Skal Labissiere worked hard to get stronger in the offseason and is noticeably bigger than he was as a rookie.
But when he stands next to LaMarcus Aldridge, it’s clear Labissiere still has a ways to go before he’s sturdy enough to battle with the NBA’s best around the rim.
The San Antonio Spurs were just too seasoned and strong Friday night for the Kings, who lost 113-93 in the preseason game at AT&T Center.
“With LaMarcus it’s tough because he’s an All-Star and you’re going at him several times down the court,” Labissiere said. “So to go in there and bang with him and go down there and try to rebound and set screens, I’m still learning all that stuff. I think over time I’m going to get very comfortable with that.”
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For all the speed the youthful Kings possess, they lack the bulk to wear down teams. Preseason or not, there will be nights when the younger players will get pushed around.
It didn’t help that the Kings sat their five most experienced players who comprised the starting lineup Monday against the Spurs at Golden 1 Center: George Hill, Garrett Temple, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and Kosta Kofuos.
The youngsters endured a trial by fire against a veteran team that executes with precision even without injured superstar Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker recovering from injury and Manu Ginobili resting.
The Kings went with a rookie at point guard (De’Aaron Fox), three second-year players (Buddy Hield, Malachi Richardson and Labissiere) and third-year center Willie Cauley-Stein.
That group came out running, taking a 24-15 lead after the first quarter. From there, the Spurs were the bullies on the court.
“There’s a lot of things we can keep working on,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “We gave up 98 points in the last three quarters, so physicality. Bodies just have to get bigger, stronger, older. They ramped up their pressure and we kind of succumbed to the physicality and we don’t have a lot of size.”
The first quarter showed what they could do at their best. But Joerger wants consistency, and experiences like Friday will help reach that goal.
“We have to fight like we did in the first quarter for the entire game,” Joerger said. “And once they kept grinding us down with it, size at the wings and inside, it was difficult for us to do things on offense.”
Cauley-Stein led the Kings with 14 points and nine rebounds. Labissiere had 14 points. Fox and Hield each had 12 points and Fox added six assists.
“We’re young,” Fox said. “That’s an older, veteran team. We came out with a lot of energy, a lot of speed, got to the basket, defended well and they started playing physical and kind of wore us down a little bit. But it’s a learning curve for us.”