Ali Thanawalla

Iman Shumpert reveals what makes De'Aaron Fox 'really, really special'

Iman Shumpert reveals what makes De'Aaron Fox 'really, really special'

De'Aaron Fox is the point guard and floor general for the Kings. Iman Shumpert is the wise, sage veteran. Together, they form two-fifths of Sacramento's starting five.

Fox and Shumpert have been teammates ever since the Kings swung a three-team trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Utah Jazz at the deadline last year that netted them the veteran swingman and other future assets.

Shumpert went from a veteran-laden Cavaliers team to a Kings squad full of players still on their rookie contracts. It was quite the adjustment for the 2016 NBA champion.

NBC Sports California's Kayte Hunter recently sat down with Shumpert for a lengthy discussion, and Fox came up during the interview.

Kayte Hunter: You have a group of a lot of young guys, lot of young guys, so obviously, there's a lot you can offer. I'm curious, now, looking at the team, who surprised you the most of the young guys and why?

Iman Shumpert: De'Aaron.

KH: Why?

IS: His love for the game. There's nothing you can do about it. His pure joy for life, there's just nothing you can do about it. I don't think there's a coach that could break him. I've ran sprints with him in practice. You can beat him in practice, but once the ball goes up and the lights turn on, it's a different energy because he just loves it and he can block everything out. You can tell him to do something, and what's in his heart comes out.

KH: I've talked to [Bogdan Bogdanovic], and you obviously came at the trade deadline last year, but Bogi said specifically, 'I saw a change in [De'Aaron] after the All-Star game last year after he wasn't chosen for the USA Team for the [Rising Stars Challenge]. He said, 'I noticed a change in him after he wasn't selected, and from that moment on, through the season, he's been a different player.' Did you notice that when you got here? A change?

IS: I didn't notice the change last year. I feel like last year, he still had ups and downs. I tell him all the time, 'Don't lie to yourself,' because there were times last year where he'd lie to himself. He knew he messed up, but it had to be somebody else or some other reason or something he was thinking. And I'm like, 'Bro, sometimes, you just messed up.' But the second he realized to just let that go, because he's so, like, the way he loves the game, it's contagious. Everybody has seen De'Aaron get a steal, the smile, the run back after he goes super fast, and then he's running back and it's like, 'How's he that fast?' and he jogs back to the huddle like that. He just jogs back, sorta barely picking his legs up. It's like, 'How do you move so fast if that's your job? Like, how does the speed change like that?'

But the smile, the energy that's behind everything he does, the willingness to, instead of taking three dribbles, which he could, he'll take one little half a dribble and just pass it 40 feet because he just sees a guy open, even if he's not sure, he's just like, 'Because he ran, I'm going to reward him.' And it's natural for him. It's not something someone has to say, 'Hey man, make sure you hit him.' He don't care if he has zero points, he really doesn't care. There's some games where he's shooting it awful, and if you saw him on the bench, you wouldn't know. And to me, that's what makes him really, really special. Because someone that's that talented, usually they can feel it when they're like, 'Oh, I gotta get it going.' You know what I mean? 'Ah, this might mess up my average.' For him, it's like, 'I just shot it man.' You ask him, and he's like, 'I don't know, I just couldn't make a shot tonight.' But he still loves it.

Programming note: Kings Central featuring Iman Shumpert debuts Monday at 11:30 a.m. PT on NBC Sports California.

George Karl 'excited' to watch DeMarcus Cousins' Warriors debut vs. Clippers

George Karl 'excited' to watch DeMarcus Cousins' Warriors debut vs. Clippers

In case you forgot, DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl weren't exactly best friends during their time together in Sacramento. They got into heated arguments, and Karl wanted Cousins traded.

But, three years later, Karl is out of coaching and Cousins is set to make his Warriors debut Friday against the Clippers.

"We definitely had ups and downs," Karl said Wednesday on KNBR 680. "We had negative days, we had positive days. I’m a guy that tells it like it is. Every day I try to come in and get better and energize the team to be in that same mode. I think DeMarcus is going to be fine in this scenario. I might be on that list [of coaches] he didn’t like, but there are some other coaches on that list, too."

Cousins will have 37 regular-season games to get up to speed and mesh with his new teammates before the playoffs begin.

For all the stress Karl and Cousins caused for each other during their year and a half together, the former Kings coach definitely will be watching the Warriors-Clippers game.

"I’m excited to see the game [on Friday]. I really think it’s going to work out well," Karl said. "I don’t think any nightmare is going to happen from now until probably the second round of the playoffs where it might get gritty a little bit, might get edgy a little bit. Because DeMarcus wants to be on a winner, he’s a hell of a player, he’s got great talent. I think he fits the personality of Golden State. I think they have time now not to force him back."

While Karl had a hard time getting through to Cousins in Sacramento, he believes that having players such as Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green will help the All-Star center.

"I definitely think DeMarcus enjoys the peer pressure more than the authority of the coach, and I think it comes in different packages," Karl said. "Every player has his thermostat on how much coaching he will take. Some guys are extremely coachable, other guys aren’t very coachable. And some guys, as a coaching staff, you gotta figure them out, you gotta figure out who can communicate with them, who can touch them, who can motivate them, it doesn’t always fall on the head-coaching realm of responsibility."

Steelers owner says Antonio Brown trade talks will heat up in mid-March


Steelers owner says Antonio Brown trade talks will heat up in mid-March

If you're hoping the 49ers trade for All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, you're going to have to wait a little while.

It likely won't happen next week or even next month.

ESPN reported Tuesday that Steelers owner and president Art Rooney II expects any trade discussions regarding Brown to occur around the start of the new league year on March 13.

So, be patient 49ers fans. This is a long process.

With so much time between now and March 13, is there a chance the Steelers and Brown could work out their differences? Not likely, according to Rooney, considering the two sides haven't spoken since the end of the regular season.

"I would have liked to have the opportunity to talk to him and understand where he is," Rooney told reporters in Pittsburgh. "Maybe that happens at some point. I'm very disappointed in where we are and what happened and don't have a lot of good explanations for it as we sit here today."

Brown used Twitter on Wednesday afternoon to fire back at former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians for labeling Brown a "diva." Brown was also asked about Rooney and said the Steelers clearly "feel indifferent about me."

Rooney, though, wasn't in the mood to talk badly about Brown.

"I'm not gonna sit here and disparage Antonio," Rooney told the reporters. "You have to remember he's been one of the most productive receivers in the league for a long time now. He's helped us win a lot of games over the last few years. Was it always done the way you'd like to see it done? No. But I don't think he was a major distraction to the team up until the last weekend of the season. The proof is in the pudding for the most part."