Sacramento Kings guard Nik Stauskas reflects back on summer league experience

Nik Stauskas walks the court of the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

LAS VEGAS – Nik Stauskas got his first taste of NBA competition during Las Vegas Summer League over the past two weeks.  By all accounts, the Sacramento Kings were very happy with their first-round pick’s performance this month.

“He’s a very smart kid,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said of Stauskas.  “He’s a very confident young man and he’s a hard, hard worker. He’s only going to get better because of his work ethic and the fact that he picks things up very quickly. And he had some very good moments here.  This is his first taste of NBA basketball, so the more he plays, he’s only gonna get better.”

In seven games, the 20-year-old shooting guard put up modest numbers.  He averaged 9.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game and shot a not-so-modest 47.8 percent from 3-point distance.  Stauskas played his best basketball at the beginning of summer league, but then seemed to fade at the end.

That a rookie guard would tire near the end of summer league is not at all surprising nor is it out of ordinary.   Seven games in the middle of summer doesn’t seem like much, but throw training camp two-a-days into the mix and you find out these guys are human after all.

“He’s like most rookies,” Malone said of Stauskas.  “He had some good moments, and he had some other moments that were learning moments and teaching moments.  But he’s showcased all the things we knew that he could do.”

Following the Kings’ last game in Las Vegas, Stauskas weighed in on what his first taste of the NBA was like.

  • Improving his strength continues to be a recurring theme for the rookie shooting guard.  In Vegas, he got a first-hand look at how much more physical the NBA will be for him this upcoming season.  “For me, I think embracing the physicality is gonna be the one thing I improve on,” Stauskas said. “So moving forward, that’s something that I’m looking forward to working on.”
  • Stauskas said that the thing he’ll remember most about his first summer league experience is the winning.  The Kings lost their first game of summer league play, but rattled off six straight victories, including a victory in the title game. “I think it was 16 days that we’ve been here, so it’s been a long time in Vegas,” Stauskas said.  “But I got to make a special bond with these guys, and I feel like we’ve gotten a lot better over these last two weeks and that’s all you can ask for.”
  • The mini-camp before summer league play took the most out of Stauskas during his time in Las Vegas.  “I think more than anything, the training camp really tired me out before we even started playing,” the 20-year-old guard said.  “Coming into these last games, I was a little bit tired.  But other than that, I think everything was fine.”
  • At summer league, there’s a lot of information to process in such a short amount of time. However, Stauskas said that learning the NBA playbook was not that hard for him considering he earned his hoops degree at the University of Michigan.  “If you know coach (John) Beilein at Michigan, there’s no one that has more offense or terminology than him so I’m used to that,” Stauskas said.
  • Did Stauskas experience any nerves being out on an NBA court for the first time?  “I wasn’t really nervous coming out here at all,” he said.  “I felt pretty comfortable.  I thought throughout the summer league, there was times where I was a little bit passive, which I’d like to change, and maybe not aggressive enough.  But I think for the most part when the ball was in my hands, I was comfortable.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.