Kings

Queta's NBA debut a dream come true for Kings pick, Portugal

Kings
Neemias Queta

With 1:01 remaining in the first half of the Kings' 124-105 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night at Golden 1 Center, acting head coach Doug Christie decided it was time for Neemias Queta to make his NBA debut.

Queta's first assignment? Go box out veteran NBA center Steven Adams on a De'Anthony Melton free throw.

Welcome to the NBA, rookie.

Queta, the No. 39 overall pick by the Kings in the 2021 NBA Draft, became the first player from Portugal to play in an NBA game when he entered for Chimezie Metu.

Despite the eight-hour time difference between Sacramento and Lisbon, Portugal, Queta's supporters back home stayed up well past 3 a.m. to watch his debut. The game ended around 5:30 a.m. in Portugal.

"It's special that they are up just to watch me play, so I really want to thank them for being up and staying with me on my side and every opportunity I get," Queta told reporters after the game.

The 7-foot center logged 7:44 of playing time and grabbed five rebounds, including three offensive boards. He closed the first half with a block of Grizzlies wing Kyle Anderson at the buzzer.

Queta didn't score and was a minus-nine, but none of that matters.

"It's a great accomplishment to be able to be on the floor and just get some reps in and to be able to play," Queta said. "I feel like it has been a long time coming. I've been dreaming for this day since I started playing basketball and I'm really happy it happened today."

 

Christie, in his first year on the Kings' coaching staff, has been thrust to the front of the bench with Luke Walton getting fired and interim coach Alvin Gentry in the NBA's health and safety protocol.

In his second game as acting head coach, Christie had to piece things together with Richaun Holmes still recovering from an eye injury and six players (De'Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis, Alex Len, Marvin Bagley III and Louis King) in the health and safety protocol.

So when Christie wanted to put Queta in for the first time, he acknowledged he got some hesitant looks from the rest of the coaching staff. But Christie has liked what he has seen from the 22-year-old Utah State product.

"I'm a big fan," Christie said of Queta. "I have been since I saw the kid in training camp. I think that [Kings general manager] Monte [McNair] and [Kings assistant general manager] Wes [Wilcox] and everybody did a great job with this one. I think Nemi can be a really, really good player. I see the potential to play through him at the elbow. He can make all the passes. He's not afraid. He protects the rim. He can knock down jump shots. There are things in his evolution.

"[The coaches] looked at me with like a minute [to go] and I'm like 'Get him in.' And they were like 'Eh.' And I'm like 'No, no, this is a perfect time for him to wet his feet, see what it's all about.' And then right after the half, I said 'Were you nervous?' And he said no. And I was like 'Well, that's what I expected, for you to just do your thing.' Really proud of him. We talk a lot. I'm a really, really big fan of his. I think he has a really bright future in this league and for this franchise."

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After Queta was drafted by the Kings in July, he said he carries the hopes and dreams of Portugal with him, like a chip on his shoulder.

“It’s something that I want to help kids and represent Portugal the best way I can," Queta said in July. "And with that, comes great responsibility.”

Once the Kings are healthy, Queta likely will get most of his playing time with the Stockton Kings in the G League. But for the time being, he's going to take advantage of any opportunity Christie is willing to give him in Sacramento.