New faces shine in California Classic win over Spurs – NBC Sports Bay Area & California

New faces shine in California Classic win over Spurs – NBC Sports Bay Area & California

New faces shine in California Classic win over Spurs – NBC Sports Bay Area & California

SACRAMENTO – With their first-round draft pick unavailable as he awaited shoulder surgery, the Kings again turned to some of their young players and prospects to carry the load in a lopsided 85-59 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the California Classic at Golden 1 Center on Sunday.

Keon Ellis, who has emerged as a key player for the Kings over the past two seasons after going undrafted out of college, led the way with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. Colby Jones, the Kings’ second-round draft pick in 2023, added seven points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

As expected, Devin Carter, the Kings’ first-round draft pick, did not play. Carter will likely undergo left shoulder surgery later this week, which could leave his availability for the 2024-25 regular season up in the air.

Another Kings player who was not in attendance was Keegan Murray, a first-round pick in the 2022 draft. Murray was not likely to participate anyway, but has been playing with the USA Basketball Men’s Select Team against the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team in Las Vegas.

While this game wasn’t as lopsided as Sacramento’s 51-point rout of China on Saturday, the Kings still won this one easily.

They led for most of the game and shot 50 percent (32 of 64) from the field while limiting the Spurs to 23.6 percent shooting (17 of 72).

The Kings were coached by Doug Christie, an assistant on Mike Brown’s staff. Lindsay Harding, who coaches the franchise’s G League team in nearby Stockton, was also part of Christie’s staff.

There has yet to be any official announcement from the Kings regarding a rumored trade for DeMar DeRozan.

Here are the conclusions from Sunday’s game:

Healthy Crawford A boost for D

Isaiah Crawford, who went undrafted out of college before signing a two-way contract as a free agent, used his time on the court wisely and definitely turned heads in his Golden 1 Center debut.

Coming off the bench, Crawford hit his first three shots and then was quiet offensively after that, but stayed busy with six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Who is Isaiah Crawford? The 6-foot-4 forward from Louisiana Tech has good size and a 7-foot-1 wingspan. He also has a history of injuries, having suffered season-ending knee injuries in two consecutive years. He recovered well, and when healthy, Crawford was a pretty solid scorer, but he carved out a niche for himself on the other end of the floor. He was Conference USA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year during his final season in college, averaging 2.1 steals and 1.7 blocks.

That defense-first approach fits perfectly with Brown’s coaching style, and this was a good step toward securing a roster spot for the kid.

Mason Jones completes the stat sheet

Mason Jones, another player the Kings signed in the offseason, followed up a strong performance against China on Saturday with another solid, all-around game. He had 11 points, six rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes.

The veteran guard, who spent part of last season with the Kings’ G League affiliate, aggressively attacked the rim and sparked the offense. He got out of control and careless a couple of times (three turnovers), but did enough overall to merit a deeper look from Sacramento’s coaching staff.

Who is Mason Jones? The 25-year-old has been on the fringes of the NBA since coming out of little-known Connors State College in Arkansas three years ago. Jones, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, has had stints with the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers, but could never find a way to stick.

This could be their best chance yet, though the Kings have a problem ahead of them. A spot could become available if Kevin Huerter is traded, as has been rumored.

Sudanese star shines at Golden 1

Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. has definitely improved his chances of earning an invitation to Kings training camp.

As a 30-year-old rookie, too.

The 2.13-meter South Sudanese backed up a strong game against China with another solid effort against the Spurs, scoring 13 points along with eight rebounds and a block.

Lual-Acuil could be a nice addition to Sacramento’s bench. Although he’s a bit shorter than Alex Len, Lual-Acuil is much more athletic and moves well around the court.

Who is Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.? A well-traveled player who spent three seasons at Baylor and then played in the Israeli Premier League and Australia, Lual-Acuil was the Basketball Africa League MVP in 2024, when he also won the Dikembe Mutombo Defensive Player of the Year Award while averaging 22 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

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