Labissiere's Haitian heritage nothing to be ashamed of


Labissiere's Haitian heritage nothing to be ashamed of

“You promised me I was going to reach the NBA …”

Those were the first words Skal Labissiere said to his father after he was successfully dug out of the rubble of his Porte-au-Prince home following the Haitian earthquake on January 12, 2010.

The 6-foot-7 13-year-old, along with his mother and brother, were dragged out of the wreckage of his home. A wall had fallen on him, pinning him in the seated position for three hours. He couldn’t move his legs and spent the next few weeks of his life living in a school-turned-makeshift-shelter trying to learn how to walk again.

Skal is lucky to be alive. He came to the United States because he played basketball. He didn’t know the language. He left his family behind to go to a private Christian school in Memphis where no one spoke his native French or Haitian-Creole. He taught himself English and he prayed for a better life.

It’s a harrowing tale that has been rehashed countless times. Labissiere even wrote about it himself for the Players' Tribune leading up to the 2016 NBA Draft. It’s well worth a read.

Make no mistake, Labissiere is a proud Haitian-born young man. He even made such a statement earlier this week in the Kings locker room while the players were involved in a lively discussion about hairstyles.

He is from one of those ‘Shithole Countries’ the President of the United States described during meetings involving DACA and border security.

Labissiere isn’t going to talk about politics. He’s not going to rip into the President with a worthy sound bite. He didn’t even want to talk about Haiti when storms ravaged the Caribbean Island last year.

It’s tough to balance what is going on in our country and in the world today. As a sports reporter, you try to stay out of the fray politically. Despite having a platform, there is always going to be the “stay in your lane” contingency out there.

I know a little about Haiti. But I know a lot more about Skal Labissiere.  

In the past 18 months since the Kings drafted the talented 21-year-old out of the University of Kentucky, we’ve gotten to know each other. He’s been a guest on the Kings Insider podcast multiple times and we’ve had plenty of both on-the-record and off-the-record conversations.

What I can tell you is that Labissiere is good people. He is respectful, caring and deeply religious. He is also funny and someone you hope finds success.  

I can also tell you that his teammates love him. The Sacramento Kings organization loves him. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would have a negative thing to say about the young man.  

It’s not about whether he is a good basketball player or not. It’s who he is as a person that makes Labissiere special. He has a smile that lights up a room, and he works as hard or harder than any player in the building.

Skal wants to be great. He does the work  to be great, but when things aren’t going his way on a basketball court, he is the first off the bench to cheer on his teammates.

You can tell when things aren’t going as planned. He quietly wears his emotions and frustrations in his body language. But he always makes time and he never complains about his situation.

Skal Labissiere represents the best the league has to offer. He spent his summer planning and conducting a youth basketball camp in Haiti. It was the first time he was able to return home since he left in 2010.

Labissiere isn’t the only good guy in the Kings locker room. They have plenty. But his story is unique.

Skal is an incredible representative of the NBA, Sacramento and his native Haiti. The league is a better place with him in it.

Kings shut down first-round pick Harry Giles


Kings shut down first-round pick Harry Giles

SACRAMENTO -- The mystery of Harry Giles has been solved. The Sacramento Kings officially made their decision known Thursday morning that they will redshirt the talented rookie out of Duke University, sitting him out the remaining 38 games of the season. 

It’s probably been the plan all along. Sacramento spent the 20th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft on the 19-year-old, after a full medical review of his previous knee issues. They’ve relied heavily on the medical and science field to come up with an appropriate plan of treatment and chosen a smart, measured approach to his rehabilitation.

Giles is one of six players in the history of the league to attempt to play after tearing his ACL in both knees. The team understood the risks of selecting him coming into the draft and they are hoping their cautious approach will hopefully pay dividends over the course of a long career for Giles.

After consulting multiple experts on bilateral knee injuries, the Kings made the early decision to wait a full year from the date of Giles’ last ACL surgery before allowing him to see unrestricted court time. That date has passed, but without a conventional training camp, Sacramento has chosen to err on the side of caution and prepare Giles for a healthy offseason program and Las Vegas Summer League appearance. 

Earlier this month, the team sent Giles, along with assistant general manager Brandon Williams, to P3 for biometrical and neuromuscular evaluations. According to the team, those tests proved overwhelmingly successful. 

Not only are Giles’ ACLs 100 percent healed, but the the 6-foot-10 forward is showing major signs of improvement in agility, strength and athleticism. According to P3’s testing, Giles is no longer considered an injured player and the team has cleared him for normal duty. 

The former top high school prospect has also added a few pounds of muscle, weighing in at 249 pounds, up from 222 that he was listed at during pre-draft. 

Giles will continue to practice with the team, and in addition, the training and medical staff will work to strengthen his core and leg muscles while keeping close tabs on his progress. 

Sacramento will spend the upcoming months preparing Giles both physically and mentally for the 2018-19 campaign, where they will likely add another lottery selection. He hasn’t had a single setback since joining the club and they would like to continue to build for the future. 

The tests show Giles is an elite athlete. If he can stay healthy and get back to the player arc he showed as a prep athlete, the Kings may have found another piece to the puzzle. They are going to give him every opportunity to get right physically before putting him on an NBA court. 

After getting lunch money stolen again, it's time for the Kings to get nasty

After getting lunch money stolen again, it's time for the Kings to get nasty

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings can take a punch, but can they throw one? In one of the recurring themes of the 2017-18 season, the Kings were too nice Wednesday evening against the Utah Jazz and they got their lunch money stolen.

“I just told them we need to play with more life, we need to play with more athleticism, and we need to play with a lot more nasty,” Dave Joerger said following the Kings 120-105 loss to the Jazz.

The Kings have talent, but so far this season, they are lacking in the nasty department. As the season passes the midway point, opponents continue to look extremely comfortable playing against a Sacramento team that ranks 29th in the league in defensive rating.

Against Utah, it was rookie Donovan Mitchell that dismantled the Kings’ sets. With his shooters dropping in bombs from the outside and his bigs setting picks, the 13th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft looked like a superstar.

“Same thing he’s been doing all year - he’s been scoring the ball,” De’Aaron Fox said of his fellow draft classmate. “That’s what he came out and did today.”

Mitchell came in averaging 18.9 points per game, which is tops amongst rookies. He dropped 34 points on 14-of-19 shooting while dicing up the Kings defense.

“We let them go in the paint so many times,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “That opened some easy buckets for them and some wide open threes.”

Sacramento’s communication breakdowns were obvious. They cut into the Jazz lead on multiple occasions, but then they would leave a shooter open and pay the price.

Rodney Hood scored 25 points shooting over the Kings defense. He knocked down 4-of-9 from behind the arc and added

Joe Ingles chipped in 14 points on 4-of-7 from deep, including three makes in the third quarter as Utah turned the screws on Sacramento.

“I don’t think we are physical enough,” Bogdanovic said. “We’ve got to play tougher and to bring some dirty game on the floor and some smart decisions, like when it’s time to help and when it’s time to not help. We’re still learning, we’re still new.”

Bogdanovic held his own against the Jazz, scoring a career-high 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting and a perfect 6-for-6 from behind the arc. Willie Cauley-Stein added a 26-point, 10-rebound double-double, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Call it a lack of energy. Call it nasty or dirty. The Kings need to find a way to make their opponent feel them more on the court or it’s going to be a very long final 38 games to the season.

After dropping six straight, it doesn’t get any easier for the Kings. They embark on a six-game trip beginning Friday in Memphis. Maybe they can find themselves on the road.