‘The kid is very special’: Keegan Murray crushes summer debut in Kings’ win over Warriors

·3 min read
Xavier Mascareñas/xmascarenas@sacbee.com

Rookie first-round draft pick Keegan Murray made quite an impression in his summer debut for the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.

Murray attacked with ruthless efficiency and left the crowd gasping at times in an 86-68 victory over the Golden State Warriors on the first day of the California Classic at Chase Center in San Francisco.

Murray, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward from Iowa, suited up for Sacramento for the first time since being selected with the No. 4 pick in the NBA draft. He didn’t disappoint, posting game highs of 26 points and eight rebounds with zero turnovers in 28 minutes.

“My goal going in was, obviously, get the win first,” Murray said. “I knew that was a big thing for me, and just play my game. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary. Don’t do anything I was uncomfortable doing. Just stick to what I do best, and that’s knock down shots and get rebounds, so I just stuck to it.”

Kings summer league coach Jordi Fernandez, who was recently hired as Mike Brown’s lead assistant in Sacramento, said Murray looks like a “special” player.

“Every time, it seems like he does the right thing,” Fernandez said. “He doesn’t force it. He makes it look simple, and, as you guys know, when you watch a professional athlete that, whatever he does looks simple, that is usually a really good professional athlete.

“Overall, I think the kid is very special. What we saw in college, I’m seeing it right now, and if I have to — well, I cannot bet because this is the NBA, but if I could, I’m going to say that he’s going to be a very, very, very good NBA player.”

Murray didn’t just put up a lot of points in his unofficial pro debut. He did so efficiently. He made 10 of 14 from the field, 4 of 5 from 3-point range and 2 of 2 at the free-throw line.

Davion Mitchell, a second-year Kings guard who isn’t playing summer league but attended Saturday’s game, said he likes what he has seen from Murray.

“Man, he’s efficient,” Mitchell said. “He plays the right way. That’s all you can ask for. He tries on defense. That’s all you can ask for. He makes shots. He’s coming along really well.”

Murray came out firing from the opening tip, knocking down a corner 3-pointer in front of the Sacramento bench on a play that was designed for him on the game’s opening possession

“I saw the first shot go in and that kind of sparked my confidence a little bit,” Murray said. “That obviously helps a lot, especially on your first professional action, so that first shot went in and I just felt comfortable the rest of the way.”

Neemias Queta had 12 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots for the Kings. Alex O’Connell had 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

Gui Santos had 23 points, six rebounds and three assists for the Warriors. Payton Willis added 12 points and five rebounds.

The Kings shot 43.6% from the field while holding the Warriors to 39.3%. Sacramento went 5 of 28 from 3-point range, but Murray only missed one of his five attempts.

“We were not very good shooting the 3,” Fernandez said. “We didn’t create the 3s that we wanted because we didn’t touch the paint enough times, but the ones that (Murray) was open, he was ready to shoot it.”

Murray let the game come to him, saying he didn’t feel any nervous energy in the hours before tip off.

“I didn’t get any butterflies or anything,” he said. “I was really just excited to get out there and play again. It’s been a while since I got in a real live action, so just to go out there and play was really fun for me, and I just tried to seize the moment.”

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