SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings opened the 2016-17 preseason Monday afternoon with their annual Media Day festivities. Despite so many storylines to explore, the day came and went without incident. No fights. No wild dunks on unsuspecting teammates. No drama to report.
It was the first look at a club that has been pieced together over the last few months. Seven returning players and 11 new faces donned Kings uniforms and fielded questions from the media. Here are some notes and quotes from the event.
Solid gold… Fresh off his Olympic gold medal winning performance in Rio, DeMarcus Cousins admitted to being a bit tired coming into camp, but maybe it was from carrying around his monstrous shiny hardware. Cousins brought out his Team USA medal and even passed it around to the media to handle.
“I had a lot of fun while I was over there. I built a lot of new friendships. (I) learned a lot from some of the guys and, I mean, I’m a gold medalist,” the All-Star center said with a big smile.
Cousins passed his gold medal around to members of the media and even stopped to take a few pictures with folks. It’s amazing how heavy an Olympic medal weighs.
Darren Collison faces the press… Collison has stayed out of the spotlight since news broke of his domestic violence situation stemming from a late May incident at his home. While the Kings still have no idea what kind of penalty the NBA will pass down on their starting point guard for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge, he stood in front of cameras and took his lumps.
“It’s been an unfortunate summer, difficult offseason, you know what I mean, but as a man, you’ve got to take responsibility,” Collison told the media contingency. “Right now, what’s best for my family is to kind of move forward and focus on basketball. This has kind of been my safe haven thus far.”
Rudy Gay stands tall… Gay won’t be the most popular King when opening night rolls around. After quietly asking to be moved during the offseason, Gay made it clear last week that he will opt out of his contract next summer, although he did leave a small window to return to Sacramento.
“Personally, I made the decision to opt out,” Gay said. “Whether I sign here, whether I play the rest of the season, whether I even start here, it’s really not up to me. But wherever I am, I’m going to play to the best of my ability and try and do what I can.”
Gay underwent both shockwave and platelet rich plasma treatment on his Achilles tendons over the summer and said he feels great coming into camp.
Welcome to the gun show... Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein came to camp ready to arm wrestle. The pair of Kentucky bigs each claimed to have gained 20 plus pounds during the summer break, although they both acknowledged that it would be tough to maintain the added mass over an 82 game NBA schedule.
“It’s kind of hard for me,” Labissiere said of adding bulk. “I work really hard in the offseason trying to put on weight and once the season starts, we travel so much. It’s going to be a challenge for me to maintain my weight or keep it going.”
Winners, by losing... Rookie Georgios Papagiannis came to camp in much better shape than he appeared in summer league. According to the rookie big, he has lost 12 pounds and is now looking to replace some of that weight with muscle. He looked trim and ready to compete, but so did his competition.
“I lost like 12 pounds, but during training camp I’m going to lose more,” Papagiannis told reporters. “I’m trying to gain weight with that, but just muscle, not fat. We have to be ready for the season.”
Veteran center Kosta Koufos came into camp a new man, dropping his body fat down to around four percent. He looked lean and muscular, which may help him in his quest to earn more minutes this season.
Omri Casspi, married man. Casspi took the plunge this summer, marrying longtime girlfriend, Shani Ruderman in a ceremony in Israel. The 28-year-old forward couldn’t stop smiling when asked about his new bride.
“You feel good weight on yourself,” Casspi told CSN California. “You’re married, a husband and wife. It’s not boyfriend/girlfriend. It matured me a lot in a sense. I want to bring that maturity to the court.”
Sticks and Stones… Free agent addition Ty Lawson has taken a beating over the last 12 months in the press for his off the court issues. At 29, he still has plenty left in the tank, but according to the former Nugget and Rocket point guard, he almost signed in China before the Kings and Pelicans came calling in early September.
There was a time when Lawson was considered a frontline NBA guard, but he is now left trying to rebuild his reputation on a one-year, veteran minimum deal in Sacramento.
“It’s been pretty hurtful, I guess,” Lawson told CSN California. “Everybody thinks, ‘Ty’s a locker room wrecker,’ I don’t even say stuff in the locker room. I’m quiet, I’m chill. I feel like no one knows who I am. (They’re) just going off what other people say. It’s kind of tough dealing with that.”
Matt Barnes, the DeMarcus whisperer? Of all of the players brought in by the Kings this summer, Matt Barnes might be the most controversial. He has a long history of tormenting Kings fans, even though he’s a Sacramento native. But Cousins loves players that have been through the ups and downs of the NBA life like he has, and that is a big reason the 36-year-old forward was signed to a two-year deal this summer.
“Defense and toughness,” Barnes said of what he brings to this team. “And when I say toughness, I don’t mean the rah-rah, get in trouble toughness, it’s the mental toughness to be able to overcome a bad call. To be able to overcome unfortunate situations and be able to focus on the task at hand. You know, making sure our energy is directed at the opponent, not at each other and at the refs.”
Garrett Temple likes the new look Kings… Temple is back for a second tour of duty with Sacramento. As a rookie, he signed a 10-day deal with the Kings and then left to join the Spurs. After signing a 3-year, $24 million deal this summer, he’s excited to start a new chapter with a team he believes has a lot of positives.
“We have a lot of depth,” Temple said. “We’re two deep at each position, sometimes three deep. We have a great mix of young and veteran guys. We can pound it in the post, but we can also push the pace. We have a lot of wings that can run - get out in the lanes and score. We can play small. We really have a plethora of ways we can play the game.”
Malachi Richardson is ready to compete... Listed at 6-foot-6, Malachi Richardson looks like he measures closer to 7-foot if you include his hair. Taken with the 22nd pick in this summer’s draft, the Syracuse alum will have to fight with Arron Afflalo, Ben McLemore and Garrett Temple for minutes, but the soft-spoken 20-year-old seems up for the challenge.
“I just want to work as hard as I possibly can and everything will work itself out,” the rookie told CSN California. “I’m going to fight for minutes and I’m just going to play hard.”