Next man up for Kings: Injuries open door for Malachi Richardson

Next man up for Kings: Injuries open door for Malachi Richardson

Next man up. It’s a mentality that most teams have, but up until the last few weeks, the Kings hadn’t really had to deploy the strategy. The injury bug has hit and it’s hit hard. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Rudy Gay is done for the year, Omri Casspi is still nursing a calf strain and Garrett Temple is out until after the All-Star break with a hamstring injury.

Sacramento was already short at the wing, but the loss of Temple is a tough one. He’s the team’s best perimeter defender and more than one player has described him as “the heart and soul of the team.”

“What Garrett brings is so many intangibles,” Joerger said following practice on Thursday. “He can defend point guards that are giving us problems. He defends shooting guards. He sometimes lines up small forwards. He makes an open shot, he makes an open pass, makes the right play. He holds guys accountable.”

The Kings are now onto their contingency plan for their contingency plan. Initially, Sacramento had aimed on keeping their three rookies away from major playing time in year one, but this is a, ‘break glass in case of emergency’ moment.

“Other guys have to find their way,” Joerger said of trying to replace Temple. “I think getting Malachi some minutes will help him.”

Malachi Richardson has heard this all before. Joerger went public with the idea of playing the 21-year-old slasher in December, only to change direction. He’s been back and forth between the Kings and the Reno Bighorns all season long, but this time is different.

“He’s ready for it, he’s ultra confident, that’s what you need in this league,” veteran point guard Ty Lawson said of Richardson. “He can shoot the ball. He can get it going. So we’re going to need him to step up with GT being out.”

Taken with the 22nd pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Richardson has only seen 144 minutes of court time more than halfway through the season. He’s averaging just 3.6 points on 43.9 percent shooting in 8.3 minutes through 14 appearances, but that’s about to change.

After playing sparingly through the first two months of the season, Richardson has seen action in eight straight games off Joerger’s bench. He has moved ahead of fourth-year guard Ben McLemore in the rotation and with Temple’s injury, there should be plenty of opportunity for the rookie to shine.

“It’s probably just confidence,” Lawson said of the difference between Richardson and McLemore. “You see Malachi, he thinks every shot is going to go in. With Ben, you see that his game maybe just waivers a little bit on what the coach is saying or if he misses a shot, he looks back at the coach. The difference between them is just confidence.”

Richardson has a moxy to him. He doesn’t hesitate to shoot or take his defender off the dribble. McLemore had that look at one time, but after an up and down four seasons in Sacramento, he’s lost a little of that luster.

“I remember when Ben first came into the league, he was real confident in his shot,” Darren Collison said. “He’s been through a lot since he’s been here. It’s not easy for what he’s been through. For a young player to experience everything he’s experienced in this organization.”

Instability has reigned supreme for McLemore since being selected by the Kings with the 7th overall pick in 2013. Four coaches in four years has to be tough for a young player. In many ways, McLemore’s struggles are more of an indictment on the franchise he was drafted by than him.

Despite starting 204 games early in his career, the former Kansas star has regressed the last two seasons. He’s currently averaging 5.1 points in 14.9 minutes a night.

“When you’re shooting a shot, if you think of it as a second option, your form might be off or your rhythm might be off,” Lawson said. “I feel that’s where Ben is right now. He’s going to get out of it soon, but we’ve just got to keep talking to him, telling him stay confident, stay shooting the ball.”

McLemore has worked tirelessly on his game. He can be seen shooting long after practice, and before each game he trains with assistant coaches on the court trying to improve his ball handling skills.

It’s not a lack of effort or dedication. Maybe he was thrust into a role he wasn’t ready for too early in his career. Maybe it’s the constant change. Whatever the reason, the Kings are working hard to avoid the same pitfalls when dealing with Richardson.

Richardson came to the Kings with a reputation as a player without a conscience. With just one season at Syracuse under his belt, there were also some major concerns about his shot selection and his ability to defend.

While still a work in progress, the rookie has been better than advertised on the defensive end. Richardson stands 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan and he’s done a nice job of maintaining the bulk he added before the season. He has the physical tools to be a league average defender or better.

He fights through screens, collapses quickly on his mark and has already shown a decent understanding of the defensive schemes. He gets beat by an occasional back cut and he is still learning how to handle the craftier of NBA wings, but these are issues that most young players face.

“Learning from each game,” Richardson said about how his latest opportunity has helped him. “Each game is different, it’s a different matchup everyday. You have to go out every game and play. You can’t take nights off in this league.”

On the offensive end, Richardson has no fear. He attacks his man on the way to the hoop and he is always ready to launch from the perimeter.

“Mal, he’s just fresh, he doesn’t know any better,” Collison said. “He’s just going out there and having fun and trying to play the game.”

Kings players have spoken glowingly about Richardson since training camp began. He can often be seen having 3-point shooting contests with veterans and if there was money involved, the rookie would leave the court with full pockets. He carries himself more like a third-year pro than a rookie and his teammates have shown a willingness to involve him in the offense.

“Trust is the most important thing when it comes to this sport,” Richardson said. “To have a bunch of vets believe in a rookie, is big. For them to have confidence in me, it means a lot. I just want to go out and keep helping.”

Injuries have opened a door. Richardson appears to be the player that Joerger will turn to first, at least in the short-term. Don’t expect to see him start, especially against veteran opposition. The Kings will continue to build him up with the hopes of not repeating past mistakes.

McLemore might get another opportunity as well. At 23-years-old, the Kings haven’t abandoned the athletic shooting guard. With just 11 healthy bodies, Joerger will likely mix and match his rotations on a nightly basis trying to mask the team’s deficiencies brought on by the rash of injuries.

Report: Former Kings star offers to pay for Stephon Clark's funeral

Report: Former Kings star offers to pay for Stephon Clark's funeral

Former Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins reportedly reached out to Stephon Clark's family and offered to cover the cost of his a funeral, according to The Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones

Sacramento police shot and killed Clark, a 22-year-old African-American father of two, on Sunday while he was holding a cellphone in the backyard of his grandmother's home. Clark was unarmed. 

During his six-and-a-half year tenure in Sacramento, Cousins was not only the face of the Kings on the court, but the face of outreach efforts off of it. He paid for the funeral of Sacramento-area high school football player Jaulon "JJ" Clavo, who was shot in 2015, and ran free children's basketball camps for the city's children during the summer.

He continued to run a camp last summer following a midseason trade to the New Orleans Pelicans, and has spoken at length about how much he treasures maintaining strong ties to Sacramento. He told The Sacramento Bee last February that he "still consider[s Sacramento] a home."

“It’s very important to me,” Cousins told The New Orleans Advocate in October. “I’ve built relationships in a lot of the different places I’ve been. My biggest thing is helping those kids and helping families in need. I was once in their position, and it would’ve done wonders if I could’ve had a little bit of help coming up. I’m just doing my part.”

Bodycam footage from the officer-involved shooting was released on Wednesday, setting off protests on Thursday. Protestors blocked traffic on Interstate 5 both ways, according to NPR, before locking arms and surrounding the Golden 1 Center ahead of Hawks-Kings that night. Those protests delayed the start of the game by 15 minutes, and an estimated 15,000 fans were unable to enter the arena. 

Kings find themselves in middle of protest as sports, politics collide: 'It has to stop'

Kings find themselves in middle of protest as sports, politics collide: 'It has to stop'

SACRAMENTO -- Basketball took a backseat Thursday evening at Golden 1 Center. Protesters surrounded the Sacramento Kings’ facility, locking arms and blocking the entrance to an estimated 15,000 fans. The game was delayed by nearly 15 minutes and the limited number of ticket holders that made it into the building were basically put on lock down and supplied with free food for the evening.

This issue at hand was the officer involved shooting death of Stephon Clark, a local South Sacramento man that was killed Sunday evening.

Video of the shooting was released by the Sacramento Police Department Wednesday afternoon, setting off community outcry in Sacramento.

In perhaps his finest moment as owner and chairman of the Sacramento Kings, Vivek Ranadivé took center court surrounded by his players to address the undersized crowd.

“On Sunday, we had a horrific, horrific tragedy in our community and on behalf of the players, the executives, ownership and the entire Kings family, I first of all want to express our deepest sympathies to the family. What happened was absolutely horrific and we are so very sorry for your loss.

I also want to say that we at the Kings recognize your people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that. We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform. It’s a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously and we stand before you; old, young, black, white, brown and we are all united in our commitment.

We recognize that it’s not just business as usual and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place, starting in our own community. We are going to work hard to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.”

Protests continued throughout the night in the courtyard adjacent to Golden 1 Center. Security and police stood guard at each entrance, trying to keep the events outside the building from spilling into the team’s two-year-old facility.

The locker room was quiet. Despite the 105-90 victory by the Kings, basketball was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

"I just want to say I 100 percent agree with the protest outside,” Garrett Temple said following the game. “If I didn't have a job to do, I probably would have been out there with them peacefully protesting, because what's going on has to stop. It has to stop.”

Sacramento’s leader behind the scenes, Temple has been active in reaching out in the community and fostering conversation with local youth. He wasn’t able to play in Thursday evening’s game due to a left ankle sprain, but that didn’t stop him from waiting around to field questions.

“I think the protest did what it was supposed to do, it brought a light to what’s going on, I think that’s what protests are for,” Temple added. “After that, something has to change. Us not playing a basketball game isn’t going to change the fact that police unfortunately view black and brown men as a threat, when they are certainly not.”

Temple said that he had viewed the video and admitted that it was dark. A split second decision by a police officer cost Clark, a 22-year-old African American, his life. According to published reports, Clark was holding his mobile phone and not a weapon as officers believed.

The tragic events played out in seconds, but it’s storyline that many communities around the country have had to face on countless occasions.

Temple isn’t one to sit by idly by and bite his tongue. He may have addressed the shooting on his own with or without the protest going on outside the arena. But with the events of the night, politics and sports intersected at 500 David J. Stern Walk, opening a door for Temple to express himself.

“To those that say politics and sports don’t intertwine, this is a democracy, people have a voice and we’re people at the end of the day,” Temple said. “Obviously, sports and politics definitely intertwined tonight. The protesters did what they wanted to do in terms of bring light to the situation.”

In addition to Ranadivé’s comments following then contest, the Kings put out two separate press releases. The first came out around 7 pm to update fans of the current status of the game.

"Tonight's game began with a delay. Due to law enforcement being unable to ensure ticketed fans could safely enter the arena, the arena remains closed and we ask fans outside to travel home. We will issue further information soon regarding a refund."

The second press release came later to insure fans that they would receive a refund.

“Due to law enforcement being unable to ensure ticketed fans could safely enter the arena, the arena remained closed as tonight’s game proceeded with a delay. In the coming days, guests who purchased tickets for tonight’s game directly through the Sacramento Kings or Ticketmaster will receive detailed instructions to facilitate a full refund.”

The Kings return to the court Sunday afternoon for a 3pm matinee game.