by Charlie O. Mallonee
An NBA game was played on Wednesday night in Phoenix and a Kentucky men’s basketball scrimmage broke out. The Kings featured their Wildcats – Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere. The Suns put the spotlight on their former Kentucky players Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. Phoenix gave former Wildcat Eric Bledsoe the night off even though he dressed for the game.
The future of these two franchises has been tied together since draft night in June of 2016. Phoenix and Sacramento agreed to a draft night trade that may effect the direction of the two organizations for years to come.
The Kings used their lottery pick to select Marquese Chriss out of the University of Washington and then sent him to Phoenix. In exchange, the Suns sent the Kings two first-round picks and the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic.
With those draft picks, the Kings selected center Georgios Papagiannis out of Greece and forward Skal Labissiere out of Kentucky. Sacramento knew that Papagiannis was going to be a development project and figured Labissiere would be as well. “Papa G” is developing while Skal is growing by leaps and bounds in every game he plays in for the Kings.
The Suns have also been pleased with the growth of Chriss. He has looked like a 19-year old rookie at times, but Chriss has also had moments of brilliance during the season. Phoenix has every reason to be excited about having him on their roster.
On Wednesday, the game belonged to the Kings and their young big men. Sacramento downed the Suns 107-101 in the “Valley of the Sun” winning their second consecutive game. The Kings were led by the incredible play of rookie forward Skal Labissiere who scored a game-high 32 points and made it a double-double by adding 11 rebounds. He shot a very respectable 11-for-15 from the floor including a 3-point basket.
Fellow Kentucky alum Willie Cauley-Stein came up big again for the Kings versus the Suns as well. He posted a double-double game with 14 points and 11 rebounds. WCS also had five assists, four steals and four blocks.
Rookie shooting guard Buddy Hield had a quiet night as he spent much of his playing time playing defense against the very tough Devin Booker. Booker scored 19 points but he had to take 26 shots to make those points. Hield and Garrett Temple defended Booker well in the game.
Other Kings who contributed: Afflalo 14 points, Koufos 13 points/six rebounds, Ty Lawson 11 points/six assists, Garrett Temple eight points and Langston Galloway played again putting up eight points.
TJ Warren led the Suns scoring attack with 24 points. Booker had 19. Chriss had a big night putting up 17 which is just over twice his season average. Alan Williams had a double-double game with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Tyler Ulis also had a double-double with 13 points and 13 assists.
The Kings are off until Saturday when they will face the Thunder in Oklahoma City.