Kings' Eric Mika, Kyle Guy stand out in California Classic's second night


Kings' Eric Mika, Kyle Guy stand out in California Classic's second night

SACRAMENTO -- Make your presence felt. That’s the goal for an NBA hopeful playing in a summer league contest.

With plenty of scouts watching, one player’s play jumped off the court for the Kings in Tuesday night's 89-88 loss to the Miami Heat in the California Classic.

Former BYU center Eric Mika looked like a man hunting for a training-camp invite in Sacramento's second game in as many days. The 6-foot-10 banger took over for an injured Caleb Swanigan and instantly helped the Kings create separation from the Heat.

“With the physical play that they were doing with their bigs, Mika met that challenge I thought, and he delivered some blows back to them, which was nice to see,” Kings summer league coach Jesse Mermuys said.

Mika, 24, spent last season at Medi Bayreuth of Germany's Basketball Bundesliga after playing in Italy the previous year. He posted 20.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in his final NCAA season in 2016-17.

“I don’t know if there is a more physical league [than] Germany as far as Europe goes,” Mika said following the loss. “There’s a lot of big dudes, and you have to hold your own as a four and five.”

Against Miami’s summer squad, Mika bullied his way to 13 points, 14 rebounds and one block. He also picked up eight personal fouls, which is two shy of disqualification during the summer league schedule.

The Kings are deep up front, but the G League team in Stockton could use an enforcer.

That Kyle Guy

The Kings have two second-round draft picks trying to make an impact during the summer schedule. While Justin James had a quiet evening Tuesday, Kyle Guy put on a show in his second California Classic game.

The 21-year-old guard, who was known as a shooter at Virginia, lit up the Heat for 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including three makes from long range.

“I think a guy that can shoot. You can go anywhere in the world and you put him in a gym, and he has an advantage,” Mermuys said of Guy. “That skill is at a premium, and he’s a high-level shooter that you have to respect.”

Guy needs to work on staying off his heels on defense, and he could do a better job moving the ball, but there is a lot to like. He also chipped in four rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes of play.

“When the games get tight, he rises,” Mermuys said. “He’s got grit and toughness, and he rises to the competition.”

[RELATED: Cauley-Stein gets his fresh start, and Kings are just fine]

Late-game mistake

Sacramento had a shot to win the game late and couldn’t get it done.

The Kings got a late stop and had the ball in point guard Semaj Christon’s hands. Instead of calling a timeout and setting up a play, Mermuys decided to allow the action to continue.

“It was such a tough call because I was planning on taking a timeout, and then I saw Semaj get it, who I want downhill anyways with the defense not set,” Mermuys said. “It’s a tough call, man. Obviously it didn’t work out, I would have taken one. Now I’m beating myself up. That’s the pain of being a head coach.”

No one is going to fault Mermuys decision in a summer league game. With just three days of practice, there is no promise that the Kings would have gotten a better shot than the 35-foot running 3-pointer that Christon ultimately tossed up. Installing game-winning play sets is something teams work on during the second or third week of training camp, not the first week of July. 

Kings' De'Aaron Fox targeting return to lineup vs. Hornets on Tuesday

Kings' De'Aaron Fox targeting return to lineup vs. Hornets on Tuesday

De'Aaron Fox won't play Sunday against the Warriors in San Francisco, but the injured Kings point guard is close to returning.

"Right now, after talking to [the training staff], it could be as early as the Charlotte game," Fox told reporters in Sacramento before the Kings lost to the Knicks, 103-101 on Friday night. "I don't see it being as late as after Christmas, or even the Houston game right before Christmas. So right now, we're looking at between the Charlotte game and the Memphis game."

After making the drive down to San Francisco, the Kings head out on a three-game road trip. On Tuesday, they face the Hornets, followed by the Pacers on Friday. They finish the trip with a game against the Grizzlies on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Fox has been out since Nov. 11 when he sprained his ankle during practice. The team diagnosed him with a Grade 3 ankle sprain.

In Fox's absence, the Kings have gone 8-8, including Friday's fall to the lowly Knicks.

Offseason acquisition Cory Joseph has started every game since Fox got hurt and is averaging 5.7 points and 4.9 assists in 15 contests. Once Fox returns to the starting lineup, Joseph will move back to his bench role and lead the second unit.

[RELATED: Lack of intensity costs Kings against Knicks]

When Fox returns, the Kings will be fully healthy and should be poised to go on a run.

Kings' lack of maintaining intensity costs them game vs. lowly Knicks

Kings' lack of maintaining intensity costs them game vs. lowly Knicks

SACRAMENTO -- By the time the media arrived in the Sacramento Kings’ locker room Friday evening at Golden 1 Center, half of the locker room was already gone.

A few players stayed by to answer for the team’s disappointing 103-101 loss to the New York Knicks, but not nearly enough.

In classic Kings fashion, they went up big on a less than stellar opponent and then let off the gas. The victory by New York was just their sixth of the season against 20 losses.

“We took our foot off the pedal and let them come back and stick around the game when we had them kind of buried,” veteran Cory Joseph said.

In front of a sold-out crowd on their home floor, the Kings took a 16-point lead with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter. After a series of substitutions, Sacramento stopped moving the ball and settled for perimeter shots.

New York hit the Kings with an 11-3 run to finish the third to pull within eight points going to the fourth.

“We got up big and we just stopped doing the things that got us there,” Joseph said. “We stopped playing with that aggression and they out physicaled us down in the paint.”

The Knicks destroyed the Kings down low, outscoring them 56-32 in points in the paint, including an 18-10 advantage in the third as they tightened the game up.

“I’ve got to watch the film,” Marvin Bagley said. “They started getting easy buckets. I’ve got to go see what went wrong, but I really don’t know.”

The final 12 minutes was more of the same, except New York started to hit an occasional perimeter shot to help open the lane even more. The Knicks knocked down 4-of-8 from the perimeter in the fourth. Sacramento matched the number of makes with four, but they took 15 3-pointers in order to do it.

“We didn’t play enough of the 48 minutes to secure a win tonight,” coach Luke Walton said. “Give the Knicks credit. They knocked down shots. They made plays as that game went on.”

This isn’t the first time this season that the Kings have struggled against a beatable opponent on their home floor. They fell apart early in the season against the Hornets and then lost a game to the Chicago Bulls to open then December schedule. For a team with playoff aspirations, these are must-win games.

“Our guys were ready to play, we came out and were the aggressors, we built up a double-digit lead and then we didn’t do a good enough job of maintaining that type of play,” Walton said.

[RELATED: Walton suits up at Folsom to support criminal justice reform]

It’s back to the drawing board for the Kings. They’ll face another struggling opponent on Sunday when they travel to San Francisco to face the Golden State Warriors.

After playing in five straight NBA Finals, the Warriors are just 5-22 to start the season and they’ve lost three straight. Instead of playing to get back to .500, the Kings are 11-14 and back on the outside looking in of the Western Conference playoff standings.