Kosta Koufos

Koufos takes blame, but Kings full of miscues down the stretch

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USATSI

Koufos takes blame, but Kings full of miscues down the stretch

SACRAMENTO -- At 13-28, the Sacramento Kings have lost in a variety of ways. Slow starts doom them early. Poor shooting nights have happened, as has the occasional blow out. They’ve lost eight games by 20 or more points and even a 46 point stinker to the Atlanta back in mid-November.

On Thursday night at Golden 1 Center, the Kings battled back multiple times from double-digit deficits. They entered the fourth quarter trailing the Los Angeles Clippers 100-89, but didn’t go away.

Sacramento battled back, taking a one point lead on three separate occasions in the final frame. They were in the game all the way down to the wire.

And then for one of the few times this season, the game appeared to shift on one play. Down two with 15.2 seconds remaining, big man Kosta Koufos came up with a steal in the backcourt, giving Sacramento an opportunity to tie or go ahead.

Koufos put the ball on the floor to advance it to the mid-court line and then made a quick pass to point guard George Hill. In the blink of an eye, Tyrone Wallace flashed in front of Hill, taking the ball straight to the rim for a dunk and a four point Clippers lead with 10.9 seconds remaining.

“Sometimes that stuff happens at the end of games and you’ve got to wrap your arms around your teammate and love on them, because we’re all going to feel, like, terrible,” head coach Dave Joerger said following the 121-115 loss to the Clippers.

It’s a moment that hurts. It’s also a moment that overshadows so many other issues that played out over 48 minutes of basketball.

Zach Randolph missed a tip-in at 2:34 mark and then turned the ball over with 1:38 remaining.

George Hill missed two free throws in the final 1:10 of the game and went 1-for-6 in the final quarter.

Buddy Hield shot 1-of-5 from the field in the fourth and missed all three of his 3-point attempts.

“That can happen to anyone,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “Game is not with one mistake. We so many mistakes from beginning to start of the second half and end of the game. Kosta was in that situation. Could have been me, could be anyone else. That happened. That’s basketball.”

Koufos had a monster game for Sacramento. He posted his first double-double of the season, finishing with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting and chipped in 14 rebounds. He was on the court in crunchtime because of his strong play.

Following the loss, the 7-footer got dressed early and then waited in his stall to answer to the media. He was visibly shaken by the final moments of the game, but he’s a pro’s pro.

“It was an error on my part, just tighten it up, that’s it,” Koufos said.

To add insult to injury, the highlights of the game played on the TV screens in the locker room moments later. When it came time to watch the turnover, Koufos couldn’t look away.

It’s a season of development for the Kings. Moments like this are going to occur, even for veteran players like Koufos.

In another of many scheduling anomalies this season, the Kings will get another shot at the Clippers Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. There’s no time to overthink a loss in the NBA. It’s onto the next game.   

Rewind: Role players step up, lift Kings to win in Denver

Rewind: Role players step up, lift Kings to win in Denver

When you’re in the hunt, every game matters. Tuesday’s 120-113 win over the Denver Nuggets gave the Sacramento Kings a tiny bit of breathing room in the eighth spot in the Western Conference before they return home for a seven-game homestand.

It’s not often that you’ve heard Kings player talk in January about playoff chances over the last decade. But Sacramento holds a game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers and with the win, a game and a half lead over Denver and they get an opportunity to strengthen their position Wednesday against a depleted Miami Heat team.

“I think we just came out with a sense of urgency,” DeMarcus Cousins told reporters following the game. “We knew how important this game was. This is a team we are battling with for the eighth spot. Of course this is an important win because it can matter at the end of the year.”

Cousins put up big numbers, as he has in almost every game this season. But the story of this win was season-high performances from Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison and Kosta Koufos.

Afflalo missed the previous three games with a strained right elbow, but showed no ill effects against his former team. The veteran shooting guard went off for 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, using a variety of post moves and even hitting two 3-pointers in the win.

“It’s always fun to play in a familiar building, but we’re in a tight race this year and I just wanted to come back and be ready to play,” Afflalo told CSN’s Kayte Christensen after the game.

Collison had a nice game over the weekend against the Grizzlies, but one night doesn’t end a slump. He built off the Memphis performance with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He got his offense going early and then focused on getting his teammates involved in the third quarter.

“Before these last couple of games, I know I took a step back mentally, kind of deferring to the offense,” Collison said in postgame. “But they told me, ‘it starts with me, you’ve got to be aggressive,’ like I had been earlier in the season, so I’m getting back to that.”

With reserve point guard Ty Lawson out due to injury, Collison finished the night with a team-high seven assists and only turned the ball over twice in 36 minutes of action.  

“They were huge,” Cousins said. “Arron, to come in and play like that off of injury was huge for us. DC finally got rolling. He’s been struggling a little bit of late, but he came in, played with confidence and had a big game for us.”  

Not to be forgotten, Koufos started 81 games for the 57-win 2012-13 Denver team and looked completely comfortable in his old stomping grounds. The 7-footer hit a young, but talented Nuggets frontline with a season-high 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and chipped in five rebounds.

It was a team effort. Garrett Temple scored all eight of his points in the fourth and finished the night with six rebounds, five assists and two steals. When the Kings needed a basket to stem the tide, Anthony Tolliver found the bottom of the net and Ben McLemore dropped in two 3-balls in the third quarter when the temperature of the game turned up.

“I’ll be the first one to say that we’re not a perfect team,” Cousins said. “We’re not a team that’s going to come out and blow out teams on a nightly basis, but we have to come and approach games the right way on a nightly basis. We got to grind it out, we’ve got to play together, we’ve got to defend at a high level all four quarters or games are going to be tough to win.”

A Denver-Sacramento road-and-home back-to-back is never easy, but the Kings get a Miami Heat team Wednesday night that is also playing a back-to-back after falling in Phoenix on Tuesday. If the Kings want to talk playoffs, they need to show up for games against lesser opponents, regardless of the circumstance.
 

Report: Rockets targeting Kings big man Kosta Koufos

Report: Rockets targeting Kings big man Kosta Koufos

Is the rumor mill already heating up? Word on the street is that the Houston Rockets are hot on the trail of one of the Sacramento Kings frontcourt players. No, it’s not the readily available Rudy Gay, who has already informed the team of his intent to opt out of his contract at season’s end. 

The Rockets are interested in the Kings’ veteran big Kosta Koufos, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Koufos would fit very nicely at the center position with Houston big man Clint Capella sidelined for an extended period. 

“Trade rumble: Houston has made no secret of its desire to add a big man and the Kings' Kosta Koufos, I'm told, has emerged as a prime target,” Stein tweeted out Friday morning.

It makes perfect sense that Houston would be interested in Koufos. The 27-year-old 7-footer is in the second year of a four-year, $33 million contract that he signed before last summer. He’s an extremely durable big that understands his role and is excellent in the locker room.

The real question is whether or not the Kings would have any interest in dealing their starting center. Koufos played under head coach Dave Joerger two seasons ago in Memphis and the Kings’ new coach has relied heavily on him through the first 32 games of the season.

Koufos has started 28 games alongside DeMarcus Cousins. While his numbers don’t jumper off the page, Koufos does the dirty work that often allows Cousins to flourish. On the season, Koufos is averaging 5.9 points on 57.4 percent shooting and he’s pulling down 5.8 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game. 

While Koufos and Cousins aren’t a natural fit next to each other, the Kings have found a rhythm of late, winning six of their last nine. They are currently tied with the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race. 

Would Sacramento be willing to deal one of its most reliable players while still in the hunt?

There is a legitimate concern that the Kings don’t have the depth to move Koufos while continuing to compete. Second-year center/forward Willie Cauley-Stein has struggled to adjust to Joerger’s system early in the season and is playing just 12.4 minutes per game.

Rookies Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere have bounced back and forth between Sacramento and the Reno Bighorns of the D-League the entire season and neither looks ready to step in and fill the void if Koufos finds a new address.  

Houston has assets, but nothing over the top. They have draft picks they can deal, but it would have to be a part of a bigger package. It’s unlikely that a conversation centered around forward Corey Brewer, 30, would spark the Kings’ interest, although the salary numbers would work.

Sam Dekker is an intriguing young player, but he comes with a long injury history. Montrezl Harrell, a former second round pick, is a nice young big as well, but not nearly enough to move Koufos for.   

Complicating matters further is the fact that the Kings have 15 players under contract, including three rookie first round picks. If Houston wants Koufos, they are going to have to get creative. 

Sacramento is likely to be busy over the next six weeks leading up to the Feb. 23 trade deadline, but Koufos is an asset they may want to hold onto. There might come a time when the Kings are sellers, but they will likely wait and see how this group fares through January before making any major moves.