Sports

Canadian Stauskas in battle for minutes with Kings

By Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun

Kings’ Nik Stauskas closes in on the Raptors’ Lou Williams in Vancouver Sunday. (Carmine Marinelli/QMI Agency)

Kings’ Nik Stauskas closes in on the Raptors’ Lou Williams in Vancouver Sunday. (Carmine Marinelli/QMI Agency)

VANCOUVER - 

As Nik Stauskas holds court inside the Sacramento locker room with a group of Canadian reporters looking to catch up with another in a growing list of potential NBA standouts from this country, Ben McLemore sits not two feet away.

Initially he ignores the crowd and their questions of his teammate, but soon puts his headphones on to avoid hearing anything more.

But if there is animosity between the two as they compete for the chance to start alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay in the Sacramento Kings starting five, neither outwardly shows any.

Stauskas is the new kid on the block, the 20-year-old Mississauga native who has made his name with his ability to consistently drain three-pointers regardless of what spot he’s on around that three-point line.

As the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft, Stauskas normally would be looking at a less competitive road to meaningful minutes in his first year, but that is not the case.

McLemore was the No. 7 pick a year earlier and while he certainly didn’t blow the doors down in his rookie campaign, he remains a key part of the Kings’ plans for now and the future.

Kings head coach Michael Malone is preaching a ‘positionless-approach’ to the season and he sees no reason why both Stauskas and McLemore can’t be on the floor together if they have both earned the minutes.

“When we drafted Nik, obviously everybody said, ‘Well, that’s two years in a row they’ve taken a shooting guard — Ben McLemore and then Nik Stauskas. We played them together quite often in Vegas in summer league. And we won that championship. We really like to talk about positionless basketball. We don’t need to have a true two guard on the floor, a true small forward on the floor. You put your five best players on the floor and let them make basketball plays, make them read off of each other and play off of each other, and good things will happen. They can play together at times. But it’s also fun watching them compete and go after each other.”

Stauskas, whose parents and brother flew in for the game, understands the optics of an awkward first year coming in and trying to displace last year’s first rounder, but he says there is none of that where he and McLemore are concerned.

“ I get it, because it’s everyone’s job to kind of stir the pot a little bit,” he said of the attention his particular battle with McLemore gets. “This is professional basketball, so everyone’s competing for minutes, everyone’s competing for a job, so we don’t hold anything against each other, I feel like we’re great friends, on and off the court. But when we’re at practice, we go at each other, it’s all about competition.”

And that’s exactly how Malone wants it.

“I love competition,” he said. “I think it’s healthy. The cream will always rise to the top. I really feel that Nik is going to help Ben become a better player, and Ben is going to help Nik become a better player.

“I think when you have depth and guys competing for a spot and minutes, it’s only going to help your team and individuals get better.”

For Stauskas the last six months have been a bit of a whirlwind which including the draft and then summer league and now his first training camp. It was so busy Stauskas had to turn down an invitation form the national team to join them for the summer.

“They invited me last summer, but I was busy with summer league and stuff like that,” he said. “I thought it would be better to rest and prepare for Kings basketball, I told them after my rookie year I’d feel a little bit better and would join them in qualifying for the Olympics.”

EVEN VIDEO GAMES DON'T BELIEVE IN BRUNO

The unfortunate impression of Bruno Caboclo to date as an NBA player is him being two years away from being two years away.

Those were the words from ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla on the night Caboclo was drafted 20th overall by the Raptors last June and so far they have stuck.

There is no question Caboclo is raw by NBA standards and will remain that way for some time until he gets more exposure to the game at this level.

The Raptors do not care one iota what anyone else thinks of their first-round pick. They see a promising future for him and are willing to wait.

But now he can add the lowest grading on NBA 2K15 to his personal bag of motivators.

Caboclo and the Phoenix Suns’ Shavlik Randolph are the recipients of lowest marks in the popular video game with a ranking of 64. To put that in context LeBron James tops all NBA players with a rating of 98. The Raptors with the highest grades are Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan who both have an 85 grade.

Terrence Ross, a guy who would have to be considered the “gamer” among all Raptors and most likely to pay attention to these things recalls feeling a little put out when he saw his rookie grading of 69, but he doesn’t think it will be a big deal for his Brazilian teammate.

“The very bottom?” Ross asked somewhat surprised before re-considering. ‘Nah, that don’t mean nothin’.”

Ross is convinced that rating won’t be that way for too much longer.

“If he plays and has a couple of good games they will up his rating,” Ross said. “It’s nothing really. Some guys might be rated low because all they can do is shoot and dunk but that’s what you need in the game so it don’t matter. Anyway, I think after this year he won’t be close to the bottom so it doesn’t mean nothing.”

 

 

 


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