JaKarr Sampson

Two Kings do the dirty work, stand out in loss to Pelicans

Two Kings do the dirty work, stand out in loss to Pelicans

SACRAMENTO -- In an 82-game season, there are always a handful of games that feel off. Wednesday evening at Golden 1 Center was one of those games.

The Sacramento Kings couldn’t buy a bucket early. They lost De’Aaron Fox to injury in the first five minutes of the game to a stiff lower back and his backcourt mate, Bogdan Bogdanovic had one of the worst shooting night’s of his career.

New Orleans picked up their 10th straight win and even that was overshadowed by a rolled ankle for star big man Anthony Davis.

A box score often captures the look and feel of a contest, but even that failed to tell the story in the Kings’ 114-101 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Buddy Hield led the Kings in scoring with 20, but 11 of those came in the fourth quarter. Zach Randolph added 19 points, Frank Mason tossed in 16 points and six assists and Skal Labissiere and Justin Jackson both finished with 14 in the loss.

Praise for Kosta Koufos
Before Davis went down, he had a quiet first half against veteran Kosta Koufos. With Willie Cauley-Stein missing games with a lower back strain, Dave Joerger has asked Koufos to step in and play major minutes and he continues to impress teammates.

“Kosta did a hell of a job on him,” Garrett Temple said. “I can’t speak enough about his defense and professionalism. I’ve played with a lot of centers, Kosta is probably the best defensive center I’ve played with.”

When informed of Temple’s comments, Koufos was blown away.

“Oh, really? I’m humbled by that, especially from a defensive specialist like Garrett Temple,” Koufos said. “For me, I just play my minutes hard. That’s all I’m doing right now.”

In his post game comments, Dave Joerger made sure to call out the performance of Koufos as well.

“I thought Kosta Koufos probably had his best six or eight minutes of the season there,” Joerger said. “I know he missed two free throws , but what he did against Anthony Davis was terrific.”

Koufos finished the game with six points, 10 rebounds and a block in 20 minutes of action. The numbers don’t jump off the page, but he brings effort and a defensive presence every time he steps on the court.

About those free throws
Koufos airballed the first of two free throw in the third quarter and then bricked the second. The 29-year-old big man shoots just 46.9 percent from the line on the season, but it turns out there was a reason for the errant freebies against New Orleans.

It turns out that he was fouled hard on the possession and jammed the ring finger on his right hand. It’s the same finger that gave Koufos fits last season. Following the game, he was having the finger hand taped up by the Kings’ medical staff.

The Energizer Bunny
JaKarr Sampson and Jack Cooley, the team’s two two-way players, were in uniform and ready to play on Wednesday. Cooley didn’t see action, but Sampson brought the noise in his 18 minutes of action.

“His energy on the court is contagious,” Koufos said. “Even tonight - doing the little things right - protecting the rim, being aggressive, getting rebounds. He’s got heart and you have to respect that.”

In a game where five Kings players scored in double-figures, Koufos and Sampson, the two guys that did the dirty work, stood out the most. Sampson finished the game with six points, four rebounds, a block and a steal.

Both Cooley and Sampson are expected to be in uniform Friday evening when the Kings take on the Orlando Magic. Whether they travel with the team on the road over the weekend is unknown at this time.

Sampson comes up huge in win over Bulls: 'He's just disruptive'


Sampson comes up huge in win over Bulls: 'He's just disruptive'

SACRAMENTO -- JaKarr Sampson isn’t used to the media storming his locker following a win. The 24-year-old has driven back and forth between Sacramento and Reno all season long as a two-way player. It’s not glamorous, but he’s always a phone call away from the show.

Monday night at Golden 1 Center, he was a difference maker in the Kings 104-98 win over the Chicago Bulls. It’s not the first time he’s come up big for Sacramento and it probably won’t be the last. 

“That’s what he does,” De’Aaron Fox said. “Every time he’s come up - I wanna say that first road trip when we played in Cleveland, he guarded LeBron (James) - he’s just disruptive. He grabs rebounds, he plays defense, he’s active on the offensive glass - it’s what he does and that’s the reason that he plays.”

With his team completely dead in the water against the Bulls, Dave Joerger turned to Sampson in hopes of finding a spark. The St. John’s University product instantly changed the energy level on the court, helping Sacramento climb out of a 21-point first half deficit.

“He’s awesome as far as what he brings to the part,” Joerger said. “6’-8” lively body, diving as far as from the perimeter, slashing and trying to get to the glass.”

The numbers don’t jump off the page - nine-points, six-rebounds and a block in 18 minutes of action. But he completely changed the momentum of a game with his hustle. 

“It just feels good just being out there and playing in front of these fans,” Sampson said with a huge smile. “They bring the juice and get me juiced up and do what I do best and pass it along to my teammates.”

Sampson loves to energize the crowd with a dunk. He hit the Bulls with a baseline hammer in the second quarter to help draw the Kings within 10. Two minutes later, Chicago’s Zach LaVine got him back on the other. 

“You’ve got to - that’s the ballgame, especially for someone who plays defense the way I play it and is gonna challenge any shot,” Sampson said following the game. “I don’t care about getting dunked on, I just care about making a right play and sacrificing my body for the team.”

LaVine put Sampson on a poster, but that’s the way the fourth-year forward plays. You don’t get any free passes around him. He’s always ready to challenge, even when there is little hope of stopping someone. 

With the Kings off for the next three days, the plan is for Sampson to head back to the Reno Bighorns on Tuesday. Joerger joked that he might have to change his travel plans, but with only 45 days to use Sampson with the parent club, the Kings have to be judicious with when they call him to Sacramento. 

If nothing else, Sampson has earned a long look with an NBA team next season, be it in Sacramento or elsewhere. He has the body to compete and the versatility to play either forward positions. He also brings his lunch pail and a huge smile to work every day. 

Labissiere blows up stat sheet in first G-League game


Labissiere blows up stat sheet in first G-League game

With two-way player JaKarr Sampson playing big minutes for the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday evening in Cleveland, Skal Labissiere was busy destroying the Lakeland Magic’s front line in his G-League debut this season.

In a surprise move, Sacramento sent the second-year big to Reno on Tuesday to give him some extended minutes and a chance to build some confidence.

Playing against two-way player Adreian Payne, Labissiere went off for 29 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks in 37 minutes of action. He won’t be in the G-League long if he continues this type of play.

More of a conventional power forward, Labissiere has worked tirelessly to develop his game since being taken with the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. With so much information being thrown at him, the 21-year-old Haitian-born big has looked robotic at times with the Kings. There are moments where he is overthinking the game instead of reading and reacting.

Against G-League players, Labissiere looked fluid on both ends of the floor. Maybe a game or two with the Bighorns is just what the doctor ordered.

The Kings front office is making good use of their G-League affiliate in Reno. Sacramento has pulled both Sampson and Jack Cooley, the team’s two two-way players, up to the parent club on more than one occasion this season.

They have also sent Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson and Justin Jackson up to Reno for seasoning.

Papagiannis is with the Kings on the current road trip, but in six games with the Bighorns this season, he’s posted 14.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 29 minutes per game.

Jackson and Richardson were sent to Reno late last week. Richardson got off to a slow start, but he’s averaging 12 points and six rebounds over three games.

Jackson dropped 26 points and six rebounds in his first game with the Bighorns and backed that up with a 24-point, seven-rebound performance in game two. But he shot 0-for-12 from the field Wednesday evening and finished with just four points.

With so many young faces on the Kings squad, don’t be shocked if they use Reno all season long as a development tool.