeful that the Serbian sharpshooter will return in time for Game 1.

“We’re still shooting for Wednesday for both of them,” Joerger said of Hill and Bogdanovic.

New look Rockets

The Rockets went 55-27 last season under head coach Mike D’Antoni, but that didn’t stop them from going all in during the offseason. With MVP runner-up James Harden already manning the backcourt, Houston added nine-time All-Star Chris Paul as their new starting point guard.

“Leadership, he’s a floor general,” Hill said about Paul. “Anywhere he goes, he’ll make a team better. We know they were already a good team without him, coming in with him is going to be a bigger task.”

It’s a new look roster and the expectations are huge for the Rockets. Houston averaged 115.3 points per game last season and led the league in both 3-point attempts and makes. This season, they also added two strong perimeter defenders in P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute.

It’s a huge test coming out of the gate for Sacramento. Following the contest against the Rockets, the Kings hit the road for three straight before returning to Golden 1 next Thursday to face DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Camp notes

With the season just around the corner, the Sacramento Kings made their final roster cuts on Sunday afternoon. David Stockton, Matt Jones and Reggie Hearn were waived, leaving the Kings with 15 rostered players and two two-way players in Jack Cooley and JaKarr Sampson.

Stockton, Jones and Hearn are all expected to join the Reno Bighorns of the NBA’s G-League.

Kings waive three players days before season opener


Kings waive three players days before season opener

SACRAMENTO The Sacramento Kings announced Sunday that the team has requested waivers on guards David Stockton, Matt Jones and Reggie Hearn.  

Stockton appeared in two contests for Sacramento during the preseason, averaging 11.5 points (9-13 FG, 3-4 3pt, 2-4 FT) and 5.0 assists in 16.3 minutes per game, including a game-high 23 points to accompany three rebounds, eight assists and two steals off the bench at Golden State (10/13).

Jones played in five exhibition games, posting 2.0 points, 1.0 rebounds and 11.7 minutes per contest. 

Hearn appeared in one preseason game. 

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