For Kings rookies, those games held more importance than their outcomes – they were learning opportunities.
The Kings climbed up the power rankings in all six polls sampled (The Bee, NBA.com, NBC Sports, ESPN, CBS Sports, SI.com), putting Sacramento at an average ranking of 25.8.
The Bee’s Jason Jones ranked the Kings 26th, up from 29th the week before. The Spurs solidified their first-place ranking, while the Brooklyn Nets stayed at the bottom, despite beating the New York Knicks. The Kings face a tough schedule this week: They play the Milwaukee Bucks next on Wednesday at Golden 1 Center, followed by the Golden State Warriors on Friday at Oracle Arena and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center on Sunday. Can they rise to the occasion?
TOAST OF THE WEEK
CBS Sports on the Warriors, who are back at No. 1: “Back on top following a three-game winning streak topped by Steph Curry’s re-emergence as the flame-throwing savant everyone knows him to be. Kevin Durant resumes basketball activities, the No. 1 seed is within range, and Curry and Klay Thompson are back to splashing. The dark days of early March are turning into a bright spring for the Warriors.”
ROAST OF THE WEEK
ESPN on the Knicks, who stayed put at No. 27: “What if I told you that only two NBA teams – the Thunder and the Knicks – have a winning record against San Antonio over the past five seasons? We probably do need a 30 for 30 on the matter to explain how the Knicks will be taking a 5-4 record (from the teams’ past nine meetings) into their annual San Antonio visit Saturday night. Positives about New York’s nightmare campaign are so hard to muster that we feel obliged to pass along any that we stumble across. So here’s another while we take a one-week break in this comment cyberspace from questions about Phil, Melo and which of the Knicks’ two headstrong alphas will last the longest in Gotham: New York quietly clinched a 3-1 season-series win over playoff-bound Indiana between those two recent embarrassing L’s to the Nets.”
On to the polls:
Ranking: 26th, up from 30th. From the site: “The Kings rank second in 3-point percentage since the break, but are one of two teams that has attempted less than 20 threes per game over the last month. Maybe Tyreke Evans (14-for-27) and Ben McLemore (12-for-24) have been shooting too well, because they’ve been DNP’d five and six times, respectively, over the last nine games. After Darren Collison (19 points and 13 assists) and Anthony Tolliver (19 points off the bench) played well in Monday’s win over Orlando, they both sat in Phoenix on Wednesday. But Skal Labissiere won that game with 21 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and is shooting 61 percent (19-for-30 from midrange) since the break.”
Worst: Los Angeles Lakers
Ranking: 26th, up from 28th. From the site: “Skal Labissiere is showing real promise, including a breakout 32-point, 11-rebound performance against Phoenix. There were plenty of positive signs before that, though — he had four blocks against the Magic on Monday. I don’t know that Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Buddy Hield are the answer, but this team is far more entertaining than it was to watch before the trade.”
Ranking: 25th, up from 28th. From the site: “In the wake of DeMarcus Cousins’ exit, Sacramento is seeing what it wants to see. Rookie forward Skal Labissiere rumbled for 32 points and 11 rebounds in a victory over Phoenix, making the 20-year-old Haitian this league’s first rook with a 30-and-10 game off the bench in a regulation victory since (gasp) 1980. Buddy Hield, meanwhile, was averaging 13.3 PPG as a member of the Kings on 49.2 percent shooting – including 45.0 percent accuracy from 3-point range – in his first 12 games entering Sunday night’s visit to San Antonio. Best of all for the Kings, they’re featuring these guys while cementing themselves as a team with one of the league’s six worst records, all but assuring that they’ll retain their first-round pick in June. This is how it has to go post-Boogie.”
Ranking: 28th, up from 29th. From the site: “Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein along with Buddy Hield make this team more watchable than they were when Cousins was around. Yeah, they’re worse, but there’s so much untapped potential, it’s fascinating to watch it flourish.”
Ranking: 24th, up from 26th. From the site: “Willie Trill, Skal and Papagiannis are doing stuff! The Kings. They’re happening!!! (Maybe.)”