Cauley-Stein shows what Sacramento's been waiting for in big win over Denver


Cauley-Stein shows what Sacramento's been waiting for in big win over Denver

SACRAMENTO -- It wasn’t perfect, but the Sacramento Kings looked like a team Saturday evening at Golden 1 Center. They were active and lively on both ends of the floor. They moved the ball and seven players finished in double-figure scoring. 

Playing without veterans George Hill and Zach Randolph, Dave Joerger turned to five young players to start the game and the energy on the floor was noticeably different. Denver struggled to complete passes and almost every shot they took was contested. 

“As a team we had 34 deflections, we were very active - forced 25 turnovers,” Joerger said in his opening statement following the team’s 106-98 win over the Nuggets. “Charlotte the other night had four turnovers. So our level of activity and aggressiveness was much better tonight and that’s a step forward for us.”

Sacramento finished with a season-high 16 steals, including a career-best seven from Willie Cauley-Stein. Eight of the nine players that saw the court notched at least one steal as the Kings forced the Nuggets into countless mistakes. 

Taken with the sixth overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Kings have been waiting for moments like this from Cauley-Stein. His offensive numbers have steadily increased, but the 7-footer out of Kentucky has more to give on the defensive side of the ball. 

Following the win, Garrett Temple, who had sounded off on the Kings’ defensive intensity earlier in the week, sang the praises of Cauley-Stein.

“I was counting them as he was getting them,” Temple said. “He’s probably the best defender on our team, man. His ability to guard five positions, not only the steals, but being able to change shots and being help side, he was just all over the floor tonight.”

Cauley-Stein is never bashful, but when told of the compliment from Temple, he was almost at a loss for words.

“That’s a lot coming from Garrett,” Cauley-Stein said with a smile. “I’m going to have to let him know about that, because Garrett’s one of the best in the league at defending, so that’s a big up to me, so I appreciate him.”

In his third year in the league, it all seems to be falling into place for Cauley-Stein. He’s hitting his jumper on a regular basis and his teammates are using him as an alley-oop machine. He has an ability to catch and finish at the rim that is helping to open up the Kings’ offense.

Late in game, Joerger reinserted him into the lineup and ran multiple offensive plays for his young center. Cauley-Stein abused Nikola Jokic on two consecutive possessions to push Sacramento’s lead from three, back up to seven.

“He’s starting to get a lot of trust in me in making plays,” Cauley-Stein said of Joerger. “It feels really good to be involved. Spending so many years of, ‘go to the corner and watch everyone else have fun,’ I’m finally in the mix and get to show my worth and it’s been a blast.” 

Cauley-Stein finished the night with 17 points, four rebounds and two assists to compliment the seven steals. Over his last eight games, he’s averaging 15.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for Sacramento, showing the team he’s ready for more responsibilities moving forward. 

With the win, the Kings snapped their three-game skid and moved to 13-25 on the season. They’ll finish their six-game homestand Monday night against San Antonio before hopping a plane to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Tuesday.

Bobby Jackson hired to Kings' staff as assistant player development coach


Bobby Jackson hired to Kings' staff as assistant player development coach

Dave Joerger is making changes to his Sacramento Kings coaching staff.

After Jenny Boucek's departure earlier this offseason -- she joined Rick Carlisle’s staff in Dallas -- the Kings had a vacancy. On Thursday afternoon, they filled the spot with fan favorite Bobby Jackson.

Jackson will work as an assistant player development coach after spending the last three seasons as a collegiate scout for the team. 

This is the second go-around on Sacramento’s staff for Jackson, who spent two seasons as an assistant coach for Paul Westphal from 2010 to 2012 after retiring as a player in 2009. 

Jackson spent 12 seasons in the NBA, including two stops in Sacramento. He averaged 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists for his career. In 2002-03, Jackson was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year with Sacramento when he averaged 15.2 points per game. 

Source: Kings in recruiting phase with forward Nemanja Bjelica


Source: Kings in recruiting phase with forward Nemanja Bjelica

After a slow start to free agency, a source has confirmed to NBC Sports California that the Kings are in the recruiting phase with unrestricted free agent Nemanja Bjelica. 

No contract has been discussed, but the team is attempting to convince the Serbian forward that there is value in staying in the NBA.

News of potential interest between the parties first broke Wednesday afternoon.

Bjelica agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers on July 5, but he never signed on the dotted line and informed the team earlier this week of his decision to return to Europe this season.

The 6-foot-10 combo forward spent the last three seasons coming off the bench for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He posted 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game under coach Tom Thibodeau, but his opportunities were limited in the T-Wolves' system.

At 30, Bjelica is older than most of the Kings’ recent targets, but he potentially could fill a glaring hole in the roster as a shooter at both the three and the four. Bjelica split his minutes between both forward positions in Minnesota last season, knocking down a career-best 41.5 percent on 2.7 attempts per game from behind the arc. 

There is no word yet on the exact dollar figure offered by the Kings. Sacramento has a whopping $20.5 million in salary-cap space to work with, and the free agent market is nearly dried up. 

While four years older, Bjelica compares favorably as a player to the Spurs’ Davis Bertans, who signed a two-year, $14.5 million contract to return to San Antonio earlier this month as a restricted free agent. 

According to a source, Sacramento likes Bjelica’s versatility and believes he can eat minutes at small forward this season, as well as shifting over to play the four.