Willie Cauley-Stein

Five takeaways from the Kings' 20-point preseason loss to the Spurs

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USATSI

Five takeaways from the Kings' 20-point preseason loss to the Spurs

BOX SCORE

After dispatching the San Antonio Spurs in the preseason opener on Monday night at Golden 1 Center, the Sacramento Kings traveled to Texas for a rematch on Friday. With half the team sitting out to rest, the Kings came up short, falling 113-93 for their first lost of the preseason.

1- De’Aaron Fox went to work. With George Hill sitting (along with the rest of the veterans), Fox picked up his first start and didn’t disappoint. The rookie scored 12 points and dished out six assists in 24 minutes of action. He’s an elite talent, but for him to take the next step as a point guard, he has to learn how to run a team. You’ll take a 6-to-2 assists-to-turnover ratio in a player’s second game as a pro. 

2- Buddy Hield joins the competition. After watching Temple start on Monday in Sacramento, Hield took full advantage of his opportunity on Friday. The second-year guard went off for 12 points on 3-for-6 shooting and hit a perfect 5-of-5 from the line. He was aggressive going to the rack, but he needs to find a way to involve others outside of the occasional ally-oop. 

3- Bogdan Bogdanovic knows how to play. With ball and player movement slowing to a crawl, the 25-year-old Serb came into the game and instantly started setting up his teammates. He started with a hook pass to Frank Mason for an open jumper and then sent a low post entry pass to a well established Papagiannis for a baby hook. Bogdanovic has an advanced feel and could easily steal minutes as a primary ball handler and distributor. He finished the night with four points, three assists and two rebounds in 16 minutes. Expect the Kings to take it easy on Bogdanovic in the preseason after a long summer of basketball in Europe. 

4- Willie Cauley-Stein wants to score. After finishing last season as the starter at the center position, Cauley-Stein is brimming with confidence. Against the Spurs, he pulled up for jumpers, ran the floor like a gazelle and even finished around the rim. The Kings would love to see the third year pro post 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting and chip in nine rebounds on a nightly basis.

5- A Georgios Papagiannis sighting. The Kings spent the 13th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft on the 7-footer out of Greece. He’s had a few moments here and there, but overall has struggled with the speed of the game. Against the Spurs, he looked confident, finishing the night with 10 points, three rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes. It’s only preseason, but it's nice to see improvement from young players. 

Young Kings look to get out and run: 'It’s going to be a fun way to play'

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AP

Young Kings look to get out and run: 'It’s going to be a fun way to play'

Since the moment Vivek Ranadivé purchased the Sacramento Kings, he’s begged, if not openly demanded that the team push the tempo. Under Michael Malone, the word “pace” became the beginning and end of every sentence. It carried through the George Karl era, but there was very little talk about the speed of the game under Dave Joerger last season.

To force the action only took away from the franchise’s primary strength, All-Star big man, DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings weren’t built to run. Cousins wasn’t built to run. Pushing the tempo only put more stress on the 6-foot-11, 280-pound center.
Cousins is now out of the picture and Sacramento has the assets to crank up the speed of the game. If the early views of training camp are any indication, that is exactly what they plan to do.

With the point guard position featuring veteran George Hill and rookie De’Aaron Fox, the Kings have plenty of quickness to run and gun. They also have fresh legs up and down the roster, including young bigs that can get out and move.

“They always tell me to stay in attack mode,” Fox told NBC Sports California. “Anytime a ball comes off the glass or even a made basket, they want me to initiate the offense and just try to push and attack first.”

With Fox’s ability to get up and down the floor, he needs options that can run the court with him. Sacramento is blessed with bigs that can really move, including Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles and Kosta Koufos. Even 7-foot-1 Georgios Papagiannis can fly up and down the court for a man his size.

“It takes pressure off of me,” Fox said about the speed of his bigs. “I don’t have to use as much energy to try and beat everybody down the court when I know my big will beat his opponent big down the floor.”

The Kings hope to be a hard-nosed defensive team that plays the passing lanes and hustles. While the defensive numbers weren’t great last season, they have added more length and quickness this summer. Despite the 33-win season, they developed into a team that fought from beginning to end of each game, which is something they hope to carry over into this campaign.

“We’re going to be a team that works hard, that gets after you,” veteran Garrett Temple said on Tuesday. “And we’re going to be a team that respects the game. We’re going to be a pretty fast team, we’re going to get out and run. And it’s going to be a fun way to play basketball.”

The grit and grind that Joerger brought with him from Memphis will show up here and there when the team features veteran Zach Randolph. At 36, Randolph isn’t out shopping for track shoes, but there is definitely a niche for him with the current team make up.

“Zach is fired up about running,” Joerger said with a smile. “We just tell Z-Bo, you get the rebound, you huck it and we’ll go like heck and if we don’t have anything, we’ll bring it over to the big fella.”

Randolph played solid minutes for Memphis last season and brings something that the Kings’ other bigs lack. To use a basketball term, players like Cauley-Stein and Labissiere are “light in the rear-end,” which is not the case for Z-Bo. Randolph can show them the ropes of establishing position early and holding the spot, but they both need to continue to fill out and get stronger.

Until the bigs get more comfortable holding their position, it’s likely that Joerger will turn to Randolph down the stretch of games. He is one of the more established low post threats in the game and his 18-20 foot jumper is pure.

“I think we all know that games are won in halfcourt in the last six minutes, so you want to be able to execute and lay that down too,” Joerger said. “Guys are learning. It’s a little bit different for some guys.”

Joerger and his staff are putting in more and more sets as camp goes on, but they are limiting the younger players' options to help simplify the offense. The first line of attack is to push the tempo. If that fails to yield a hoop, then the Kings will turn to simplified play sets and add more wrinkles as time permits.

Expect plenty of wild, end-to-end hoops. Also expect plenty of mistakes as the Kings try to mask their inexperience by running their opponents into the ground.

Instant Replay: Kings come up short in battle with Lakers

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USATSI

Instant Replay: Kings come up short in battle with Lakers

BOX SCORE

It looked like a rookie/sophomore game Friday night at Staples Center as the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers faced off for the last time in the 2016-17 season. It was a spirited affair, but in the end, the Lakers found a way to win on their home floor, coming away with the 98-94 victory.

Julius Randle used his strength advantage to abuse the Kings in the post. The third-year big finished the night with 25 points on 10-for-14 shooting and added six rebounds for the Lakers. 

No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, Brandon Ingram, shook off a slow start to score 14 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Jordan Clarkson added 12 points and six assists and former King Thomas Robinson chipped nine points and five rebounds as the Lakers pulled away late.

Welcome to Tinseltown Mr. Cauley-Stein. Sacramento’s second-year big put on a show for the Kings, playing tremendous basketball on both sides of the court. The 7-foot center finished the night with 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes of action.

Rookie Skal Labissiere looked like he was trying out for the slam dunk contest. The smooth shooting big score 19 points on 8-for-13 from the floor and added three rebounds and two blocks in the loss.

Darren Collison started after sitting the previous game. The veteran point guard shot 5-for-7 from the field on his way to 15 points and a game-high 10 assists. 

Buddy Hield struggled from the field early, but still managed to drop in 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Georgios Papagiannis added 10 points and 10 rebounds and Ben McLemore went for nine off the bench as the Kings moved to 31-48 on the season.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

Labissiere continues to show he’s ready for the NBA stardom. The 21-year-old forward has big league potential. 

TURNING POINT

The battle of NBA babies came down to wire. Los Angeles went for the win late, gaining the lead in the final three minutes and holding on for their 24th victory of the season. Larry Nance Jr. hit a free throw to give LA the two-point lead with five seconds remaining and the Kings couldn’t come up with the play to even the score late.

INJURY UPDATE 

Kosta Koufos sat for his fifth straight game for planned rest. Ty Lawson and Garrett Temple sat as well as the Kings’ season winds down. Rookie Malachi Richardson is officially out for the season with a right hamstring thickness tear. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles. 

WHAT'S NEXT 

The Kings return home following the game where they’ll face off with MVP candidate James Harden and the high-scoring Houston Rockets Sunday afternoon at Golden 1 Center.