Kings face Bucks in first game without Westphal

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Kings face Bucks in first game without Westphal

PROGRAMMING ALERT: We will have a Live Video Feed of the team's press conference tonight at 5:45 -- both on CSNCalifornia.com and Chronicle Live. Watch the news as it happens.
Milwaukee (2-3) vs. Kings (2-5) at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California and Comcast SportsNet Plus
With DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, the Sacramento Kings appear to have a promising nucleus for the future.Appearances, however, aren't always what they seem as the Kings hope a coaching change can spark the duo heading into Thursday night's game versus the Milwaukee Bucks.Paul Westphal was fired after a 2-5 start dropped the Kings into last place in the Pacific Division and replaced by assistant Keith Smart on Thursday afternoon. Even before the lockout, the season has been viewed as a crossroads for the franchise, which may again consider relocating from Sacramento if a financing deal for a new arena cannot be reached.RELATED: Kings fire Westphal as coach
"I want to thank Paul for all of his effort on behalf of the Kings," said team president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie. "Unfortunately, the overall performance level of the team has not approached what we felt was reasonable to expect. I wish him the best in his future endeavors."Westphal's falling out with forward DeMarcus Cousins may have been too much to overcome. He suspended the mercurial second-year pro for Sacramento's game on Jan. 1, criticizing Cousins' commitment to the team and claiming he asked to be traded, something the player's agent denies.
The firing represents the fastest coaching changes to start an NBA season since 1976-77. Billy Cunningham was axed by the 76ers after seven games in 1977-78.Petrie tabbed Smart, who went 36-46 as Golden State Warriors coach last season, to take over the team. Yet Smart may be hard-pressed to fix the defensive shortcomings of a team which currently ranks second-to-last in both defensive scoring at 102.4 points per game and defensive field goal percentage (48.5 percent).The Warriors were tied for 27th in scoring defense at 105.7 points per game - one full point worse than Sacramento - in Smart's lone season.The fifth overall pick in 2010, Cousins had a season-high 26 points off the bench in a 110-83 loss at Denver on Wednesday but is shooting just 38.6 percent overall while averaging 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds. Evans, the 2010 NBA rookie of the year after averaging 20.1 points, is contributing 14.3 per game on 42.0 percent shooting.Even without three key players and struggling offensively, the Bucks (2-3) may be catching the Kings at the right time. Milwaukee has dropped the first two games on its five-game western trip but has won its last three games at Sacramento.Ratto: Westphal swamped by the tide
Without star Andrew Bogut (personal reasons), swingman Mike Dunleavy Jr. (groin) and former King Beno Udrih (shoulder), the Bucks shot a paltry 30.5 percent from the field - including 2 of 21 from 3-point range - in an 85-73 loss to the Jazz on Tuesday."It's tough," said forward Drew Gooden, the lone bright spot with 24 points and 12 rebounds. "We can't win scoring 70-80 points. We've got to be in the high 90s to beat these teams. That comes with executing the offense."Milwaukee has averaged 109.0 points during its three-game winning streak at Sacramento that follows a four-game road skid to the Kings. However, with Bogut (14.3 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game), Dunleavy (10.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Udrih (9.0 ppg) all likely to miss this season's annual visit, the Bucks' run in Sacramento could be in jeopardy.They certainly need more production from guard Brandon Jennings, who has totaled 20 points in the last two games while shooting 9 of 35 overall and 0 for 11 from 3-point range. He averaged 22.7 on 46.0 percent shooting in the season's first three contests.Jennings went 8 of 13 from beyond the arc and finished with 35 points in his only previous game at Sacramento, a 114-108 double-overtime victory March 19, 2010.

Kings head into free agency with money to burn, but limited roster spots

Kings head into free agency with money to burn, but limited roster spots

Draft night is over and done with and the Sacramento Kings filled plenty of holes in their roster for the 2017-18 season. They added a pair of young point guards and a small forward to help fill their two biggest roster needs. They also took a gamble on Duke’s Harry Giles with the 20th overall selection which adds depth in the post long term.

Step one of the summer calendar is done and now the focus shifts to free agency which begins July 1. The Kings have limited roster space, but truckloads of cap space to work with. The NBA has reduced their projected cap for the 2017-18 season to $99 million and the Kings are way below that figure. While the cap is more complicated than just a raw spreadsheet, here is a look at where the Kings currently stand.

2017-18 Salaries - $28.9 million
Projected Rookie Salaries - $9.7 million
Dead Money - $6.1 million
Total - $44.7

Sacramento opted out of both Anthony Tolliver’s $8 million contract ($2 million buyout) and Arron Afflalo’s $12.5 million ($1.5 buyout). They also waived Matt Barnes mid-season, stretching his salary for the 2017-18 season over the next three years ($2.1 million per season).

In addition to Tolliver, Afflalo and Barnes, Rudy Gay informed the team earlier this month that he opted out of his $14.3 million contract for this season and Langston Galloway walked away from a guaranteed $5.4 million to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Kings begin free agency roughly $54.3 million under the cap and after adding four rookies, they have just four standard NBA roster spots and two two-way contracts with the NBA’s G-League. They are also required to spend 90 percent of the $99 million, but they have the entire season to do so and they are allowed to redistribute any shortage back to their own players.

There is hope that European sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic will join this team this summer as well. Although he hasn’t played in the league, his contract is not restricted by the rookie scale. Early projections have him making anywhere from $5-10 million per season with Sacramento.

If Bogdanovic signs for the upper end of his projection - $10 million - the Kings would still have upwards of $44 million to spend, but just three roster spots to work with.

The team still has deficiencies to fill with the roster. Sacramento has two rookie point guards, but no veteran to show them the ropes. Garrett Temple can play in a pinch, but he is better at both wing positions.

Sacramento added Justin Jackson at the small forward spot, but they have little depth behind him and he could use time to develop. Temple can eat some minutes at the position and both Malachi Richardson and Bogdanovic can likely steal time at the three as well. A starting level player is needed, but the market is thin at the position.

There is hope that Skal Labissiere is the answer at the power forward spot, but with Tolliver waived, the team needs more at the position. Willie Cauley-Stein can play in spot duty, but a veteran stretch four is needed.

In addition to position of need, the Kings need more talent and veteran leadership on the roster. Temple is the only player over 30. Big man Kosta Koufos is 28 and everyone else on the roster is 24 and under when the season opens in October.

Expect the Kings to be active on the open market. They also make an attractive trade partner with their ability to absorb contracts. It should be a wild couple of weeks in Sacramento as the Kings look to improve their roster.

Kings' Buddy Hield named to 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team

Kings' Buddy Hield named to 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team

A rollercoaster rookie season for Buddy Hield has ended on a high note.

A very high note.

The Kings shooting guard was named to the 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team on Monday.

Hield is joined by Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon, New York's Willy Hernangomez and Philadelphia's duo of Dario Saric and Joel Embiid.

The Kings acquired Hield in February as part of a trade that sent All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.

Before the trade, Hield averaged just 8.6 points in 57 games with the Pelicans. But he stepped up his game once he got to Sacramento as he averaged 15.1 points in just 25 games with the Kings. In total, the No. 6 overall pick out of Oklahoma averaged 10.6 points and 3.3 rebounds during his rookie campaign.

Fellow Kings rookie Skal Labissiere received one First Team vote and five Second Team votes, finishing with seven total points.

The NBA All-Rookie First and Second Teams are shown below.