Queta's sacrifices pay off in historic performance vs. Cavs


Neemias Queta continues to make NBA history off the bench for the Kings.

The No. 39 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft quickly has become a fan-favorite in Sacramento while playing limited action this season. Not only is he a rookie with plenty of exciting upside, but he is now the first Portuguese player to have ever played and scored in the NBA. 

He accomplished the first feat on Dec. 18 against the Memphis Grizzlies. On Monday night, he finally scored his first NBA basket in the Kings' 109-108 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden 1 Center. 

In 24 total minutes off the bench, Queta scored 11 points and pulled down five rebounds while shooting 4-of-7 from the field and 3-of-4 on free throws. 

“I thought [Neemias] was really, really good," coach Alvin Gentry told reporters postgame. "Obviously it was his first time really playing any NBA minutes. I thought he went out and did a good job, had some big rebounds, tried to finish at the basket strong like we like him to, even on the blocked shot. It doesn’t bother me as long as you’re going and trying to finish like that. I thought he was really really good.

“I just thought that Neemie added a little bit of punch to everything. He’s as raw as they get from the standpoint of he basically has no NBA experience whatsoever and we’re throwing him against three seven-foot guys to battle. I thought he held his own and did a good job. I think you can see that with experience and being able to play and get him games, especially in Stockton, that it’s going to help him over the long-haul.”


The 22-year-old Queta not only has a passionate group of supporters stateside but is beloved back home in Portugal, especially in his hometown of Barreiro. Prior to Monday night, he had only played a combined 10 minutes in three prior appearances this season. 

Against the Cavaliers, Queta was finally let loose and did a little bit of everything for Sacramento. 

“I was just really excited for him, just really excited for him," Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton said postgame. "Obviously, you all know that he is a fan-favorite, a league-favorite, a country-favorite. I’m just excited for him. He came out here and made plays, made good defensive plays, made lay-ups for us, set great screens. Just had a great overall game. He’s been performing well in the G League, so it’s not much of a surprise, we know what he’s capable of. Just really excited for him.

“He’s a young player in this league, a guy who is eager to come out and play basketball, play in the NBA. He got his first points tonight. I thought he brought great energy for us, he’s really active on the glass, active defensively. He brought a lot for us, so I think we just float with that energy and keep it going.”

Queta took advantage of his unique opportunity Monday night and came into the game prepared after Gentry informed him that he would get a look early on in the game. 

“I felt good on the floor," Queta told reporters. "I felt like I was able to play off the team and play defense and just rebound and be a presence in the paint. Just stick to my role and I feel like we played a good game.

“Alvin [Gentry] told me right before the game ‘be ready,’ because he was going to me early. I’ve just been feeling ready for a while. I just feel like I've been putting in the work and it showed up today.”

Before he was selected in the second round by the Kings, Queta made a name for himself at Utah State where he played three seasons. The 7-foot center ended his collegiate career as Utah's all-time leader in blocked shots. 

His journey throughout college and into the NBA has not come without major sacrifices, the kinds of sacrifices that very few players -- or people in general -- will ever have to experience. 

“Being away from the family this whole time, college especially," Queta said when asked about what he has had to sacrifice throughout his journey. "There was a stretch where I went two years without going home and seeing my family. This is a type of sacrifice that you need to do but at the same time it’s paying off really well for experiences like this, being able to play in the NBA and being comfortable out there.”

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Despite the limited playing time, Queta has certainly been an incredible story for the Kings this season and chances are that story has many pages left to be written. 

His ever-growing fan base in the NBA pales in comparison to the overwhelming support he has back home, a driving force and motivation as he continues to make history almost each and every time he steps out onto the court.