SACRAMENTO KINGS

Colby Jones continues push for rotation spot as Kings beat Jazz

Oct 19, 2023, 9:28 PM | Updated: 9:48 pm

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Following three weeks of training camp, extensive practices, and a five-game preseason schedule, the Sacramento Kings are moving on to the 2023-24 regular season.

Sacramento concluded its exhibition slate with a 116-113 win over the Utah Jazz on Thursday night in a game that acted as a dress rehearsal for next Wednesday’s season-opener in Salt Lake City.

While both teams went head-to-head in a nail-biter at Golden 1 Center, each squad sat several members of their rotations in preparation for the upcoming regular season.

Although some notable names were out of action, there were plenty of things to watch for during Sacramento’s final tune-up game.

Colby Jones Continues to Impress

On the heels of a strong outing during Wednesday’s game in San Francisco, Colby Jones continued to make his case for a rotation spot during Sacramento’s preseason finale.

The 34th overall selection from June’s NBA Draft came off the bench and contributed on both ends of the floor, scoring 19 points, pulling down three rebounds, and swiping three steals while shooting seven-of-13 from the field and five-of-eight from three-point land over 25 minutes of playing time.

Jones’ ability to handle the basketball, play strong on-ball and anticipatory defense, and convert from the perimeter has made Kings fans–as well as head coach Mike Brown–fall in love with the rookie’s play style.

During Mike Brown’s pregame media session, the reigning Coach of the Year gushed over his rookie guard and raised some eyebrows with comments that hinted at Jones creeping towards a rotation spot.

“Colby has done a great job out there,” Brown said before Thursday’s game. “It’s going to be hard to keep him off the floor. If Colby keeps doing what he’s doing, it’s going to be hard to keep him on the bench.”

Following Jones’ impressive outing, Brown continued to praise the Xavier product’s play and ability to move without the basketball.

“He was really good,” Brown said. “Again, I’m loving how he’s making my job harder. Every time we’ve thrown him out there, he keeps getting better and better. He’s got to be the hardest cutter on the team. I just love watching the kid compete on both ends of the floor.”

Malik Monk echoed Brown’s positive sentiment following the win, opening his postgame availability with the following message:

“Colby is nice. Colby is nice.”

While Jones has done what he can to earn a role in Brown’s opening night rotation, the impending returns of Chris Duarte and Trey Lyles could make it difficult for the 21-year-old to get consistent minutes in the season’s opening stretch.

Don’t count Jones out, though, as Brown has made it clear that the rookie is on his radar following a strong performance in the preseason–and Jones is well on the radar of Kings fans, too.

Sasha Vezenkov Finds A Rhythm

It’s been a rough introduction to the NBA for Sasha Vezenkov thus far, but the reigning EuroLeague MVP ended preseason on a high note during Thursday’s action.

Vezenkov did a solid job of rebounding and cutting without the ball against Utah, finishing the night with 13 points on five-of-ten shooting to go along with six rebounds over 20 minutes.

Defense is still a concern for Vezenkov, as the 28-year-old has had a tough time with keeping assignments in front of him, but the offensive side of his game looked the best that it has thus far in his brief NBA tenure.

It’s currently unknown if Vezenkov will be included in Mike Brown’s opening night rotations if Trey Lyles returns from a calf injury, but it was good to see the Bulgarian look comfortable in this one.

JaVale McGee Shows His Upside

Throughout his 15-year career, JaVale McGee has made a living off of playing above the rim.

McGee put his two greatest attributes on display in a starting role on Thursday night for a Kings team that could use rim protection and a consistent lob threat.

The seven-footer hooked up with Malik Monk on several pick-and-rolls that resulted in alley-oops en route to a 12-point (six-of-ten from the field) performance to go along with seven rebounds and one block over 21 minutes.

“I told him to stop faking the hand-offs to me because I’m giving the ball back to him,” Monk joked postgame. “All you have to do is throw the ball up there, and he’s going to go and get it.”

Monk and McGee have built chemistry during the preseason, and both players are expected to be integral pieces of Sacramento’s second unit to open up the regular season.

See You In The Opener

After most of Sacramento’s starters logged 30 or more minutes in the first game of a back-to-back on Wednesday in San Francisco, the Kings ruled out several key members of the rotation on Thursday.

De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray, Chris Duarte, and Trey Lyles were all ruled out shortly before tip-off as Sacramento prioritized a clean bill of health as they set their sights on next Wednesday’s season-opener in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mike Brown told the media that Wednesday’s completive matchup against Golden State and increased minutes for rotation players made the team shift gears and “play it safe” for Thursday’s preseason finale.

Notes

  • Alex Len did a solid job of protecting the rim on Thursday, blocking five shots over 26 minutes.
  • With De’Aaron Fox out and Davion Mitchell in the starting lineup, Malik Monk set the table for his teammates (eight assists) and found the bottom of the net himself (23 points) in what was an overall strong outing for the Kings’ sixth man.
  • Kessler Edwards contributed with 14 points (five-of-seven shooting) and led Sacramento with eight rebounds over 24 minutes.

Injury Updates

  • Chris Duarte (left knee bone bruise) will miss the final game of the preseason before being reevaluated leading into next week’s season opener. Mike Brown shared that the guard is “progressing well” and that all imaging returned clean on Duarte’s knee.
  • Shortly before tip-off on Wednesday in San Francisco, Trey Lyles was ruled due to left calf soreness. Lyles, who was also inactive for Thursday’s preseason finale, is considered day-to-day.

Next Game

Next time, it’s for real.

The Kings will open their 2023-24 regular season on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, Utah, for a matchup against this same Jazz team.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Jazz coverage, beginning at 4:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 6:00 PM PST tip-off from downtown Salt Lake City.

Sacramento Kings 2023-24 Regular Season Schedule

  • Wednesday, October 25th – Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz – 6 PM PST (Season Opener)
  • Friday, October 27th – Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST (Home Opener)
  • Sunday, October 29th – Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 6 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 1st – Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST
  • Saturday, November 4th – Sacramento Kings @ Houston Rockets – 5 PM PST
  • Monday, November 6th – Sacramento Kings @ Houston Rockets – 5 PM PST

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