Young Kings Primed for Wolves

Coach Corbin, McCallum and Stauskas look to take down Minnesota Thursday in Summer League action.

By: Steven Wilson

by Steven Wilson
Writer, Digital

In their fourth game overall and first of Summer League Playoffs, the eighth-seeded Kings face the 24th-seeded Timberwolves Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Cox Pavilion.

“It will be an exciting challenge for us,” said Kings Assistant Coach Tyrone Corbin after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ll have to change some things, especially with the way they post up their big guys [to ensure we] have help there and not leave shooters on the perimeter.”

Minnesota, who’s led by 6-foot-11 forward Gorgui Dieng and 7-foot-1 center Kyrylo Fesenko, earned an 86-77 victory over Phoenix – the tournament’s ninth seed – Wednesday morning to advance to its round with Sacramento.

Dieng and Fesenko combined for 30 points against the Suns, while their rookie teammate, Zach LaVine, recorded a team-high 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field.

Now, it’s up to the Kings to tame the Timberwolves.

“The tournament starts for us [now],” said Ray McCallum. “They’re a good team – they went 0-3 [to start Summer League], but they had a big win [Wednesday]. Once it comes to tournament time, everyone comes to play and we’ll be ready.”

With two wins to date, McCallum and Co. have put the team in prime position to make a strong tournament run, wrapping up the eighth seed and earning back-to-back days off on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sacramento appears to have hit its stride on offense, scoring 22 or more points in four of its last five quarters, while having five players score in double-figures in two-straight games.

“After our last game, I think we have good chemistry and everything’s moving in the right direction,” said the Kings starting point guard.

Many could point to McCallum’s distribution and overall offensive prowess as a key reason Sacramento was successful Monday against the D-League Select team. The second-year guard tallied 10 points, but more importantly, involved his teammates with 12 assists.

“[On Monday], we all had games that we were happy and pleased with,” stated the Michigan native. “That’s the way we have to play for the rest of this tournament if we want to win.”

While Thursday’s game against the Timberwolves is another chance for McCallum and company to take the court, the game will have added significance for rookie Nik Stauskas, who will be facing-off against two former teammates in Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan.

“I haven’t seen them in a while, so it will be cool to see them and then go up against them,” said the University of Michigan product.

No. 10 has been effective for the Kings thus far, averaging 13 points and two assists per game. The team’s 2014 draftee attributes his early success to being patient and listening to the coaching staff – knowing they’ll put him in optimal position.

“I’m all about efficiency,” said Stauskas. “It’s been my thing for my whole career – I don’t need a lot of shots, I don’t need a lot of touches, but I try to be efficient when I do get the ball.”

The Kings guard has heeded and sought advice from veteran players like Rudy Gay – who practiced with the squad on Wednesday – in a search to continue to enhance his game.

“I tried to talk to him as much as I could and pick his brain,” stated Stauskas. “He’s had a lot of success in the NBA, so any kind of knowledge I can get from him would be great.”

The Ontario native hopes the advice pays dividends as he and his teammates prepare for their next Summer League showdown.

Summer League Interviews:

Summer Training: