Kings

Rewind: Early-season frustrations begin brewing for Kings

Rewind: Early-season frustrations begin brewing for Kings

It was an ugly night in Milwaukee. The Sacramento Kings limped into the Bradley Center Saturday night and the upstart Bucks tagged them for a 26-point drubbing. Sacramento is now 0-4 on their five-game road trip and just 2-5 on the season after the 117-91 loss

The Kings came into the game knowing they were facing an uphill battle. With second-leading scorer Rudy Gay on the sidelines, they needed multiple people to step forward. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. 

“We’ve got to stop a slide, you know,” forward Omri Casspi, who got the start in Gay’s absence, said following the game. “It felt like they were playing and we didn’t have a pop to our game. A good team will take advantage of that.”

Trends are beginning to form with this team as they limp through their early season schedule. For the second straight game and fourth time in seven starts, the Kings were outrebounded by their opponent, this time by a 53-36 advantage. They’ve tied the rebounding battle twice and only outrebounded an opponent one time. 

Hiding in those 53 rebounds for Milwaukee are 17 offensive boards, which led to 18 second-chance points for the Bucks. Even when the Kings got defensive stops, the ball seemed to bounce the Bucks way.

Plenty of those points came from behind the arc, where the Kings once again got torched. Mirza Teletovic dropped in 7-of-9 from deep as Joerger’s team looked a step slow on the perimeter. The Bucks hit 14-of-33 overall from the 3-point line as Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates broke the Kings down off the dribble and then kicked to open shooters around the arc.  

“We’re getting our heads down when a team makes a run, especially on the road,” Casspi said. “They made some tough shots in the first half. They made long 3’s.”

Sacramento turned the ball over 15 times as a team, but 12 of those miscues were on Bucks steals, many of which led to baskets in transition. Milwaukee scored 29 points off Sacramento mishandles and they outscored the Kings 26-1 on fastbreak points. 

Milwaukee is a long and athletic team and the Kings dribbled into the teeth of their defense on countless occasions. The result was often a poke away that led to transition. 

Frustrations are clearly mounting for the Kings. After a 2-1 start to the season, they have let opportunities slip through their fingers. The four-game skid is testing a new team early in the campaign and they still have one more road game to play on Sunday in Toronto before heading back to home. 

“We’ve got to stay together,” Dave Joerger told reporters following the game. “We’ve got to stay positive. We need some life. Our bench needs some life. Our guys on the floor need some life.”

There is no word on how long Gay might be out of action, but the Kings need him and his 22.5 points per game if they hope to climb out of their current spiral. 

Rookies get some burn

Joerger searched high and low for that life on Saturday night, even turning to all three of his rookie first-round picks as the game spun out of control. 

Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis made their NBA debuts and Malachi Richardson picked up game action for the second time in the young season. Labissiere was aggressive, showing the promise that people behind the scenes in Sacramento have been raving about for the last few months. 

The 20-year-old big played 15 minutes off the bench for Joerger, scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting while grabbing three rebounds. The 6-foot-11 Haitian has a smooth stroke from the perimeter, but needs to continue to get stronger to compete at the NBA level.

Papagiannis looked a bit out of sorts, picking up three fouls in six minutes of action. He had a nice dunk late in the game and grabbed his first NBA rebound. 

Richardson has been competing and often times beating his veteran teammates in 3-point shootouts following practice. He went 1-for-3 from long range for three points in six minutes. 

Following the game, Joerger was asked if he was looking at this young group to maybe find a spark going forward.

“No, I was just trying to manage playing a first of a back-to-back when we’re down 30,” Joerger said. “At that point, you’re just trying to get guys better and develop some guys.” 

Don’t expect to see these three very often. The plan is to groom the trio in Reno under Bighorns coach Darrick Martin for much of the season.

Kings vs. Pelicans projected lineups, injury report, player usage

foxdavisus.jpg
USATSI

Kings vs. Pelicans projected lineups, injury report, player usage

After a tightly contested loss to the Utah Jazz in the opener, the Sacramento Kings venture out on their first road trip of the season beginning Friday in New Orleans. They’ll face a re-loaded Pelicans team anchored by superstar big man, Anthony Davis.

Pregame Live starts on NBC Sports Bay California at 4:30 p.m., with tip-off scheduled for 5:00 pm .

The Kings pushed the tempo in their home opener, dropping 117 points on a Jazz team that ranked second in the league last season in both points allowed and defensive rating. Willie Cauley-Stein led the way with 23 points and De’Aaron Fox chipped in 21 points and seven assists in the loss.

New Orleans is coming off a big 131-112 win over the Houston Rockets in their season debut. They received huge performances by newcomers Elfrid Payton (triple-double) and Julius Randle (25 points, eight rebounds off the bench) and the combo of Davis and Nikola Mirotic combined for 62 points, 26 rebounds and 11 assists. 

Following the game, the Kings travel to OKC where they’ll battle the Thunder on Sunday afternoon. They’ll make a stop in Denver to face the Nuggets on Tuesday before returning home to Golden 1 Center for a clash with the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. 

Line: Pelicans by 10.5

Projected Starting Lineup

Kings

PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Yogi Ferrell
SF Buddy Hield
PF Nemanja Bjelica
C Willie Cauley-Stein

Pelicans

PG Elfrid Payton
SG Jrue Holiday
SF E'Twaun Moore 
PF Nikola Mirotic
C Anthony Davis

Injury Report

Kings 

SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (left knee) OUT, C Kosta Koufos (hamstring) OUT. 

Jazz 

PF Julius Randle (foot) PROBABLE.

Rotation Outlook

Kings

Coach Dave Joerger turned to 10 players in the opener, but only seven played substantial minutes. His new-look starting lineup played well, with all five players finishing in double-figures and running positives in the plus/minus category.

Justin Jackson played 30 minutes off the bench, seeing time at both forward positions and Iman Shumpert logged 17 minutes after sitting out most of last season. Rookies Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles combined for just 21 minutes in the opener, but with New Orleans’ size, there is a chance they get more of an opportunity in Game 2.

Cauley-Stein (38 minutes) and Fox (37 minutes) led Sacramento in floor time during the opener and should be a solid bet to see substantial minutes moving forward. 

Pelicans

Alvin Gentry used an eight-man rotation in the opener with all five starters seeing 29 minutes or more. He has a veteran squad that compliments Davis well. Gentry uses a three-guard set to start games, using Payton, Holiday and Moore to run the offense. Randle is a physical player that has given Sacramento fits in the past.

The Kings held Davis to 19.3 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes per game last season. 

Rudy Gobert breaks down 'very talented' Kings bigs Marvin Bagley, Harry Giles

Rudy Gobert breaks down 'very talented' Kings bigs Marvin Bagley, Harry Giles

SACRAMENTO -- As Harry Giles prepared for his first game, he was asked a simple question. His answer was honest and spoke to the naivety of the 20-year-old big. 

“The crowd is going to be different tomorrow, it will definitely add some nerves, but they’re our size, so there’s no reason to be scared, right?” Giles said with a smile.

Yes, most NBA players are big, or at least bigger than your average human being. But the Utah Jazz have a 7-foot-1, monster named Rudy Gobert that trolls the lane looking to swat balls into the cheap seats.

The 26-year-old came into his own over the last three seasons in Utah, developing from a sampling to a full-grown tree with a lot of hard work and effort. 

[RELATED: Bagley staying patient]

Following shoot-around on Wednesday, the Frenchman sat courtside and fielded questions to give his unique perspective on the Kings rookie duo of Giles and Marvin Bagley and what their futures may hold.

“Those guys already have bodies that are stronger than, obviously me, when at their age,” Gobert said. “Everyone is different, it’s most important to learn how to know your body just work.”

Gobert visited Sacramento in pre-draft before the 2013 NBA Draft. He was rail thin and all legs. He doesn’t even look like the same player, but that’s what five years of NBA basketball and five summers of can do for a player.

The Jazz selected Gobert with the 27th overall pick, a move that looks brilliant at this point, but nothing more than a gamble that initially looked like a mistake.

“I think they’re very talented, I don’t like to judge players too early, I think if people would have done that with me, they’d probably say I was going to suck,” the star defender said. “It’s all about them. How they develop, how they learn the game, how smart they are. I don’t know them like that. It’s a process, some guys figure it out quick, some guys take a longer time. Some guys just never figure it out. It just depends, they both are talented, for sure.”

[RELATED: Can Giles be better than Webber?]

Both Giles and Bagley are physically gifted, but it takes more than that to succeed in the league. They’ll have their struggles, like the home opener where they played a combined 21 minutes off coach Dave Joerger’s bench. 

The key is to learn and grow, both mentally and physically. Giles has a slight advantage over Bagley in physical development. He spent last season working with the Kings’ training staff and even spent time on the court competing against veterans like Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos. 

Despite the year of work, Giles, 20, looks small standing next to Gobert. It’s the difference between a mature adult body and a player that played a high school game two years ago. 

Bagley is even younger, coming in at just 19-year-old. He skipped his senior year in high school to go to Duke last season. He could be a freshman in college and instead, he is a professional basketball player.

Giles and Bagley have the size and the athleticism to compete, but Gobert thinks there is another factor that is even more important. 

“The NBA is a physical game, there is the skill aspect of the game, but physical aspect is the most important,” Gobert told NBC Sports California. “You can be skilled, but if you can’t handle contact, all those skills that you do don’t matter. So the body for me is the most important.”

It didn’t happen overnight for Gobert and it won’t for the Kings’ young duo. If there was any advice the reigning Defensive Player of the Year has for Sacramento’s young bigs, it is to not lose sight of the ultimate goal.

“The most important thing is that you really play to win,” Gobert said. “When you start playing just to play or just to show what you can do, but if you don’t play to win is when things get ugly.”

The Kings are hoping they have a pair of bigs that can help the team long term. It will take time, but the potential is there if they put in the work.