Cousins-less Kings blown out by Lakers

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Cousins-less Kings blown out by Lakers

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Dwight Howard had 23 points and 18 rebounds, Kobe Bryant scored 20 and the in-transition Los Angeles Lakers continued warming up for a possible return by Phil Jackson with a 103-89 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.Lame-duck interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff called the shots for the second straight game following the firing of Mike Brown on Friday with the team off to a 1-4 start - their worst in 19 years. They throttled Golden State 101-77 at Staples Center several hours after the change.Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak remain in negotiations with Jackson, whom they are trying to coax out of retirement for what would be his third coaching stint with the organization.The 67-year-old Hall of Famer guided the club to five NBA titles and won six others with the Chicago Bulls. He walked away after the Lakers were swept by Dallas in the second round of the 2011 playoffs - denying the Zen Master his fourth three-peat.The Kings were forced to play short-handed with center DeMarcus Cousins and backup forward Thomas Robinson serving suspensions without pay. Forward Jason Thompson, shifting to center in place of Cousins, had 15 points and 10 assists for Sacramento before fouling out with 9:46 left. Jimmer Fredette scored a team-high 18, most coming after the outcome was long decided.Cousins began his two-game ban for confronting a Spurs TV analyst in a hostile manner following a 97-86 home loss to San Antonio on Friday night. Robinson completed his two-game absence, following his vicious elbow to the throat of Detroit's Jonas Jerebko during Sacramento's 105-103 home win last Wednesday. Cousins loses about 70,500 in salary and Robinson more than 82,000.The Lakers built a 72-57 lead with an 11-0 run, capped by Bryant's two free throws with 4:26 left in the third quarter. They extended the margin to as many as 22 with 4:23 remaining on a pair of 3-pointers 40 seconds apart by Metta World Peace. He and Paul Gasol each finished with 18 points.Howard had 14 points and 10 boards in the first half, including a short hook shot off an offensive rebound in the final seconds of the second quarter to give the Lakers a 57-48 lead at intermission. Steve Blake, starting at point guard for the fifth straight game because of Steve Nash's knee injury, was limited to 12 minutes in the half because of an abdominal strain that kept him off the court for almost 10 12 minutes.This is the first time the Lakers changed head coaches during a season since 2004-05, when Rudy Tomjanovich left midway through the first year of a five-year contract due to health issues and was replaced by Frank Hamblen. It's the third time Bickerstaff has taken over the reins of an NBA team after a season was underway, including 1994-95 with Denver (20-12) and 1996-97 with Washington (22-13).The Lakers have now changed head coaches on the fly in six of their 53 years in Los Angeles. On two of those occasions, they went on to win an NBA title. In 1979-80, Paul Westhead relieved Jack McKinney with the team off to a 10-4 start after McKinney was hospitalized due to a serious bicycle accident. Westhead was fired in 1981-82 with a 7-4 record, shortly after Magic Johnson publicly criticized him, and Pat Riley guided the team to the first of four championships under his watch.NOTES: Bryant was at the free throw line at the midway mark of the second quarter when the sellout crowd began chanting "We Want Phil!" They must have been misguided. Jackson was a 73.6-percent free throw shooter during his 12 seasons as an NBA player, and Bryant was 83.8 percent lifetime coming in ... Sacramento coach Keith Smart got a technical foul early in the second quarter for complaining about a non-call against Antawn Jamison, who made a clean block on a layup by Marcus Thornton and sent him crashing to the floor ... Lakers F Devin Ebanks, who posted 5,000 bail following his arrest early Friday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, was scratched for the second straight game. He is due back in court on Dec. 7 ... The Kings are 0-4 on the road, matching their worst start away from Arco Arena since 2007-08, when they dropped their first nine to tie a franchise record.

With gaping holes to fill, 2017 NBA Draft offers Kings several options

With gaping holes to fill, 2017 NBA Draft offers Kings several options

The Sacramento Kings walk into the 2017 offseason with gaping holes in their roster. Free agency will play a role, but before they get to spending their $60-plus million in cap space, Vlade Divac, Scott Perry, Ken Catanella and the rest of the front office will try to fill some of their needs via the draft.

While the first batch of draft prospects rolled through Sacramento late last week, Vlade Divac, along with European scout Predrag Drobnjak spent the weekend in Istanbul, Turkey at the European Championships. Sharpshooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic led Fenerbahçe to its first title, further building the hype around one of Europe’s best young stars.

Divac acquired the rights to Bogdanovic in a draft day trade last summer when the 6-foot-6 Serbian was tossed in along with picks 13 and 28 for the 9th overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. Divac would love to entice the 24-year-old wing to play in the NBA next season.

Even if Bogdanovic buys in, the Kings need more.

Both Darren Collison and Ty Lawson are unrestricted free agents, leaving Langston Galloway as the only point guard on the roster. Rudy Gay has already informed the team that he intends to opt out of his $14.3 million player option for next season, opening a massive need at the small forward position.

The needs are clear. Sacramento has to find a point guard and small forward of the future. They also need a point guard and a small forward of the right now. If a player fits both now and in the future, so be it.

Lady luck shined brightly on the Kings during the draft lottery. A move from No. 8 to No. 3 would have guaranteed a point guard, but a pick swap to No. 5 still has Sacramento in the running to fill one of their biggest voids.

While plenty of mock drafts have a variety of players in the top five of the 2017 NBA Draft, there is a clear group that Sacramento will likely focus on. Barring a major trade, point guard Markelle Fultz out of the University of Washington is projected to go with the first overall selection, but then it’s wide open how the next four picks will unfold.

UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is projected to go to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 2 in most mocks, but nothing is a sure bet. Small forwards Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum are top five selections as well, while Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox is an early draft climber.

Sacramento would love nothing more than to see Fox sitting on the board when they select at five. He’s slight of build, but the 6-foot-3 speedster is a high character player with tons of potential. He would step in and instantly compete for a starting job with the Kings’ young core.

There are concerns that Fox won’t make it to five and the Kings have a few options if they want to move up, but the real question is, should they?

If Fox is gone, Sacramento will still have a player on the board at a position of need. Be it Ball, Jackson or Tatum, the talent pool is rich. Finding a floor general is important, but finding a star should be the top priority. All five have potential to become more than just a starter in the league and all five fit one of the team’s two most glaring weaknesses on the current roster.

Drafting either Jackson or Tatum would instantly bump the talent level of the team. Both are considered top tier prospects and for Sacramento, likely starters on Day 1.

Jackson is a catalyst type player and personality that brings energy, as well as a tremendous skill set. He can pass, rebound, play defense at a high level and score above the rim. He’ll be an instant fan favorite wherever he lands.

Tatum has potential as a two-way player, but his offensive game should instantly translate to the NBA level. A polished scorer, Tatum would step in and give the Kings a scoring option to fill the shoes of Gay, who is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent.

The Top 10 has plenty of other high end prospects. Sacramento could chase a shooting big in Lauri Markkanen. The 7-footer out of Arizona would help to stretch the floor at the four, but their other needs are more obvious.

Fox’s backcourt mate at Kentucky, Malik Monk, is also an intriguing player, but with Buddy Hield, Garrett Temple, Malachi Richardson and the potential for Bogdanovic to join the team, the Kings are heavy at the shooting guard spot.

Point guard Dennis Smith has a high ceiling and would likely challenge for top five consideration if it wasn’t for a torn ACL in high school and some questions about his attitude.

If Sacramento selects a small forward with the fifth pick and Smith was still available when they choose again at No. 10, he becomes a lower risk proposition the Kings might have to consider.

Point guard Frank Ntilikina out of France would fit the bill as well in the right situation. If the Kings land Jackson or Tatum at five, they could come back with Ntilikina at 10. He’s young and inexperienced, but he also stands at 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan. His defensive potential at the point is tremendous, but he is a project on the offensive end, not a polished player like the four point guards expected to go ahead of him in the draft.

Combo forward Jonathan Isaac is an appealing prospect, but he’ll need plenty of time to develop and he’s a better target if he somehow slips to 10. Like Smith and Ntilikina, this would be a nice addition if the Kings fill their other need with the fifth overall selection.

Regardless of how they got to No.’s 5 and 10, the Kings are in a good spot. They have options and plenty of players at positions of need and there is potential to land a future star. Once the draft rolls around on June 22, the focus will quickly shift to shoring up the remainder of the squad. With two high picks, the potential addition of Bogdanovic and plenty of cap space, the Kings are primed for a big time roster overhaul this summer.

Joerger: Rebuilding Kings hope to make the playoffs in...

Joerger: Rebuilding Kings hope to make the playoffs in...

The Kings' playoff drought is at 11 years and according to head coach Dave Joerger, it's going to last a few more years.

Speaking on Sirius XM NBA Radio on Tuesday, Joerger was asked about the differences between his coaching gigs with Sacramento and Memphis, and outlined the Kings' timeline for reaching the postseason.

"It's different. It's been a great learning experience for me. It's going to be an interesting process. You know, three years from now we hope to be in the playoffs. And so how do we do that? We were just talking about Memphis and it's the same thing. So if you're management, there's a couple times a year, two or three times that are really hot. Trade deadline, draft, free agency, boom, boom, boom. We're in Memphis sitting there getting 50 wins a year. Okay, maybe the trade deadline came and went, maybe we got a guy, maybe not, not too stressful. Get the 23rd, 24th pick in the draft," Joerger said.

"It's different now. In this situation, it's a higher pick, now free agency has a little bit more focus on it. So how we execute in free agency, how we execute our draft picks and how we execute at the trade deadline as this thing builds, you try to go too fast, you can make mistakes. But I think slow and steady wins the race," Joerger concluded.

So Kings fans can look forward to the 2019-20 season when the team returns to the playoffs.

Joerger is at the helm of a Kings team that is in full rebuild mode. The team traded center DeMarcus Cousins during the All-Star break and turned the team over to several first and second-year players. They posted a 32-50 record during the 2016-17 season, good for a third-place finish in the Pacific Division.

The Kings hold the No. 5, 10 and 34 picks in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft and will add to their stable of young players.