Nik Stauskas reflects on his regular season debut

Pete D'Alessandro and Nik Stauskas. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

It’s debatable whether it was truly a max-capacity crowd at Sleep Train Arena Wednesday night for the season opener.  It’s believable that more than a few folks skipped out on the Sacramento Kings home opener to catch the final game of the World Series.  Those who did show, were on hand to watch Nik Stauskas make his NBA debut.  Loyal basketball fans were not disappointed. The rookie shooting guard played 26 minutes and held his own by scoring nine points on 3-of-10 shooting.

The eighth pick of this summer’s draft made his regular season debut with 4:34 in the first quarter. Stauskas made his first shot attempt, a 23-foot 3-pointer assisted by Ramon Sessions, with 36 seconds left in the quarter.

“(The first shot) definitely got the nerves out of the way, which is nice,” Stauskas told reporters.

Stauskas missed his next midrange jumper before drilling an impressive and-one long two while being fouled on the release. With 10:26 in the second quarter, he made the resulting free throw, and followed up the very next possession with a failed 3-pointer before nailing his final triple on a kickout from DeMarcus Cousins with a 1:36 till half.

“Nik had a good first half, he came in and made shots,” Michael Malone stated. “It’s one game, so there’s no reason to get carried away with one game.”

The 21-year-old’s most regretful moment came in the moments winding down the first half. Following the San Francisco Giants’ World Series victory, the Sacramento crowd became ecstatic, to the confusion of players on the court.

“I had a turnover where we stole the ball and I threw it to DeMarcus and he wasn’t looking,” Stauskas noted. “I probably want to do that one over again.”

Stauskas went 0-of-5 (0-0f-4 from downtown) in 14 minutes of action in the second half. The Warriors persistently attacked him on defense, which may have contributed to his wear-down.

“Klay (Thompson) and Harrison (Barnes) in particular just really tried to post me up. Both of them are stronger than me so it’s tough for me to hold my ground there.”

Stauskas was also blatantly fouled a few times in the final half, instances that should have earned trips to the charity stripe. Unsurprisingly, he is aware of the NBA’s rookie treatment.

“I can’t really expect anything, I just (have) to go out there and play,” the rookie said following the Kings opener.

“I was aggressive when I had my opportunities and unfortunately, some of them didn’t go down, but that’s basketball,” he added.

Following the 95-77 loss, the Kings rookie was approached by Klay Thompson, his nemesis for his night, who had words of encouragement.

“Klay came up to me and told me I have a bright future in this league,” Staukas said.  “So that meant a lot to hear that from him because I really do look up to the guy.”

Looking back, Stauskas admitted that he needs to hit the weight room to protect himself from an opponent’s offensive crosshairs. More importantly, he had fun, and he’s already put game 1 behind him.

“It’s a long season. It’s just one of 82 so we just (have) to regroup and on to the next one.”


Rui Thomas
Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.

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