Papagiannis ends Kings' Tech-less streak: 'I'm not going to back down'

Papagiannis ends Kings' Tech-less streak: 'I'm not going to back down'

SACRAMENTO -- The streak is over. After amassing a stunning 29 technical fouls before the All-Star break, the Sacramento Kings made it 23 games without one heading into Tuesday’s contest with the Phoenix Suns.

Then things got messy.

Rookie big man Georgios Papagiannis got tangled up with Dragan Bender of the Phoenix Suns and the 7-footer didn’t back down. In fact, he was ready to take on the entire Suns team as they walked into his personal space.

“It happened, I was trying just to get my hand out of [the grasp] of Dragan and he just turned around, he came to my face,” Papagiannis said. “I had to protect, first myself, and then I saw three players from the Phoenix Suns come to me - I’m not going to back down. If you want to have a fight, we going to have a fight.”

Before the Kings could even respond, the 19-year-old giant was nose to nose with not only Bender, but Sacramento native Marquese Chriss as well. The end result was double techs for each Papagiannis and Bender and a separate technical for Chriss.

The Kings players have seen this side of Papagiannis before. Not one of them in the locker room was shocked.

“I’m not surprised actually, honestly, Pop’s crazy,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “You’ll see. Pop’s mean, yo. You’all see.”

Ty Lawson, who went off for his first career triple-double in the game had a similar thought on the rookie from Greece.

“He’s a little hot head, especially when someone’s bumping him and stuff like that,” Lawson said. “He’s not going to let anyone punk him, ever. Probably of anyone on the team, he would be the first one [to get a technical], I would have put my money on that.”

“It’s a good thing,” Lawson added. “You don’t want to be punked by anybody and stuff like that. You get that reputation in the league and it sticks with you. I’m glad he actually did that.”

Garrett Temple rushed in to play peace maker and had a front row view of the near scuffle. It wasn’t the fact that Papagiannis was in the middle of the situation that surprised him, it was the clarity of the language from the center.

“I had no notion that Papa was soft by any means, but it was good to him - he was speaking perfect english too,” Garrett Temple said. “I was there right under him hearing exactly what he was saying. You learn those words first I guess in the other language.”

No punches were thrown. No one was ejected. Just a good old fashion NBA standoff, complete with giant men going chest to chest with very little chance of actual punches being thrown.

Papagiannis finished the night with 13 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes of action. He’s shown more and more of his personality in each of his 15 appearances since the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans and freed up time for him in the post. On Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center, he gave the fans a glimpse into what the Kings have seen behind the scenes.

“They know really what I am,” Papagiannis explained of his teammates. “I may be quiet sometimes, but you know, they say all the quiet persons, they just have a fire inside them.”


Response to adversity opens Kings, Golden 1 Center to national conversation

Response to adversity opens Kings, Golden 1 Center to national conversation

SACRAMENTO -- Gavin Maloof once described a potential downtown Sacramento arena as “a beacon of light, shining bright.” Vivek Ranadivé likened the idea of Golden 1 Center as the modern town square, cathedral or communal hearth.

On Friday, Ranadivé might have finally found the best way to describe his $500-plus million arena in the center of Sacramento’s downtown core. Speaking to the Sacramento Bee, Ranadivé said, "you can't always dictate what the stories are that are being told around the fireplace."

Thousands of protesters surrounded Ranadivé’s fireplace on Thursday evening. They locked arms and barred fans from coming in the building as the Kings faced the Atlanta Hawks.

In one night, Golden 1 Center was transformed from the home of the Kings, to something much more. It became the meeting place for the protesters to vent their frustrations after the officer-involved shooting death of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old African American from South Sacramento.

The Kings’ first reaction was to protect the fans that had entered the building. They locked down the arena and cleared everyone from the massive windows that highlight the grand entrance. The limited number of fans allowed in the building were treated to seat upgrades and unlimited free food.

After securing the safety of the fans inside, the team chose a specific course of action. Instead of pointing fingers at protesters who likely cost the franchise hundreds of thousands of dollars, they allowed Golden 1 Center to become the heart of Sacramento.

It’s not always going to be about basketball or concerts or Disney on Ice. For Golden 1 Center to become what Ranadivé envisions, it has to be a place for everyone.

Instead of shunning the protest and turning their ire towards the thousands outside, Ranadivé had his defining moment, not just as an owner, but as a leader in the Sacramento community.

“The Kings recognize your people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that,” Ranadivé said from center court. “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.”

His postgame speech was humble and showed a different side of the Kings’ Chairman. It was also a moment for the franchise to become part of a larger conversation that is facing nearly every community in America.

To turn a blind eye to social injustice and civil unrest would violate the spirit of what Golden 1 Center was created for. If it is truly the fireplace of Sacramento, then there has to be an open invitation - not just for basketball, and not just for protests, but for all that a community has to give.

The Kings aren’t asking for games to be interrupted on a regular basis. But the team’s handling of the situation has opened the door for Golden 1 Center to become the communal meeting place they hoped it would be when they broke ground.

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.