It’s hard to be in a bad mood around Skal Labissiere.
The Kings second-year forward seems eternally happy and at peace, even when things aren’t going his way. His smile doesn’t leave, even though lately his playing time has decreased.
So in the midst of the Kings’ two-game winning streak being snapped Saturday by a 118-91 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Labissiere found his way back onto the court for significant minutes (25) after playing just 28 total in his previous three games.
Labissiere scored a team-high 19 points in the loss, also a season-high for him.
Regardless of playing time, Labissiere keeps the same upbeat perspective.
“That’s all you can do,” Labissiere said. “I’m going to be happy for my teammates, whoever is playing I’m going to be happy for them, whoever is doing well. That would be selfish on my part to just get caught up in my playing time or whatever. So I just support the guys.”
In a season largely dedicated to the development of young players, the 21-year-old has seen his playing time shrink. Labissiere is averaging 13.8 minutes in five games in November after averaging 23.1 minutes in his first seven games.
Labissiere showed promise during his rookie season, but played in only 33 games – hardly a big enough sample size to lock up the job of starting power forward.
Though listed at 6-foot-11, 225 pounds, he’s usually not as strong as his counterparts, making it tough for him to be a physical force around the basket.
So the Kings signed veteran Zach Randolph in the offseason and are bringing Labissiere along slowly. It’s not uncommon to see Labissiere staying after practice to work on post moves, honing his physicality.
Randolph said Labissiere’s “upside is through the roof” and that he needs to remain patient and work hard.
“I tell him, ‘Just keep playing,’” Randolph said. “He played good (Saturday). The kid works hard and that’s all you can do, keep working and that’s what Skal does every day. He puts his time in and he works.”
Defensively, the Kings are reluctant to expose Labissiere to matchups that force him to defend on the perimeter. For the third time in two games, Labissiere found himself defending on the perimeter and fouled a 3-point shooter.
“I’m pretty brand new to the NBA still and I think once I adjust the way I’m supposed to, everything will be all right,” Labissiere said.
With the franchise taking the long-term approach, there’s no pressure on Labissiere to finish making those adjustments right away. Labissiere would love to play more, but he’s not getting down on himself about the nights he doesn’t play much.
“If I try to get ahead of myself, it’s not going to help me at all,” Labissiere said. “If I just try to be patient and keep working, at the end of the day, if I keep a good attitude, I keep working, everything is going to be positive. Keep the faith and everything’s gonna be all right.”
Labissiere said it’s always good to have a game where shots fall. He’d scored in single digits in each of his previous five games. He opened the season scoring in double figures in four of his first five games.
“But if it’s not going in I’m just going to keep working,” Labissiere said. “I’m not going to get too low or too high, it’s a long season. I’ve just got to keep going, keep fighting.”