Kings, Heat headed in opposite directions

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Kings, Heat headed in opposite directions

Programming note: Kings fans can catch all the action beginning today at 4:30 p.m. when the Kings meet the Heat in Miami, only on Comcast SportsNet California!KINGS (10-21) vs
MIAMI (25-7)
MIAMI (AP) - Dwyane Wade finished his workout Monday and approached about a dozen reporters, one of the smallest media turnouts at a Miami Heat practice this season.These days, the team with the NBA's best record almost seems like an afterthought."If it was packed in here right now, it would mean we were losing," Wade said. "When we look over and see a lot of people in here, we're not playing well."And that certainly isn't the case.Winners of six straight, all by at least 12 points, the Heat are in their best stretch of the season. The midpoint of the regular-season schedule awaits Tuesday when Miami (25-7) hosts Sacramento (10-21), losers of five straight. Here's one example of how wildly different things have gone for those clubs: Miami has led by at least 20 points in each of its last six games, while the Kings have only enjoyed that margin once this season - for all of 37 seconds.
RELATED: Kings schedule & results
If the spotlight is going to shine elsewhere these days, the Heat are fine with that arrangement."It's quiet as hell around here and we're doing pretty good," forward Chris Bosh said. "But that's to be expected. And we wouldn't have it any other way. That's just the name of the game. That's the business. That's how it's always going to be. You're more of a story when you have controversy."Or a phenomenon.Already in Miami - and to the team's chagrin, given that Sacramento is next on the schedule and therefore supposed to be the focus - there's no shortage of talk about Thursday night's home game against the New York Knicks, and none of that buzz is surrounding the years-old rivalry between the teams.No, the Jeremy Lin craze is going strong, with ticket demand for Thursday rivaling what was going on during last season's NBA finals against Dallas.So as Linsanity reigns, other NBA story lines like the Heat passing Chicago for the NBA's best record, San Antonio taking a 10-game winning streak into its game Monday night, even the looming All-Star weekend seem almost forgotten."We don't know if people get bored (with Miami winning) or not," forward LeBron James said. "We just know there's a lot more going on. I guess there's other, better story lines right now going on in the league, so we can go out and just play the game and just try to do it at a high level. Let everybody else get the headlines right now and just play Miami Heat basketball."Miami's numbers of late, including this six-game winning streak, are flirting with absurd.Wade has connected on at least half his shots in 10 straight games, his longest run since doing that 11 straight times as a rookie. The Heat are shooting 49.2 percent over their last six games - the second-best mark in the league since Feb. 10, 0.1 percent off Oklahoma City's pace - while holding teams to an NBA-best 39.3 percent mark from the floor over that span.Things are going so well for Miami, neither Wade nor James have been asked to play much in fourth quarters lately."Getting tired of sitting down in the fourth quarter, personally," James said Monday, the look on his face making it clear that he wasn't being entirely serious. "It's messing up my averages."James and Wade might not have to play much in the fourth Tuesday, either. Sacramento is 3-16 on the road - 0-4 thus far on a six-game trip - and has lost its last three against the Heat by at least 20 points.The Kings have lost six in a row and 14 of 15 in the series, and their nine consecutive losses in South Beach have been by an average of 17.8 points.James scored 31 points in 30 minutes in the Heat's 117-97 home win over Sacramento last Feb. 22.James has been talked about as an MVP frontrunner for weeks already and was at the center of a huge story last week when he said he would not rule out one day maybe returning to Cleveland as a player. The Heat are sending six representatives to All-Star weekend, where the second half of the season, the chase for the 2012 championship - and the loss in the 2011 finals - are sure to be popular topics.So when the all-about-Miami craze returns, the Heat say they'll be ready."We're comfortable in our world now," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday. "There can be a lot of noise. It can be relatively minimal noise. I think we're able now to compartmentalize and focus on what's real, our team and trying to improve and trying to get ourselves ready to play at our optimal level during the playoffs. That's the only thing that matters."Wade almost said he's welcoming the break, both in terms of getting some late-game minutes off, and without the levels of all-the-time scrutiny that has seemed to follow the Heat since he, Bosh and James teamed up in 2010."It's great," Wade said. "We're focusing on what we need to do. The only attention we're thinking about is giving each other the attention that we need as a team and making sure that everyone in here knows how they important they are to our success and what our goal is. Our goal is to be the best team in the NBA at the end of the year and not right now."

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.