Kings

Gameday: DeMarcus Cousins returns to Sacramento

Gameday: DeMarcus Cousins returns to Sacramento

SACRAMENTO -- The return of DeMarcus Cousins. After spending most of his NBA career as the face of the Sacramento Kings’ franchise, the All-Star forward returns for his first game at Golden 1 Center as a member of the visiting team. He’ll face a Kings team that’s lost two straight and looking for a little love on their home floor.

Bogdan Bogdanovic made his NBA debut Monday against the Phoenix Suns and came out hot. The Serbian wing hit 5-of-7 from the field for 12 points in the first half, before running out of gas after the intermission. He played well alongside fellow rookie De’Aaron Fox and veteran Garrett Temple in a small-ball lineup off coach Dave Joerger’s bench.

The Pelicans come in limping. Cousins will anchor the squad, but he might be without his star running mate, Anthony Davis, who underwent an MRI on Wednesday and is listed as questionable.

OPENING LINE

Pelicans by 2

MATCHUP TO WATCH

DeMarcus Cousins vs. His emotions -- Very few players wear their emotions on their sleeve like Cousins. After six-plus seasons with the Kings, Sacramento fans will likely give the big man a standing ovation when he’s announced as a starter for New Orleans. He’s spent his entire career playing with a chip on his shoulder, but Thursday night’s game will have extra value for the 27-year-old.

Prediction: Cousins will either have a huge game against his former team or struggle to stay in the court due to foul trouble. There is no middle ground here.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 1-3, fourth place in Pacific

Pelicans: 2-3, fourth place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out.

Pelicans: C/PF Anthony Davis (questionable), Alexis Ajinca (knee) out, Omer Asik (crohn's disease) out, Solomon Hill (hamstring) out, PG Rajon Rondo (hernia) out, Frank Jackson (right foot) out.

SERIES HISTORY

The Kings won the season series against the Pelicans last season, with both wins coming at Golden 1 Center. New Orleans holds a 42-39 lead in the all-time series between these two clubs.  

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

WHO GUARDS COUSINS? -- The 3-time All-Star is a tough guard for every team in the league, but the Kings don’t really have a player that can stick him both on the perimeter and when he goes to work in the post. Zach Randolph, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos will draw the cover, but it will take a team effort to slow Cousins.

COMING OUT COLD -- Sacramento has gotten off to slow starts in each of the team’s previous two games. It likely cost them a win in Phoenix and it was a topic of conversation at media availability both Tuesday and Wednesday. If the issue persists, Dave Joerger will likely have to evaluate the starting group moving forward.

YOUNG PLAYERS CHOMPING AT THE BIT -- Joerger has been consistent so far with his rotation, but he has a couple of players pushing for a boost in minutes. De’Aaron Fox looks like a star in the making, Bogdan Bogdanovic impressed in his debut and Skal Labissiere is showing major signs of growth in year two. Balancing the minutes on this team is only going to get tougher for Joerger.

QUOTE

“I’m excited to play in front of the fans and see their reaction, but as far as it being just a revenge game or anything, I’m past it,” --DeMarcus Cousins to Marc Spears on his return to Sacramento.

Report: Rudy Gay to decline player option with Spurs

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USATSI

Report: Rudy Gay to decline player option with Spurs

First Kawhi Leonard asked out of San Antonio. Now, veteran forward Rudy Gay is reportedly on the way out.

Gay, who signed a two-year, $17 million contract with the Spurs last summer, is declining his 2018-19 player option, according to ESPN's Chris Haynes.

The 31-year-old Gay was scheduled to make $8.8 million next season. He will now become an unrestricted free agent.

In 57 games with the Spurs this past season, Gay averaged 11.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. In five playoff games against the Warriors, Gay improved on those numbers, averaging 12.2 points and 5.6 rebounds.

Prior to signing with San Antonio, Gay spent three and a half seasons with the Kings. His final season with Sacramento was cut short due to a ruptured Achilles.

NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Jaren Jackson Jr.

NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Jaren Jackson Jr.

Jaren Jackson Jr. - Power Forward/Center - Michigan State - Freshman

Age: 18 Height: 6-foot-11 Weight: 236

Stats: 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, .6 steals, 3.0 blocks, 39.6% 3-point

Player Comparison: (Bigger) Serge Ibaka, (modern day) Jermaine O’Neal

Strengths
Long and athletic, Jackson projects as one of the best two-way big men in the draft. He can shoot from the outside, finish in the post and at 18-years-old, he has a plenty of room for growth. At the combine, Jackson posted a 7-foot-5 wingspan and he’s being touted as a 3-and-D power forward or center.

Weaknesses
Jackson’s numbers in his lone season at Michigan State were hurt by his inability to stay on the floor due to foul trouble. In 21.9 minutes per game, Jackson averaged 3.2 fouls, which translates to 5.3 fouls per 36 minutes. He needs to get stronger, improve as a rebounder and develop a more consistent interior game.

Fit
With Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos entering the final year of their contracts, the Kings might have a long-term need at the center position. Jackson’s ability to stretch the floor would give Sacramento’s offense a new element. He’s young and needs time to develop, but Jackson is packed with potential on both ends of the court.

Chance of going No. 2
Surprisingly, Sacramento has shown very little interest in Jackson throughout the draft process. The Kings have kicked the tires on big men Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., but unless they’ve done a masterful job of hiding their intentions, Jackson doesn’t appear to be a target.