Keegan Murray drops 41 points as Kings end Classic with win

Jul 5, 2023, 9:14 PM | Updated: Jul 6, 2023, 9:05 am

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

During a media session following last week’s mini-camp at the Sacramento Kings’ practice facility, Summer League head coach Luke Loucks delivered a telling quote regarding the franchise’s belief in forward Keegan Murray.

“I think the whole organization knows that he’s going to have to take a next step for us to take a next step,” Loucks said of Murray before Monday’s California Classic opener.

Fast forward to the end of Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat, there was little questioning Murray’s efforts in proving that he can take that next step for his team.

48 hours removed from scoring 29 points against Golden State, Murray exploded for 41 points in what will likely be the final Summer League game of the young forward’s career.

Murray, last year’s NBA 2K23 Summer League Most Valuable Player, paced the Sacramento offense during a 95-83 win over the Heat.

Murray quickly established himself early against the Miami defense, scoring 14 points on seven-of-eight shooting from the free-throw line during the first quarter.

The reigning All-Rookie First Team forward’s 14 points matched the Heat’s first-quarter scoring output as Sacramento took a 21-14 lead into the second.

Murray continued to showcase his ability to create on his own, an aspect of his game that was rarely seen during a rookie season that saw the 22-year-old break the NBA rookie three-point record largely off spot-up and dribble-hand-off opportunities.

During this week’s California Classic, Murray acted as the Kings’ top scoring option, meaning the Iowa product had a few more tricks up his sleeve rather than floating on the perimeter and waiting for a three-point opportunity.

Murray converted pull-up, step-back, and post-up opportunities on Wednesday while also converting six of his 11 three-point opportunities.

It wasn’t just another offensive clinic for Murray in this one, as the 6’8 forward racked up four blocked shots and pulled down five rebounds during the win.

The Kings have high hopes for last year’s fourth-overall pick as an emerging scoring threat of the future, especially following the strides that Murray took during Sacramento’s NBA Playoff run in April. During Murray’s college career at Iowa, the forward’s career-high was 37 points.

Last season with the Kings, Murray’s season-high was 30 points. The soon-to-be-sophomore’s 41-point outing was just six points shy of tying Anthony Morrow’s NBA Summer League record of 47 points (2009).

In what was his final NBA Summer League game, Murray put on one last show for Kings fans before Sacramento heads to Las Vegas.

Murray will not play in games when the Kings arrive in Las Vegas for the NBA 2K24 Summer League on Friday, but the forward will remain with the team to participate in practices and team activities.

Jones displays his three-and-D potential

Rookie guard Colby Jones continued to showcase his potential as a three-and-D prospect on Wednesday night.

Jones picked up all three of his steals before the halftime break while adding 11 points on four-of-six shooting from the field (two-of-three from three-point range) and four rebounds over 22 minutes of action.

The Xavier product used his speed to create on the break, an aspect of his game that will fit nicely with the Kings’ fast-paced offense.

Rounding out the box score

Alex O’Connell added 14 points off the bench on Wednesday during his brief 10-minute stint. The Creighton product knocked down four of his five three-point field goal attempts.

Keon Ellis looked much more comfortable during Sacramento’s win over the Heat, scoring 12 points on four-of-eight shooting while grabbing five rebounds and two steals over 28 minutes.

Neemias Queta just narrowly missed a second-straight double-double as the big man scored nine points and grabbed nine boards over 24 minutes. After getting into foul trouble on Monday, Queta was much more effective on the defensive end (two fouls).

The arrival of Sasha

Following months of speculation, the Kings reached an agreement with EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov on a three-year, $20 million deal during the opening days of free agency last week.

Vezenkov, a 6’9 forward with a lethal three-point stroke, made the trip from Greece to Northern California on Tuesday as he prepares to officially sign his deal in the coming days.

Kings fans got their first look at the 27-year-old during Wednesday’s California Classic action as Vezenkov sat courtside alongside general manager Monte McNair, assistant general manager Wes Wilcox, and chief operating officer Matina Kolokotronis.

Over 37 appearances in the EuroLeague and Greek League this season, Vezenkov averaged 17.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 65 percent on two-point field goals and 39 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

Vezenkov, who was already rocking Kings attire in the form of a white hooded sweatshirt, will be able to officially become a member of the organization as soon as Thursday (July 6th) when players are allowed to begin signing contracts with their new teams.

The two-time Greek League MVP was in the team’s practice facility with star guard De’Aaron Fox on Wednesday, and the two were seen exchanging pleasantries during halftime.

Sacramento’s coaching staff–head coach Mike Brown along with assistant coaches Jordi Fernandez and Jay Triano–also sat alongside Vezenkov during the second half of the Kings’ game against Miami.

Next Game

Sacramento will use Thursday as a rest and travel day before setting their sights on NBA 2K24 Summer League play in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Kings will open up its four-game slate of games on Friday night when they take on the Atlanta Hawks at 7:30 PM PST on NBA TV.

Be sure to get all of your Kings vs. Hawks coverage right here at Sactown Sports 1140 by checking in on game coverage from Frankie Cartoscelli’s Twitter account with a postgame recap article to follow.

Sacramento Kings Offseason Schedule

  • Monday, July 3rd & Wednesday, July 5th – California Classic Summer League at Golden 1 Center
  • Thursday, July 6– Free Agents can begin signing deals
  • Friday, July 7–Monday, July 17– NBA Summer League in Las Vegas
  • August TBD– 2023-24 NBA regular season schedule release
  • September TBD– Sacramento Kings training camp begins

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