NBA Summer League

What we learned as Kings' new faces shine in California Classic win

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

Keon Ellis, who has evolved into a key role player with the Kings over the previous 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, Kings first-round draft pick Devin Carter did not play. Carter is facing likely left shoulder surgery later this week that could put his availability for the 2024-25 regular season up in the air.

Another Kings player not attending was 2022 first-round draft pick Keegan Murray. Murray wasn’t likely going to participate anyway, but he’s been playing with the USA Men’s Basketball Select Team against the USA Men’s Olympic team in Las Vegas.

Although this one wasn’t as lopsided as Sacramento’s 51-point blowout of China on Saturday, the Kings still won this one handily.

They led nearly the entire way 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, also was a part of Christie’s crew.

There still was no official announcement from the Kings about a rumored trade for DeMar DeRozan.

Here are the takeaways from Sunday’s game:

Healthy Crawford A Lift On D

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

Coming off the bench, Crawford connected on his first three shots then went quiet on offense after that, but stayed busy with six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Who is Isaiah Crawford? The 6-foot-6 forward out of Louisiana Tech has good size and a 7-foot wingspan. He also has a history of injuries, having suffered season-ending knee injuries in two consecutive years. He bounced back nicely, and when he was healthy, Crawford was a solid enough scorer but made his bones on the other end of the floor. He was Conference USA’s 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 right in line with Brown’s coaching style, and this was a good step toward securing a roster spot for the kid.

Mason Jones Fills Up Stat Sheet

Mason Jones, another two-way player that 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 journeyman guard, who spent part of last season with the Kings’ G League affiliate, aggressively attacked the rim and brought a spark to the offense. He got out of control and careless a few times (three turnovers) but did enough all around to warrant 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. A 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Jones has had stints with the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers but never could find a way to stick around.

This might be his best chance yet, although the Kings have a logjam ahead of him. A spot could become available if Kevin Huerter is traded away, as has been rumored.

Sudanese Star Shines At Golden 1

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

As a 30-year-old rookie at that.

The 7-footer from the South Sudan backed up a strong game against China with another solid effort against the Spurs, scoring 13 points to go with eight rebounds and a block.

Lual-Acuil could be a nice addition to Sacramento’s bench. Although he’s just a little shorter than Alex Len, Lual-Acuil has much more athleticism and moves around nicely on the court.

Who is Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.? A well-traveled player who spent three seasons at Baylor and later played in the Israeli Premier League and in Australia, Lual-Acuil was the MVP of the Basketball Africa League 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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