Kings

Kings assume spoiler role facing Jazz

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Kings assume spoiler role facing Jazz

The Utah Jazz were at their lowest point of the season when they left Sacramento last month.

The Jazz could be back in the Western Conference playoff picture with a victory in this visit to California's capital, but knocking off the resurgent Kings could be a challenge.

Utah goes for a season high-tying fifth consecutive win Thursday night when the Kings try to close out the franchise's longest homestand with a fourth straight victory.

Arriving in Sacramento with just three victories in 13 games, the Jazz (24-22) dropped their season-high fourth in a row Feb. 28, losing 103-96 to fall a season-worst three games below .500.

Utah, though, is on a roll heading into this contest, with its last two victories coming over the West's elite. After winning 103-99 at the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, the Jazz beat conference-leading Oklahoma City 97-90 at home Tuesday.

"It's all about confidence right now," said Al Jefferson, who had 16 points after missing the previous two games to attend his grandmother's funeral.

If Utah can match a 5-0 run from Jan. 2-10 and Houston loses to Golden State earlier Thursday, the Jazz will hold the eighth spot in the West. They were 2 12 games out of the conference's final playoff position following the Feb. 28 defeat.

"We should be very confident right now," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We're understanding that we need to count on each other, especially at the defensive end of the floor and depending on each other to make the right plays."

The Jazz are holding opponents to 96.5 points on 43.0 percent shooting during their current run, but slowing down the Kings (17-29) could be difficult.

Led by Marcus Thornton's 30.3 points per game, Sacramento is averaging 118.0 during its three-game winning streak.

More importantly, it appears the Kings are getting along as well as they have all season. Coach Keith Smart has a rule that any player out with an injury doesn't lose his spot, but Tyreke Evans - who was ready to return after missing two games with a sprained left ankle - requested prior to Tuesday's 119-110 win over Memphis that John Salmons stay in the starting lineup.

"They're starting to like each other," said Smart, whose team will try to win four straight at home for the first time since Nov. 25-Dec. 2, 2009. "And they're getting closer to that other 'L' word."

It's unclear if Evans will come off the bench again Thursday, but Smart will want to make sure to give him plenty of minutes. Evans had a season-high 31 points in a 96-93 loss in Salt Lake City on Jan. 28, and his 22.6 average versus Utah is his highest against any team.

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins scored 22 points with 18 rebounds on Feb. 28 and is averaging 21.3 points and 13.7 boards in three home games against Utah.

The Jazz, who open a stretch of 11 of 17 outside Utah, have the second-fewest road wins (six) in the West, ahead of only Sacramento's four.

The Kings are trying to win two straight in this series for the first time since 2006-07.

Kings hire VP of professional development

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AP

Kings hire VP of professional development

It’s been a summer of change for the Sacramento Kings. A roster upheaval has 10 new players vying for minutes once training camp opens on Tuesday. The coaching staff has been bolstered and fresh blood was added to the front office in the form of analytics guru Luke Bornn and assistant general manager Brandon Williams. On Thursday, one more piece to the puzzle was brought in to help develop the team’s young core.

With the hiring of Galen Duncan as the franchise’s new Vice President of the Kings Academy and Professional Development, Sacramento is making a major investment in the future of their team.

According to the team’s official press release, “Duncan is responsible for implementation of the Kings Academy program, a developmental, player-centric curriculum aligning multi-faceted organizational philosophies and ideals to help athletes mature into well-rounded professionals. Under Duncan’s oversight, Kings Academy will augment on-court progress with access to practical material and experiences that help balance on-court priorities and personal responsibilities with opportunities to become impactful contributors in the community.”

After 10 years with the Detroit Lions, Duncan is making the jump to the NBA game. He’s already had a taste of the league, working with the league office as part of the NBA Rookie Transition Program.

With five rookies and another four sophomores on the roster, the Kings are investing in a seasoned mentor and life coach. Armed with a Ph.D. in health psychology from Walden University, Duncan will aid the players in everything from finding an apartment to dealing with the stress of life as a 19-year-old millionaire with no experience paying a bill.

“My passion has always been sports,” Duncan told NBC Sports California. “Sports has done wonderful things for me. I don’t care what level they’re at or how much money they make, I think there is something to learn and I have something to teach.”

With the Lions, he brought incoming rookie classes through everything from etiquette courses to teaching them how to tie ties. His goal is to transform a group of young men into professionals, who just happen to be professional athletes.

It’s not just about making a polished product for the media and general public. Duncan will work with players on a variety of personal issues, including money management, dealing with family and professional on-court performance.

“Unfortunately, sometimes family can be your worst enemy,” Duncan said. “But if structured correctly and if nurtured, I think the education goes beyond just the player. I think you have to educate the family as well about what they’re doing.”

The transition to the NBA game will be interesting for Duncan. He comes from a game where the incoming rookie class can be anywhere from 10-15 players. He hasn’t dealt with 19-year-olds at the NFL level and guaranteed contracts are new as well, but the job is very similar.

Sacramento has always had a support staff to help with the transition to the NBA game, but the addition of Duncan is a new level of commitment by the team. They have a huge group of young players and they are making an investment into their futures and the future of the franchise. It’s a clear step in the right direction.

Kings finally get to unleash highly skilled weapon Bogdan Bogdanovic on NBA stage

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AP

Kings finally get to unleash highly skilled weapon Bogdan Bogdanovic on NBA stage

The legend of Bogdan Bogdanovic grows. After another deep run against European competition, the 25-year-old shooting guard is headed for the NBA with plenty of fanfare.

Bogdanovic and his Serbian teammates fell short of the ultimate goal of winning EuroBasket 2017. Goran Dragic and Team Slovenia took home the gold, pulling away from Serbia for the 93-85 victory in the finals on Sunday.

Dragic scored a game-high 35 points in 28 minutes of action, giving Bogdanovic a taste of what the competition will look like on a nightly basis in the NBA. Bogdanovic led Serbia with 22 points on 9-of-21 shooting, but he struggled from long range, knocking down 2-of-11 from behind the international 3-point line.

The Kings acquired Bogdanovic from the Phoenix Suns, along with the rights to Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere for Marquese Chriss on Draft night 2016. Phoenix had failed multiple times in their attempts to bring the sharpshooter over from his Turkish league team after taking him with the 27th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Vlade Divac couldn’t get Bogdanovic to come over for last season, but he found traction early this summer and added the talented wing as part of his July shopping spree.

After dominating league action overseas, Bogdanovic became the highest paid rookie in NBA history, signing a three-year, $27 million deal with Sacramento. He’ll make close to $9.5 million in his first season in the league, more than double what fifth overall pick, De’Aaron Fox, is scheduled to make.   

Bogdanovic walks into a crowded situation in Sacramento. He’ll compete for minutes with Buddy Hield, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson at the shooting guard position. Both Hield and Temple worked under coach Dave Joerger for parts of last season, but the Kings front office is very high on their European import.

Listed at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, Bogdanovic has great size for the two and he might even be able to shift to the small forward spot for short stints. He is not the defender that Temple is and Hield might have an edge on him as a volume scorer, but Bogdanovic has an advantage over both players in versatility.

He’s a highly skilled offensive weapon that should make an immediate impact on the floor. He spent plenty of time manning the point guard position for Serbia and can even act as the primary ball handler. Bogdanovic is blessed with an extremely high basketball IQ and he’s shown advanced playmaking skills, both with Fenerbahce and the Serbian national team.

Bogdanovic can light it up from distance, having knocked down 43 percent of 3-pointers this season for Fenerbahce, but he’s not just a catch and shoot player. He hit 50 percent from the field overall using a variety of moves to create space. He has a killer crossover and step back jumper, a nice floater in the lane and he is fearless going to the rack.

Where he has the biggest advantage over his competition is in the pick-and-roll. Bogdanovic uses hesitation dribbles and crafty maneuvering to create looks for both himself and his bigs moving to the hoop. He also has nice court vision and is an unselfish distributor.

If Bogdanovic’s European game translates to the NBA, Sacramento has a rotational player and possibly much more. He’ll likely struggle on the defensive end initially, like most rookies coming into the league, but he plays with effort and has solid instincts.

Joerger has a lot to work out during training camp and the early season. He has multiple bodies at every position and the competition for minutes is going to be intense. While it’s early to make predictions, it appears that Bogdanovic will have a substantial role as the Kings enter year one of their rebuild.