Chimezie Metu has made the most out of his minutes this season, and it’s starting to pay off for both the second-year forward and the size-starved Sacramento Kings.
Metu, in his second consecutive start of the season, notched his first career double-double Monday night, with 16 points and 10 boards in a victory over the Detroit Pistons. It was a feel-good milestone for Metu, but also a much-needed contribution from him as the Kings were looking for their first win since Nov. 5.
Since his slough of DNPs ended on Nov. 8 vs. the Phoenix Suns, Metu has gone from a garbage time afterthought to a starter in place of Moe Harkless, a decision Luke Walton made as a result of what Metu’s done behind-the-scenes.
“He’s one of those guys who’s been gaining the trust of his teammates and coaching staff by how he works every day in practice,” Walton said on Monday. “We know rebounding’s been an issue for us and Chimezie’s a fantastic athlete: he’s got good size on him, he plays with an edge, he’s tough.
In his five appearances, Metu has averaged 9.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, which doesn’t jump off the page, but when his number has been called, he’s risen to the occasion.
“He’s definitely helped us,” Fox said. “We know what he can do and his work ethic. He brings a lot: he brings versatility to us, he’s a big a guy that can move his feet offensively and defensively, crash the glass, block shots, shoot the ball, so it’s definitely a help for us and it’s great for us seeing him play with confidence.”
This team is desperate for a true power forward, and with zero chance of Marvin Bagley III giving the Kings a concerted effort given the tension between him and the team, the player filling his shoes is Metu, a fan-favorite. It’s not just the fans that love him, though — Tyrese Haliburton called Mezie his “brother” following his recent stretch of play.
“Mezie works so hard, I’ve always said that,” Haliburton said. “And you guys know the relationship between us two, how close we are, so I’m really excited to see him play well. He’s always been an energy guy for us, even when he’s not playing and it’s just his voice, but it’s awesome to see him perform well.”
The most resonating piece of praise from Metu’s teammates following last night’s contest came from the man in the middle, Richaun Holmes. Holmes shares the alternative route that Mezie took in his NBA journey: spending time up and down developing in the G League, not knowing exactly if and where they were going to land, and finding an unexpected adoration from the city of Sacramento.
“Man, Mezie’s been huge for us,” Holmes said. “He comes in and works every day and makes sure he’s ready when his number is called, and the last two games he’s been a threat for us: spacing the floor, tremendously active on defense. He provides a lot for us and we’re going to need him to continue to do that.”
Metu’s contributions can and should continue to be less of a novelty and more of an expectation on this roster going forward. He’s more than capable of scoring and grabbing boards beyond the 30th ranked offensive team in the league. The test will come as Sacramento looks to some meatier match-ups on their schedule going into the next week.