Joining the ranks of the most elite basketball players in the world can be a challenging time for rookies in the NBA. But for the first-year players on the Sacramento Kings, at least they had some company.
Sacramento rostered four rookies this season in Buddy Hield, Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere, and Malachi Richardson. Though some of their paths to the NBA may have differed, the convergence of these four players on the Kings has helped to create a promising young core for Sactown.
With the books now closed on their inaugural seasons, each of the rooks had the opportunity to reflect on an exciting year that all started last June with the 2016 NBA Draft.
“After the build up to the Draft with all the noise and where you get drafted and the anxiety – after that hearing your name get called up on the stage is a dream come true for any kid who loves basketball,” said Hield.
“Once I heard my name get called it was a relief,” Labissiere said. “But I knew I was going to have a lot of work to do, but I was going to be making the best out of it.”
When asked about veterans on the team who have really helped them during their first seasons, Richardson was quick to point out Garrett Temple as a teammate who helped his transition to the League.
Hield also praised Temple as someone who “is really passionate for basketball” and who “understands the game”. He also mentioned Darren Collison and Anthony Tolliver as teammates who always offered mentorship, crediting their intelligence and knowledge of Coach Dave Joerger’s system.
Richardson also provided some insight into the competitiveness off the court, as well, between the rookies.
“Me and Skal are always going back and forth,” said Malachi. “It’s all fun. I’m a very competitive person and I think being with Skal, Papa and Buddy, that brings the best out in me.”
As the conversation moved to lighter topics, there was some debate between the guys about who had the cutest dog.
“Definitely me,” Malachi answered immediately. Skal quipped back, asking Richardson “have you seen [my dogs?]”
Malachi boasted about his chihuahua terrier while Labissiere mentioned having a Chow Chow breed. Buddy then chimed in, “I have a rottweiler, they don’t want no problem with that.”
Papagiannis is the only one of the four without a pet and when Buddy asked when he planned to get a dog of his own, Georgios simply replied with a simple “I’m good” – triggering laughter amongst his fellow rookies.
When asked to describe who the funniest of the group was, Buddy was quick to peg Papagiannis as the resident comedian.
“We see him do weird things sometimes and we know Papa’s goofy,” said Hield. “I know my accent is funny too, but when he talks, it’s automatic laughs sometimes.”
As their rookie seasons conclude, the young Kings shared their excitement for the future ahead.
“I’m just really excited for Summer League,” said Papagiannis. “We’re not going to have any veterans there and it’s just going to be us four. We’re going to lead the team and help out the Draft picks we’re going to have. It’s going to be our team.”
“I think it’s pretty cool and I think we can grow together and do some special things here,” said Labissiere.