While many sports fans were likely watching the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday, the Sacramento Kings played the Cleveland Cavaliers in a contest that would be decided by the final shot of the game.
The Kings unfortunately lost the contest 108-109 after a missed shot attempt by De’Aaron Fox at the buzzer to win the game, but everyone was finally able to see some real quality minutes from rookie center — and Portuguese native — Neemias Queta.
After Monday night’s game, interim head coach Alvin Gentry had some great words about the young big man.
“I though Neemi was really, really good,” Gentry said. “Obviously it’s his first time really playing any NBA minutes and I thought he went out and did a good job. He had some big rebounds and tried to finish it strong at the basket like we’d like him to. Even on the blocked shot, it doesn’t bother me as long as you’re going and trying to finish like that.”
Queta finished the game with 11 points, five rebounds, an assist and a steal on 57% shooting from the field. He played valuable minutes off the bench at a position where the Kings have needed help for many years, and he allowed the Kings have a chance on a night in which they trailed almost the entire game.
Neemias Queta teve a sua primeira grande oportunidade na NBA e não desiludiu frente aos Cavs— B24 (@B24PT) January 11, 2022
24 mins | 11 PTS | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL pic.twitter.com/2r23PGZpDL
Tyrese Haliburton also praised Queta for his contributions on Monday.
“I was just really excited for him,” Haliburton said. “Obviously he’s a fan favorite, a league favorite, a country favorite, so I’m just excited for him. He came out here and he made plays, good defensive plays … I just thought he had a great overall game.”
Queta posted a team high plus-minus of +8. When he was on the floor, there was a true defensive presence in the paint. Even against a team which has almost three seven footers in their starting lineup. It did not take long for Queta to look comfortable in a competitive NBA game.
“He’s been performing well in the G League so it’s not much of a surprise,” Haliburton said. “We know what he’s capable of and we’re just really excited for him.”
Much like his teammate, Damian Jones, Queta has waited patiently for his chance to prove his worth. He was dominant in the G League while waiting to be called up to the pros and racked up many accolades in college before that. He was the two time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and he made numerous all conference teams.
On Monday, all his hard work and sacrifice finally paid off, as Queta became the first Portuguese born player to score in an NBA game. Only a rookie, Queta is already rewriting the history books.
“During college, there was a stretch where I went two years without going home and seeing my family,” Queta said. “It’s the type of sacrifice you need to do, but at the same time it’s paying off really for experiences like this: being able to play in the NBA and being comfortable out there.”
Like many other foreign players, Queta isn’t just here to mess around. He is willing to give up everything to fulfill his dreams and make a name for himself in the NBA. After the showing he gave on Monday, Gentry is likely to give Queta more opportunities to show what he’s all about, something both he and the Kings faithful are very excited to see.
“Alvin told me right before the game to be ready because he was going to go to me early and I’ve been feeling ready for a while, so I just put in the work and I feel like it showed up today,” Queta said.