Kings

In losses to Thunder and Spurs, young Kings take their lumps

In losses to Thunder and Spurs, young Kings take their lumps

A month ago, a scheduled back-to-back against the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs on the road looked ugly for the Sacramento Kings. They were in a playoff chase and at best, they were hoping for a split.

The team’s record means very little now and after falling in OKC and then again in San Antonio the next night by a final of 118-102, the Kings are positioned slightly better in the lottery standings.   

It’s a change in perspective that was forced upon the group after the trade of DeMarcus Cousins. The franchise’s ideological transformation has taken place and a youth movement is in full motion.

A lot can be gleaned from a battle with San Antonio. They are the gold standard of professional franchises and they play their very own distinctive brand of hoops. If you can’t learn from watching and playing against a team like the Spurs, maybe you don’t belong in the league.

“They’re professionals, man, it’s the Spurs,” Buddy Hield told reporters. “They find a way to grind it and win. It’s a culture, it’s an issue they’ve shown. It’s good to learn from a team like this.”

The Kings aren’t going to forfeit any games down the stretch. They are going to show up and take their lumps with a rotation that now features a slew of first and second year players. Injuries have hurt their depth and with two players away from the team due to personal reasons, the team is undersized and outmanned.   

“They come at you at you in waves and waves and they did a great job,” Dave Joerger said of San Antonio. “The biggest story is they are just bigger and more experienced.”

Sacramento can fix the issue of size during the offseason, specifically at the small forward position. They can even bring in players with more experience, but half of the Spurs roster has been together for six years or more and that familiarity is extremely tough to overcome for a newly formed team like the Kings.

“We’re young, but we still have to find a way to compete and get back in the flow and execute much stronger and think harder,” Hield added.

Hield has played in 13 games with the Kings since coming over from the New Orleans Pelicans. He has a moxy to him that was sorely needed as the Kings hit the reset button on their roster. The 23-year-old shooting guard even found himself matched up against the league’s best two-way player in Kawhi Leonard and he held his own.

“We’re not backing down, we’re in this league too, no one is going to feel sorry for us” Hield said. “We’ve got to keep getting better and keep growing.”

Hield finished the night with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He added five rebounds and five assists in his 32 minutes of action and continues to show signs that he is a starting level NBA player moving forward.

That is what this Kings season has become - a job interview for next season for the young players.

Hield has shown flashes in his brief stay in Sacramento. He can score both from the perimeter and in the lane. He has shown an ability to rebound for a wing player and Joerger and his staff are building a list of items that they will ask the rookie to work on over the summer.

While Hield has played more minutes in year one, he’s in a very similar spot that fellow rookie Skal Labissiere is in. The 21-year-old Haitian product continues to put up numbers, despite very limited exposure to the NBA game.

“It’s a great learning experience, it’s all about growth right now,” Labissiere said. “Whenever I go out there I try to learn as much as I can for the next game or the next season coming up.”

Labissiere dropped in 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in 24 minutes of action. He continues to improve and has now scored in double-figures in four straight contests for Sacramento.

“I work so much on my skillset, I feel like I can score the basketball whenever,” said Labissiere.

Hield and Labissiere have Kings fans excited, but fellow first rounder Georgios Papagiannis has been a complete unknown.

After spending most of the season in the D-League, the 7-foot-1 Greek-born big has played a combined 46 minutes over the last two games (98 minutes total for his career). He set career-highs in points (14) and rebounds (11) against the Thunder and backed that up with a 6-point, 10-rebound game against the Spurs.

Papagiannis has tremendous size and a soft touch. Getting to play against Steven Adams one night and Pau Gasol the next is both overwhelming and instructive. The fact that he’s grabbed double-digit rebounds in both games shows promise.

Second-year big Willie Cauley-Stein added 18 points, five assists and four rebounds in the losing effort to San Antonio. Like Hield, Labissiere and Papagiannis, Cauley-Stein continues to show improvement as the season winds down.

These four, along with the injured Malachi Richardson, make up the Kings’ young core moving forward. They will have nights where they shock teams like Orlando or Phoenix, but they will also have tough night’s against perennial playoff contenders like the Thunder and Spurs.

It’s a process. Patience is required as a new generation of Kings players build from the ground up.

Kings look to get healthy with opener just days away

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USATSI

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

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AP

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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