Georgios Papagiannis finally got his first NBA experience.
He was unimpressed – with himself.
The Kings rookie center made his summer league debut Sunday in an 85-73 loss to the Houston Rockets at the Thomas & Mack Center. He had missed Sacramento’s first summer league contest Friday against Toronto because of left knee stiffness.
There is plenty of curiosity about Papagiannis, a 19-year-old Greek selected 13th overall by the Phoenix Suns in last month’s NBA draft and immediately traded to Sacramento. No one is sure how he’ll fit on the Kings, given his youth and that he plays the same position as Kings All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and last year’s first-round pick, Willie Cauley-Stein.
What is certain is Papagiannis will need time to develop. He had eight points, five rebounds and two turnovers in 18 minutes against the Rockets.
The rookie, however, was disappointed in his play. He had hoped to help the Kings win, even if summer league records mean nothing long term.
“It was my first game; I will be better in my next games,” Papagiannis said. “It’s just the beginning.”
Patience will be key in Papagiannis’ development, but there’s still pressure. After all, he faces high expectations as a lottery pick.
Because of his knee problem and a sore hamstring, he has had limited practice time and must improve his conditioning.
“I wasn’t feeling 100 percent ready,” Papagiannis said. “I’ve got a little bit of pain, but it’s OK. It’ll get better and better, and I’m going to get better, too.”
He played the first five minutes of the game and then did not play again until after halftime.
“You have to prove to everybody (you can play as a rookie),” Papagiannis said. “It was my first time; I haven’t played for two months. It was strange for me being out on the court, and I had this injury in my leg so I was out. But I’m going to improve, and in the second half I was better. I was more comfortable.”
Papagiannis had six points and three rebounds after halftime. He appeared to move better as the game progressed.
“I think he found a rhythm a little bit, which is good for him,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger.
Because the Kings are loaded with big men, Papagiannis does not have to play a big role early in his career, and he can build on experiences like Sunday’s game.
At times, the game appeared to be too fast for him and smaller players beat him to the ball. But at other times, it was apparent his 7-foot-1, 240-pound frame would be tough to move once he establishes himself in the post.
He’ll also have to learn to chase smaller players defensively away from the rim.
Joerger, who will give way to an assistant for the rest of the summer league, said Papagiannis has had a tough week.
“Traveling back and forth (during the draft process), having to get an MRI, and the game is very fast with the way that it’s being played now,” Joerger said. “So it’s going to take a little while for him to catch up to the speed of the game, the pick-and-pop fours and the athletic fives that are 6-7, 6-8. It’s going to be tough for him.”
Papagiannis also realizes he must improve his body to deal with the NBA game. Still, he found Sunday’s experience worthwhile.
“Just to see how the league is, just to see how other teams are and see how the competition is,” Papagiannis said. “The next game I’m going to be comfortable, so we start from (Monday).”