Joerger, Kings' veterans begin camp by building foundation for the future

Joerger, Kings' veterans begin camp by building foundation for the future

Brick by brick, the Sacramento Kings are building a foundation for the future. It started in the offseason with plenty of additions to the infrastructure of the team, but Tuesday afternoon, the on-court work began.

Instead of the sound of basketballs bouncing and sneakers squeaking, the Kings practice facility was empty, except for a ring of media members. After a loaded media day, only Dave Joerger, followed by his team leaders of Garrett Temple and Vince Carter, spoke as cameras rolled.

“Mostly, just what we want to be about,” Joerger said when asked what day one of training camp was like. “What do we want to be about now, what do we want to be about four months from now, what do we want to be about three years from now? And that needs to be the same so there is consistency. What you allow, you encourage. What you demand is hopefully what you get on a daily basis.”

It’s about basics. Joerger and his staff are tasked with bringing along a young core that includes 10 players with two years of NBA experience or less. He will rely heavily on his five veterans to help develop the squad, but eventually, the kids will have to see minutes.

“These guys are asking a lot of questions,” Carter said. “Very attentive and that’s what you want from young guys - willing to listen. What you ask of young guys (is to) humble yourself, sit back and learn, ask questions and I think that’s how you get better faster.”

Carter came into the league with the Toronto Raptors. They had established veterans in Charles Oakley, Kevin Willis, Dee Brown and Doug Christie. Despite his billing as a star in the making, Carter had to start at the same place that the Kings rookies find themselves today - the bottom.

“If I wouldn’t know it, I asked a lot of questions,” Carter said of his early experience in the league. “That helped me. That slowed the game down and I was able to catch on rather quickly. It’s different for every player, so it’s all about understanding who they are and what makes them tick.”

In his 20th season, Carter still expects to play. But he also knows that his role is to mentor and bring up a new generation of NBA players.

Temple sees a lot of the same things that Carter does. The young players are all ears and they’ve been in Sacramento for a while working together to develop chemistry.

“This is the youngest team I’ve ever been on, but it’s fun,” Temple said. “The biggest thing is, we have a group of guys that are good guys. Nobody has any hidden agenda that I’ve seen. When you have teams like that, especially when the guys are young and they’re yearning to learn, it makes basketball fun.”

Temple didn’t have the same path to the league as Carter. He came up in the San Antonio system, but he bounced in and out of the league for years before finally finding a home in Sacramento.

He spent last season as the defacto leader of the team as the franchise hit the reset button. Now he has massive reinforcements in Carter, George Hill and Zach Randolph. Along with veteran Kosta Koufos, this group of veterans will not only play, but they will aid in the development of the team’s young players.

After a wild season of ups and downs, Temple is looking forward to sharing some of the load and even taking some tips from his fellow veterans.

“I’m going to learn from Vince Carter on how to be a better leader,” Temple said. “I’m going to learn from Z-Bo, I’m going to continue to learn from Kosta and George - we have other guys, it’s not just me.”

With the NBA pushing the season up 10 days, Joerger gets an abbreviated training camp. Day one is in the books, but a season of building is just around the corner.  

A new face in the crowd:
Veteran point guard Marcus Williams signed with the team early Tuesday. He joins former Duke Blue Devil, Matt Jones, as the only two non-guaranteed contract players on the squad.

Williams, 31, hasn’t played in the league since 2010. The former 22nd overall selection in  the 2006 NBA Draft has played in Puerto Rico, Russia, China, Spain and Serbia over the last few years.

Skal Labissiere showing signs of growth: 'The NBA is still super new to me'


Skal Labissiere showing signs of growth: 'The NBA is still super new to me'

The 2017-18 Sacramento Kings season is about development and finding a core to build around. De’Aaron Fox is already showing signs that he is the long-term answer at the point guard position, but the Kings need more than an army of one.

Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson and Willie Cauley-Stein are being given a chance to play rotational minutes early in the season, and flying under the radar is second-year big, Skal Labissiere.

Early in the season, Dave Joerger has relied heavily on veteran Zach Randolph for big minutes at the power forward position, but Labissiere is quietly building momentum. Three games is an extremely small sample size by any standard, but Labissiere is heading in the right direction.

“Whatever coach wants me to do, that’s what I’m going to do out there,” Labissiere told NBC Sports California’s Kayte Christensen after the game. “I’m just going to go out there and play hard and help this team get a win.”

In 23.7 minutes per game so far this season, Labissiere is averaging 11 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, .7 steals and .7 blocks. If he were playing starter minutes, those numbers project substantially higher.

Labissiere burst on the scene in Sacramento after the DeMarcus Cousins trade during All-Star weekend last season. Before getting an opportunity in the rotation, he spent plenty of time in Reno and behind the scenes working on his game with the Kings’ coaching staff. He played 33 total games during the 2016-17 season, including 26 straight to finish the year.

“I’m still trying to get comfortable, I’m still learning,” Labissiere said. “The NBA is still super new to me, I haven’t even played a full season yet. As a group, we’re still learning each other. I think by mid-year, we’ll be fine.”

The 21-year-old Haitian-born big came into the league with a sweet jumper, but he’s added more range in year two. He hit his first 3-pointer Saturday night against the Denver Nuggets, but throughout camp you could see him shooting with the guards and there are plenty of sets where he’ll get opportunities as the season pushes forward.

In addition to adding the long ball to his arsenal, Labissiere has also worked to improve his playmaking ability. He’s averaging 3.7 assists per 36 minutes and that number has a chance to improve as the team’s chemistry on the court improves.

“The offense runs through the bigs, so we have to be able to make plays for the guards,” Labissiere said. “I’ve been watching a lot of tape trying to figure out where the help is coming from, where I can pass the ball, who I can pass the ball to. That’s one thing I’ve been working on.”

Labissiere still has plenty to learn. He’s struggled with turnovers early in the season and he needs to add strength to hold his position in the post. But his offensive game is advanced and it won’t be long before the Kings turn to him more and more as a weapon.

Sacramento has plenty of young breakout candidates entering the season, but few have the ceiling of Labissiere. The early returns are promising.

NBA fines Pelicans C DeMarcus Cousins for incident with fan


NBA fines Pelicans C DeMarcus Cousins for incident with fan

Former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is in trouble with the league office again.

The NBA fined the Pelicans big man $25,000 for "directing inappropriate language towards a fan" during the final minutes of the team's season opener on Wednesday night against the Grizzlies.

The referee's heard the exchange between Cousins and the fan, and assessed a technical foul to Cousins. That technical foul was rescinded as part of the league's announcement Saturday.

After Wednesday's game, Cousins offered this explanation of the incident:

"That was pretty bogus, man. The ref, he sat there and heard (the fan) speaking to me in a very nasty way. I shouldn't have responded to it, but I'm a human being and I'm also a grown man. I'm not going to let another person just disrespect me. I felt (the ref) should have handled it, he decided not to, but he handled my end of it. I look forward to speaking to the league," Cousins told reporters, according to USA Today.

Cousins makes his first trip back to Sacramento since being traded by the Kings on Thursday, Oct. 26.