Kings ice cold from field in 96-88 loss to Suns

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Kings ice cold from field in 96-88 loss to Suns

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PHOENIX (AP) -- Falling behind has become a habit for the Phoenix Suns. In the last three games, so has winning.Steve Nash had 19 points, Marcin Gortat scored 14 and matched his season high with 17 rebounds, and the Suns won their third in a row with a 96-88 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.In all three wins, the Suns rallied from double-digit deficits, something the franchise hadn't done since November 2002.Jared Dudley scored eight of his 14 in the fourth quarter, when Phoenix pulled away. Shannon Brown added 13, including consecutive 3-pointers in the decisive run to open the final period.Marcus Thornton scored 23 and Tyreke Evans 17 for Sacramento. DeMarcus Cousins added 16 points and 14 rebounds, but the Kings shot just 33 percent in the second half to fall to 4-19 on the road.The three consecutive victories since the All-Star break, all at home, matched Phoenix's longest win streak of the season.Nash said the team's first-half struggles trace to its long layoff during the break."We had seven days off, a lot longer than a lot of people," he said, "and I just feel like we're still trying to shake the rust off in the first half of games. We feel a little better, a little more comfortable and make more plays in the second half."Overall, the Suns have won five of six."We still aren't starting great, but at least we are not starting ridiculously slow," Gortat said. We don't have this outstanding pace that we usually have in the third quarter, but we're getting better."Brown's 3s, followed by one from Dudley, capped a 15-3 Suns outburst to start the fourth quarter and Phoenix led 85-74 with 7:45 remaining. Sacramento scored the next eight to cut it to 85-82 on Cousins' dunk from the baseline with 3:32 to play.Nash, though, followed with his second 3 of the night in as many tries to boost the lead back to 88-82. The teams traded baskets, then Evans sank a 12-footer to slice the lead to 90-86 with 2:29 to go. Grant Hill made a pair of mid-range jumpers and Dudley's 18-footer with 51.4 seconds left sealed it."I think the thing that killed us was Shannon Brown, those 3s that he hit," Evans said. "After that we could never really find a rhythm."Sacramento coach Keith Smart praised his team's defense."You're going to give up something," he said. "You've got a great point guard who's going to make plays and find people. I thought our guys did a great job to maintain and do the things necessary, but we had a few breakdowns late."Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry liked the Suns' defense, too."But we didn't come up with the loose balls," he said. "We were right there defensively but we just need to complete the defensive possession."The Kings took a 32-29 lead after one quarter, then opened the second with a 10-2 run to go up 42-31 on Isaiah Thomas' 16-footer with 9:15 left in the half. Phoenix cut it to 48-44 on Nash's runner in the lane with 2:24 to go and was down 52-47 at the break.Cousins had 12 points and 10 rebounds in the first half but managed only four points and four rebounds after that. He finished 7 of 20 from the field, 1 of 4 after halftime.Phoenix caught the Kings at 52-all with 9:59 to play when Cousins was called for a flagrant foul for throwing an elbow into Channing Frye on a layup attempt. Frye made both free throws.Sacramento took a 61-59 lead on Evans' three-point play, but the Suns scored the next nine. Nash made a left-handed layup, was fouled by Evans and completed the three-point play to put the Suns ahead 68-61 with 4:01 left in the third quarter.The Kings outscored Phoenix 10-2 the rest of the quarter, though. Travis Outlaw blocked Sebastian Telfair's shot, then dunked the rebound at the other end of the court at the buzzer to give Sacramento a 71-70 lead entering the fourth.NOTES: The Suns played their sixth in a row at home, dating to before the All-Star break, and are in a stretch of 10 of 11 at US Airways Center. ... Thomas, who had averaged 17.1 points in seven games since becoming a starter, scored eight on 3-of-13 shooting. ... Referee Tre Maddox called a technical on Gentry in the second quarter. ... Sacramento got a technical on its second delay-of-game warning with 9:56 to play. ... Frye shot 3 of 12 for Phoenix. His backup at power forward, Markieff Morris, was 0 of 7.

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.