Kings hang on to beat Portland

By George Devine, Sr.

Despite a 41-point night by Damian Lillard, the Kings won out over the Portland Trailblazers, 123-119 in a hard-fought game at Sacramento. The visitors actually led in the first and fourth quarters, but a 25-13 advantage in the third gave the Kings the edge they would come to need as Lillard poured in one three-pointer after another — one from 28 feet out — late in the final period. He had 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Also a high scorer for Portland was LaMarcus Aldredge with 24 points, 6 boards and 5 assists.

For Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins played true to form, contributing 35 points with 13 rebounds. Rudy Gay had 32, with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. This is in keeping with his pattern of scoring at least 20 in most of the games he has played since coming to Sacramento. Isaiah Thomas scored 22 points and had 7 rebounds.

This makes for two losses in a row for the Trailblazers, and breaks a 2-game losing streak for the Kings.

Charlotte Hands the Kings a 113-103 Loss

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Photo credit: Rocky Widner NBAE/Getty Images

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Charlotte Bobcats came into Sacramento on Saturday night having lost five games in a row. The Kings game into the game looking for redemption after the disappointing loss to the Sixers on Thursday night. Both teams saw each other as being a beatable team.

The Bobcats were more motivated than the Kings and left Sacramento with a win 113-103.

The Bobcats were led by point guard Kemba Walker with 30 points. Walker was 12 for 19 from the field and four of six on 3-point attempts. He also dished out six assists and pulled down four rebounds.

Center Al Jefferson also had a big night for Charlotte. He poured in 27 points, grabbed nine rebounds, had two assists and two steals. Gerald Henderson hit for 16 points, Ramon Sessions scored 12 off the bench while Chris Douglas-Roberts added 10.

The Kings finished with some strong performances of their own. Cousins posted his 20th double-double of the season scoring 26 while grabbing 11 rebounds. Rudy Gay had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Jason Thompson recorded a double-double putting up 15 points and being credited with 14 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas added 21 points and eight assists.

The problem for the Kings was another slow starting first half. The Bobcats shot 64.3% (27-42) from the field while hitting on five of seven (71.4%) from beyond the 3-point line. Charlotte scored 65 points in the first half. It’s going to be a long night when you give up 32 points in the first and 33 points in the second quarter to your opponents. The Kings trailed 65-52 at the intermission.

The Kings played better basketball in the second half. The defense stepped up and stopped giving up easy shots. Sacramento started moving the ball and attacking the rim. The problem was even with the improved effort the Kings were unable to take back the lead from Charlotte. The Kings cut the lead to three with 8:02 left to play in the game, but the Bobcats roared back to open up a lead of 12 points with 1:02 to go. The Kings had to expel so much effort trying to get back into the game that they were never able to put themselves in a position to win.

After the game, a disappointed Kings Head Coach Michael Malone spoke about his team’s lack of defense in the first half. Allowing Charlotte to score 65 first half points obviously frustrated him. He said that at some point his team needs to become “embarrassed” about being 29th in multiple defensive categories. Malone feels there will be no significant change until they do.

Malone also pointed out that his team lost two winnable games versus Philadelphia and Charlotte. After playing at such a high level against San Antonio and Houston, the poor effort put forward in the Sixers and Bobcats games is very disappointing.

Things do not get easier for the Kings as they must prepare to play the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. The Blazers downed the Bobcats 134-104 Thursday. Portland lost to the Sixers 101-99 on Saturday. The Kings need to anticipate facing an angry Blazers team that is looking to revenge a loss to a team they should have beaten.

Kings downtown arena: Consensus Macy’s building will stand empty without eminent domain

by Ken Gimblin

SACRAMENTO–With the city of Sacramento holding a check of $4.35 million in escrow which was wired to the city from the Sacramento Kings the Kings owners Sacramento Basketball Holdings, the Kings and the city now wait for the owners of the Macy’s building located at the Westfield Downtown Plaza located at the western end of the mall to make a decision to sell the building.

The money would only come into play if the city council approves eminent domain in the case of the Macy’s building property owners CalPERS and U.S. Bank who did reach terms to sell the building last March but the deal fell apart. While the reasons were not clear why CalPERS and U.S. Bank changed their minds money was rumored to be the top reason and that the Macy’s building owners can hold out for more since the city and the Kings are desperate to purchase the building.

The building is crucial for the Kings as part of that land would be used for the new downtown arena, CalPERS said through a statement released to the media that CalPERS “recongnizes the signifcance of the city’s downtown redevelopment efforts and we are confident that we will reach a solution that is in the best interests of everyone involved our members, the tenant and the city of Sacramento.”

Time is of the essence as the NBA has set an October 2017 deadline to get the arena done and ready or the Kings will have to move out of Sacramento, so for the city of Sacramento and the Kings it’s win big or move elsewhere. That win would have to come in two hurdles the first, the Kings and the city face an anti arena movement to try and place a disclaimer on the ballot in June that all future sports and entertainment facilities that are paid for with city funds be approved by the voters first and the second is the eminent domain issue with the Macy’s building owners.

U.S. Bank did not issue any statements regarding the sale of the building but sources say their holding out for more than the $4.35 million escrow that the Kings have the city holding onto. Kings president Chris Granger said the Kings are behind the city council’s effort to use eminent domain to buy and move the CalPERS and U.S.Bank owners via a buyout.

The tone of the CalPERS statement sounds like they’re ready to play ball and that they want to sit down with the city and see what they have to offer and Granger added that the Kings are prepared to use eminent domain, “fully committed to our partnership in every facet.”: City officials have said that in talking with eminent domain attorneys the city would have a strong case seeing that the building would be used for a sporting arena, used for high school and college sporting events, graduations, concerts, the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau and at the very minimum hold up to nine events each year and the tenants would not have to pay.

Taking these community events into account eminent domain attorneys say most judges would rule in favor of eminent domain and that CalPERS and U.S.Bank under such scrutiny would have to sell and move. The city tried using eminent domain years ago once but landowner Moe Mohanna who had control of several K Street properties settled the case before facing eminent domain from the city.

In California the Los Angeles Dodgers used eminent domain to obtain Dodgers Stadium in 1959-60 and the Lakers used eminent domain to gain property ownership where Staples Center sits in downtown Los Angeles. One eminent domain laywer said it’s a matter of time for the Macy’s owners and that under case law “Courts have found that (a sports stadium) is a public use, it’s certainly not new” said Brent Hawkins, a partner of Best, Best, and Krieger law firm in Sacramento in an interview with the Sacramento Bee.

Ken Gimblin covers the NBA for Sportstalk radio

76ers on a roll, beat Kings 113-104

By George Devine, Sr.

The Kings won their last game of 2013 and hoped to do the same with their first of the new year. It was not to be, as the Philadelphia 76ers rolled into Sacramento with two wins under their belt, after dropping a baker’s dozen, and added a third victory. The visitors took charge early in the second quarter and led the scoring for each period except the third. The Kings committed 22 turnovers, telling the tale of the game.

Key scorers were Thaddeus Young with 28 points, Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes had 10 each. Coming off the bench, guard Tony Wroten poured in 21. Young also had a career evening with six steals. Evan Turner scored 24 points, adding 6 assists and 10 boards.

For the Kings, DeMarcus Cousins scored early and often, with 32 points in the first half and only one after. Isaiah Thomas scored 23 and Rudy Gay 18, down a bit from his typical 20.

Kings downtown arena: STOP withdrawal signatures signals momentum for Kings arena

by Ken Gimblin

SACRAMENTO–The campaign by the anti arena group STOP or Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed To Pork which looked like they were picking up some momentum this past summer as it looked as they would have enough signatures to put a disclaimer on the ballot before any new sports or entertainment facilities could be built, that would ask the voter if they apporove public monies to pay for such new buildings.

The campaign was required to present 22,000 signatures to be turned into the Sacramento registrar of voters, so far 14,012 withdrawal cards of the 15,277 forms that had been turned in by the downtownarena.org/Crown Downtown have not been counted. What hurts STOP’s campaign even worse is that there are a good number of reported unregistered voters who will be dropped out of the petition drive if that can be verified by the county registrar.

As of Monday 9,576 were counted as valid voters well short of the 22,000 needed to make the disclaimer a requirement on June ballot. It was also reported that some of the voters that signed the petition were not in the boundaries of Sacramento when the signatures were checked by the register’s office. Also it was said that some of the 34,000 signatures that were turned of those signatures the names might have been of voters names of who didn’t even sign the petition in the first place.

According to Jill LaVine Sacramento county registrar not only were there people who might not have signed the petition or did not live in Sacramento but they also may not have signatures that match against their registered signature in previous balloting or their registration cards on file with the county, “We will verify the voter was an eligible voter in the city limits, at the address listed, on the dates the petition was circulated, and the signature matches. If there is a withdrawal on file, it will link up and that signature will be noted as ‘withdrawn,’ said LaVine.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson also said that STOP will be resposible for the bill for the time and labor from the office of registrar. At one time STOP looked like they would have enough signatures to get the disclaimer on any future ballots but with all these factors now involved the Mayor and the city are planning one final crushing blow to STOP’s efforts by deferring the costs of the registrar’s office to the non-profit group, “(STOP) are not folks who have Sacramento’s best interests in mind. For me this isn’t what it appears to be, this initiative is like a trojan horse, it’s like a bait and switch.” said Johnson in a recent interview with the Sacramento Bee.

Johnson said that Sacramento was misled into thinking that STOP got these signatures legitimately, “we are ready to fight especially attacked from outside our community, we’re not going to be fooled. We’ve been here before.” Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen who tried to buy and move and build a new arena for the Kings in downtown Seattle. Later the NBA ruled that Sacramento should keep it’s team if they can get a new arena built by the 2016 season. Since Hansen lost his bid for the Kings and later he spent $100,000 of his own money for the petiton drive to get the facility subsidy disclaimer on the coming June ballot in Sacramento.

Hansen who would have had another shot at an NBA team in Seattle lost his credibility after it was found out that he was behind the campaign to undermind the Kings aspirations to build a new arena in downtown Sacramento.

Worse Hansen was fined by the registrar of voters for campaign violations to the tune of $50,000. STOP continued the campaign taking the signatures. STOP’s president Jullian Camacho says the mayor is misleading the public over his fight against the signatures, “he’s grasping at straws, if there are outside interests, they are centered at Region Builders (a pro arena group) not in STOP’s organization. Moreover the mayor’s statement is highly indicative of the misinformation that’s plauged this effort, an effort by local folks to be more involved in the long term direction of the city.” said Camacho. STOP turned in roughly 40,000 signatures on Tuesday at the city clerks office.

Ken Gimblin is covering the NBA for Sportstalk radio

Kings outlast Rockets, 110-106

By George Devine, Sr.

When a habitual high scorer gets into foul trouble early in the game, that spells a tough situation ahead. So it was when DeMarcus Cousins picked up two penalties at the beginning of the first period in Houston. But as the game went on, he scored when it counted, in the fourth, and brought the Kings to a 110-106 win. Although Cousins scored only 17 points — fewer than usual for him — teammate Rudy Gay added 25. In the last period Sacramento outscored the home team 30-20 to make the difference. Four of those points were scored by Cousins in a hurry, bringing the lead to 105-104 and overcoming a deficit of 3. The Sacramento center then stripped the ball from James Harden, feeding Ben McLemore for another score. That was one of Cousins’ 4 steals for the evening; he also had 16 boards.

Marcus Thornton scored 15. Isaiah Thomas had 17 points and 10 assists.

Howard scored 15 and had 8 boards. Jeremy Lin contributed 14 points and 6 assists.

Kings Lose Heartbreaker in San Antonio

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Photo Credit: D. Clarke Evans

By Charlie O. Mallonee

If effort counted, the Kings would have defeated the Spurs on Sunday night in San Antonio. Unfortunately, effort counts but point totals decide the winner, and the Spurs outscored the Kings 112-104 to win the contest.

This game was the first of a “Texas Two Step” road trip that takes the Kings to San Antonio and to Houston to end the 2013 portion of the season. The toughest game of the trip was going to be the battle with the Spurs.

The Kings came out strong in the first quarter. Rather than falling 12-15 points down as has been the pattern, Sacramento stayed even with San Antonio. DeMarcus Cousins came out strong and put up 10 points in the first period. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker scored nine points each. When the Kings second unit took the floor, the Spurs were able to open up a small lead and end the quarter leading Sacramento 27-23.

The Kings second unit stayed on the floor to open up the second quarter and proved to be no match for the Spurs’ strong bench players. The Spurs quickly opened up a 15 point lead as the Kings tried to live on outside, low percentage shots that were not falling. Sacramento also hurt themselves at the free throw line hitting just 60.0% of their shots. The Kings starters came back on the floor and cut the Spurs lead to seven. The teams went to the locker rooms with San Antonio leading the Kings 57-49.

The Kings came out hot to start the third quarter. Big baskets by Cousins, Gay, Thomas and McLemore helped them to cut the Spurs lead to three points. Sacramento continued to hustle, take high percentage shots and took the lead with 5:28 to go in the period 69-67. Isaiah Thomas led the effort scoring 15 points in the quarter. With the Sacramento starters playing almost the entire time, the Kings scored 38 points in the third. That is the most points given up by the Spurs in one quarter this season. After three quarters, the Kings led the Spurs 87-81.

The Sacramento second unit started the fourth quarter. They began to attempt low percentage shots and were giving up points on defense. The San Antonio bench led by the incredible Manu Ginobili pulled the Spurs back into the game and cut the Kings lead to three. With 2:45 to play, Tim Duncan completed a three point play by hitting the free throw, and the Spurs took the lead 105-102. The Kings were not able to get decent open shots and were unable to score. Tony Parker hit a killer 3-pointer with 50.0 seconds to go to up the Spurs lead to 108-102. The Spurs would score four additional points to make the final score 112-104 in favor of San Antonio.

The difference in the game was the bench play of the Spurs. Ginobili scored 28 points off the bench while Boris Diaw scored 14. San Antonio’s bench never allowed the game to run away from them. When the Sacramento bench was on the floor, the team went backwards. That is the difference between an upper echelon team and a rebuilding team.

The Kings had some outstanding performances in the game. DeMarcus Cousins posted his 17th double-double scoring 29 points and gathering in 14 rebounds. After scoring just five points in the first half, Isaiah Thomas finished with 27. Rudy Gay recorded 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The big three did their job in the game. The Kings bench scored just 12 points and played poor defense. That is where the game was lost.

The Kings have Monday off and then they face another tough opponent on Tuesday in the Houston Rockets. It will take another strong effort by the starters if they are to defeat the Rockets in their own house.

Kings Surprise Heat in OT 108-103

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Photo credit: Rocky Widner

By Charlie O. Mallonee

“The Big Show” came to town in Sacramento on Friday night when the Miami Heat played the Sacramento Kings. The sellout crowd was there to see LeBron, Bosh and company, and by the way the Kings as well. By the end of the night, the Kings and not the defending World Champions were the stars of the show.

The Sacramento Kings defeated the Miami Heat 108-103 in overtime at Sleep Train Arena. If you watched the game at the arena or on TV, you know that after the first quarter the final result was not foreseeable. The Kings trailed the Heat 32-19 after one quarter. You could literally feel the air leaving the building as 17,317 fans sat back preparing for another loss.

The Kings did show a little life when the second unit hit the floor. The second unit stayed on the floor to start the second quarter and the tempo of the Kings improved. Quincy Acy scored 8 points and Travis Outlaw added four. When the starters returned to the game, they appeared to have renewed energy. The Kings went on to win the quarter 26-23.

The Heat led the Kings 55-45 at the half, but there was something different about the Heat in that second period. They stopped attacking the rim and began shooting long shots, but they were only hitting 37.5% from beyond the arc. The Heat had changed their approach to the game.

The Heat came out in the third quarter playing as they had late in the first half. Miami attempted long 2- pointers and 3-pointers. The Heat’s shots were falling just short, and they appeared to be tired. Miami shot just 27.8% (5-18) from the field in the third.

While the Heat were missing shots, the Kings began making shots. The Sacramento starting five played the entire third quarter. Rudy Gay put up 11 points, Cousins scored seven, Jason Thompson added six while Isaiah Thomas hit five points. The Kings field goal percentage was 68.8% (11-16). Sacramento outscored Miami 29-18. After three quarters, the Kings led 74-73.

The fourth quarter proved to be a slug fest. Neither team shot particularly well. The Kings lead turned into a six point Heat lead with 6:31 left in the game. The Kings kept battling back and tied the game at 89 all on a Rudy Gay 14 foot jumper. LeBron James had a chance to win the game for Miami but missed a 25 foot jumper at the buzzer. An extra five minutes would be needed to decide a winner.

The Kings scored first in overtime on a Rudy Gay 24 foot 3-pointer and they would never trail again in the game. Sacramento led by as many as eight points, but LeBron James was not going to allow the Kings to cruise to a win. James had a three point play the old fashion way and two 3-pointers in OT, but it was not enough to stop the Kings from winning the game 108-103.

Isaiah Thomas scored seven points in overtime while Gay and Cousins added five points each and Marcus Thornton recorded two. LeBron James led the Heat with 11 points in OT.

The victory was just the Kings first win in the last 11 games versus the Heat. The Kings improve to 9-19 on the season while Miami falls to 22-7.

The Kings big three led the way to victory. DeMarcus Cousins recorded his 16th double-double with 27 points and 17 rebounds. Rudy Gay hit for 26 points with 20 of those points coming in the second half. Isaiah Thomas posted a double-double with 22 points and 11 assists.

LeBron James led all scorers in the game with 33 points. Chris Bosh scored 18. Mario Chalmers had a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists.

The Kings defense held the Heat to just a 44.2% (38-88) field goal shooting percentage. The Heat shot just 34.4% (11-32) for 3-pointers. Sacramento out-rebounded Miami 51-36 for the game.

The key to the win was the Kings ability to score in paint while stopping Miami from doing the same. The Kings scored 60 points in the paint while the Heat scored just 38 in the paint.

The Kings will have to remember that they beat the Heat while Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen were kept out of the game. That is not to say it was not a legitimate victory, but the Heat did beat the Lakers on Christmas Day with those three players in the lineup.

After the game, Head Coach Michael Malone had some thoughts on his team’s comeback after giving up 32 points in the first quarter: “I want to give a lot of credit to our second unit. We started out that game tonight by being down 17 points and our starting group didn’t have the best start in the world. The second unit came in and got us back in the game. Quincy Acy brought effort and energy. We cut the 17 point deficit to 10 and kept it competitive. We’ve been preaching defense, and I know we haven’t played a lot of it this year, but tonight I thought that the guys really bought in after that 32 point first quarter. We did a great job the rest of the game, really up until the last minute of overtime when LeBron James went crazy and we kept giving him open looks. I’m very proud of everybody in that locker room: starters, guys on the bench – everybody contributed.”

The Kings will not have any time to savor this victory as they must head out on a two game road trip in Texas. Sacramento will face San Antonio on Sunday and Houston on Tuesday.

Pelicans run away from Kings, 113-97

By George Devine, Sr.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Kings were neck-and-neck with the New Orleans Pelicans, but the visitors broke away, scoring 36 points to the home team’s 23 in the final frame. The visitors won, 113-97, snapping a four-game losing streak.

A key factor was Tyreke Evans, who scored 25 points and contributed 12 assists to lead the Pelicans’ assault. 13 of his points were in the fatal fourth. Anthony Davis chipped in with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon each had 17 points, and Holiday also had 10 assists.

For Sacramento, DeMarcus cousins had 14 points and 14 boards, and Isaiah Thomas had 21 points. The key stat that hurt, though, was turnovers — a particular malady for the Kings of late — which tonight amounted to 22.

Kings Stop the Magic 105-100

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Photo credit: Fernando Medina

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Sacramento Kings desperately needed a win on Saturday night in Orlando. The Kings had lost the first three games of the four game road trip and had been blown out in two of those games. The game against the Magic appeared to be the most winnable of the trip. The Kings stepped up, shook off the blowout in Miami and beat the Magic 105-100.

The game did not begin in a manner that would instill confidence that a win was in the cards. The Kings gave up 31 points to the Magic and trailed 31-25 after one quarter. The lack of defense made it appear that is was going to be déjà vu all over again for Sacramento.

The Kings offense stepped up and starting putting points up on the board in the second quarter. Head Coach Michael Malone felt that his team’s 12-4 run to close out the quarter was a key to their victory. The Kings went to the locker room trailing the Magic by just two points, 58-56.

Both teams came out in the third determined to play defense. The Kings and the Magic scored only 19 points each in the quarter. Malone called his team’s defensive efforts in the period, “Terrific!” After three quarters the Magic led the Kings by just two points.

The Kings offense came alive in the fourth quarter as they went on an 18-4 run to kick things off in the final 12 minutes of the game. The Kings outscored the Magic 30-23 in the fourth period and capped off their 105-100 win.

After the game, Michael Malone said, “We battled back tonight.” He also praised guard Marcus Thornton, “Marcus has been a true pro. He was ready tonight.”

Thornton has been the forgotten man on the Sacramento bench. He had gone from being a starter to being completely out of the rotation. Saturday night Thornton got the chance to play and he did the most with his opportunity. Thornton scored 15 points in his 22 minutes of playing time. After the game he said, “I’m happy to have the opportunity.”

Isaiah Thomas had another terrific game for Sacramento. His play in the first half really kept his team in the game. Thomas finished with 23 points, nine assists and five rebounds. He shot eight for 15 from the floor.

Rudy Gay also poured in 23 points for the Kings in his 38 minutes of playing time. Gay grabbed six rebounds and added two assists.

DeMarcus Cousins recorded another double-double. Cousins scored 14 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.

The Kings had a strong night shooting the ball. They shot 49.4% (39-79) overall and 52.2% (12-23) from beyond the 3-point line.

The Kings now head back to Sacramento where they will host the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night at Sleep Train Arena.