Kings

Emotions across the board as Kings process Cousins' departure

Emotions across the board as Kings process Cousins' departure

SACRAMENTO -- The emotions were raw Tuesday night at the Sacramento Kings practice facility. One by one, the Kings brought out representation, each with a unique point of view of the team's massive roster shakeup over the weekend.

Dave Joerger not only lost his star center, but also a veteran player that came with him from Memphis. Darren Collison watched his two best friends on the team leave on a plane for New Orleans. Anthony Tolliver went from a veteran on a club fighting for a playoff spot to a starter on a rebuild. And Willie Cauley-Stein went from 10-15 minutes of playing time each night to a player with a real chance to show what he can do.

This is what a blockbuster trade does to a team. There is no standard reaction. Every coach, every player, every front office executive has a different level of attachment to the people around them. What is abundantly clear is Sunday’s trade of DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi, as well as the release of Matt Barnes, changes everything in Sacramento.

Dave Joerger signed a four-year deal to coach the Kings over the summer, leaving the safe haven of Memphis where he had spent the last nine years of his career, for the uncertainty of Sacramento. He did so with full knowledge that changes might come much sooner than some might expect.

“I’ll miss DeMarcus, I’ll miss Matt, big time, and yet, I’m a member of another team that is the organization,” Joerger told media members. “I fully support the organization in going forward to making decisions that are sometimes difficult.

“We’re all in this together. We want to make this city proud and I want to be here a long time. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with these guys closely.”

The moves that were made over the weekend has Joerger rethinking his three-year plan with the team. This is now year zero, not year one according to the Kings’ head coach. He no longer has a franchise cornerstone. Instead, he has a group of role players and four rookies that have hardly gotten their feet wet in the NBA.

Collison is now the second longest tenured Kings player behind Ben McLemore. He couldn’t hide the emotion on his face as he described the last two days in Sacramento.

“It’s been tough, I’m not even going to lie to you guys, it’s been really emotional the last couple of days, not just watching them leave, but for myself included,” Collison said. “I got a chance to talk to Cuz last night and I’ve been talking to Casspi as well. It’s just tough, those are my two closest friends on the team and to see them go like that, it’s unfortunate.

“Everybody was shocked, nobody knew it was happening."

To add to the confusion, Collison’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors. For a veteran with a young family at home, this is a difficult time of year, especially when your team is clearly going a new direction.

“There’s really nothing you can do about anything,” Collison said. “If your franchise player gets traded, what does that say about everybody else?"

Tolliver is always the level-headed thinker. There is no place for emotion when you’ve played for nine different NBA franchises, three separate D-League teams and made stops in Germany and Turkey in your career. Trades are part of the game, regardless of what name is on the back of your jersey.

“I just come to work, man, I just come to work - nothing changes for me,” Tolliver said.

Tolliver said he was just sitting down to watch a movie with his wife when his phone started to blow up Sunday night.

This is the NBA life. It’s what you sign up for. Tolliver isn’t expecting to become a focal point in a new redesigned offense. He will play defense, grab rebounds, hit 3-pointers and hammer home an occasional dunk.

“I don’t think anybody's role is going to drastically change,” Tolliver added. “Everybody’s just going to have to do a little bit more of what they do and just be a little bit better at what they do.”

With Cousins gone, the Kings’ frontcourt just freed up 34.4 minutes of playing time for a player like Cauley-Stein. He is young, energetic and ready to prove that he is so much more than what he has put forth in his first season and a half in the league.

“You might see a different spark from me, I’m trying to win,” Cauley-Stein said. “Before, playing 10 minutes, 15 minutes, I didn’t have a lot of saying in what we do. Now, we just lost two verbal leaders, somebody else got to step up and be a verbal leader. So I think, why not me.”

Joerger did his best to show the calm and collective demeanor of a leader. Collison looked stunned nearly 48 hours later and with good cause. Tolliver handled his business like a man who has seen it all and Cauley-Stein had the glimmer in his eye of a kid who was about to jump the Grand Canyon on a BMX bike.

It’s been a tough few days in Sacramento. With 25 games remaining, this team is a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race and that fact seems so far from anyone’s mind. More changes may be in store between now and Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

Hold onto your hats Kings fans, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Gameday: Kings wrap up brief homestand against Suns

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Gameday: Kings wrap up brief homestand against Suns

SACRAMENTO -- With another road trip starting on Thursday in Minnesota, the Sacramento Kings hit their home floor looking for a win Tuesday evening against the Phoenix Suns. They’ll face a young team missing their best player and riding a three game losing streak.

The Kings have been hit and miss throughout the season, but an outline for success is beginning to form. The starting unit is still struggling on most nights, but the reserves are playing out of their mind. Zach Randolph has turned back the clock, and young players like Buddy Hield, Frank Mason III and Bogdan Bogdanovic are carving out niches for Sacramento.

Phoenix can score with the best of them, but they have the NBA’s worst defense, allowing an incredible 115 points per game. They’re without sharpshooter Devin Booker for the next few weeks, but they have plenty of firepower to work with.

LINE

Kings by 4.5

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 8-18

Suns: 9-19

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Skal Labissiere vs. Marquese Chriss... part II -- Labissiere is fresh off a trip to the G-League to jump start his season. He hasn’t had the breakout campaign that many expected, but he showed signs of coming around against the Raptors. Chriss has struggled all season, both as a starter and off the bench. The Sacramento native will have plenty of fans in the stands as he tries to convert potential to production at Golden 1 Center.

INJURY REPORT

Kings: C/PF Willie Cauley-Stein (lower back strain) game-time decision, but he participated in shoot around and is expects to suit up, PF Harry Giles (bi-lateral knee rehab) is out until January at the earliest.

Suns: SG Devin Booker (adductor strain) out, SF Jared Dudley (toe) questionable, PG Brandon Knight (ACL tear) out for the season, G Davon Reed (knee) out, PF Alan Williams (knee) out.

SERIES HISTORY

Sacramento dominated the season-series 3-1 last season, but the Suns snuck out a 117-115 win over the Kings early in the 2017-18 campaign. Phoenix leads the all-time series 132-90 and they hold an 85-51 advantage during the Sacramento-era.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Willie Play? -- Willie Cauley-Stein has made a huge impact off the Kings bench. The third-year big is posting 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 28.5 minutes over seven games with the second unit. He’s missed three straight with a lower back strain, but he was confident following Monday’s practice that he would return to action against the Suns.  

Aggressive Fox -- The Kings have been patient with the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. The 19-year-old point guard turned the ball over seven times and looked lost against veteran Kyle Lowry on Sunday. He attacked late in the game, showing a side that the Kings’ coaching staff has been begging to see. Tyler Ulis and Mike James are both young and inexperienced, which might give Fox an opportunity to shine.   

Feed the Beast -- Zach Randolph is on a roll. The 36-year-old big man continues to anchor the Kings offense. He’ll get a test against veterans Tyson Chandler and Greg Monroe, but he’s handled himself well against bigger names. The Kings need him to continue his strong play if they hope to start leapfrogging teams in the standings.

QUOTE

“I pretty much released myself today. I wasn’t trying to baby it. I just wanted to get out and blow the air out of lungs and try to get back into playing shape.” -Willie Cauley-Stein on returning to practice on Monday.

 

 

Fatigue a factor as Kings fall to Raptors

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Fatigue a factor as Kings fall to Raptors

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are young and energetic, but they are still learning how to play a full 48 minutes. Against a veteran team like the Raptors, that’s not going to work.

The Kings came out of the gate slow, allowing the Raptors to score the first 13 points of the afternoon. After the second unit fought their way back into the game to take a 29-28 lead, Sacramento once again let up, falling behind 54-48 at the half.

Sacramento made runs at Toronto, but they never got closer that seven points in the fourth quarter as the Raptors pulled away for the 102-87 victory.

There are plenty of reasons for the team’s inconsistent effort. It doesn’t matter who Dave Joerger drops into the starting lineup, they tend to flounder.

De’Aaron Fox started alongside Bogdan Bogdanovic in the backcourt and struggled against veteran Kyle Lowry. The rookie began the game 0-for-4 before hitting 3-of-4 in the fourth quarter. In addition to the shooting woes, Fox turned the ball over a career-high seven times, including six in the first half.

“It’s frustrating - we all have those games, but (we) just have to get back into practice, focus on taking care of the ball and just look forward to playing Phoenix the next game,” Fox said.

Joerger pointed to the Kings’ heavy travel schedule early as a possible culprit for the sloppy ball handling.

“Sometimes that can be general fatigue,” Joerger said. “You know, traveling around, flying around, playing a bunch of games and you’re only [a] 19-year-old.”

Fellow rookie point guard Frank Mason III struggled as well. Mason didn’t turn the ball over, but he shot just 1-of-10 from the field to finish the afternoon with six points and three assists.

Buddy Hield has been electric for Sacramento since moving to the second unit. He started the game hot, hitting his first six shots. But when the Raptors tightened up the defense, Hield not only missed shots, but he made mistakes.

Hield finished the night 7-of-13 from the field, but he turned the ball over six times as he forced the action.

It was a learning experience for the young Kings. The Raptors have posted 48 wins or more four straight seasons. They currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference and there is little doubt that they’ll make a fifth straight playoff appearance.

Lowry, along with fellow veterans DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka combined to score 60 of the Raptors 102 points. When they needed a shot to put the Kings away, they got it.

With the loss, Sacramento dropped to 8-18 on the season. They’ll return to Golden 1 Center Tuesday to face the Phoenix Suns and it sounds like they should have Willie Cauley-Stein back after the big man missed the previous three games with a lower back strain.