Programming note: Pacers-Kings coverage begins tonight at 7 p.m. on Comcast SporstNet California. Territory restrictions apply.
Still trying to find their way without All-Star Danny Granger, the Indiana Pacers appear to have taken a big step forward.The Pacers look to keep their momentum going Friday night when they try to sweep the season series with the Sacramento Kings for the first time since 2008-09.After fighting through a slow start without Granger, who is targeting a February return from a left knee injury, Indiana (7-8) has a chance to win for the fourth time in five games.The Pacers put together perhaps their biggest win of the season Tuesday night when George Hill banked in a shot over Dwight Howard with 0.1 seconds left to give Indiana a 79-77 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the opener of a four-game road trip.Hill scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game with a team-high 19 points for the Pacers, who had lost six of their first eight away from home."We need road wins to build our togetherness, our belief in ourselves and our new identity, and to build confidence," coach Frank Vogel said. "This is a big one, and one that we were looking for."David West added 16 points, 10 rebounds and a season-high eight assists. The power forward has played well recently, averaging 21.0 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 55.2 percent in his last four games.Indiana, though, has had its struggles offensively. The Pacers shot under 40.0 percent (36.7) for the seventh time Tuesday and scored less than 80 for the fourth time, but they made up for it with another impressive performance on the defensive end.Indiana held the Lakers to a season low in points and their lowest field-goal percentage at home (31.6) since April 8, 2000. The Pacers lead the NBA in defensive shooting percentage (40.2) and rank third in points allowed per game(91.2).Now, Indiana faces a Kings team that had averaged 107.7 points while shooting 52.8 percent from the field - 23 of 48 (47.9) from 3-point range - in three games before a 97-89 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday.After falling into a tie with New Orleans for the worst record in the Western Conference, Sacramento (4-10) will try to wrap up its three-game homestand with its third win in five games.Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins each scored 20 against the Timberwolves. Evans has come on strong of late, averaging 21.0 points on 54.8 percent shooting over his last five games.While the Kings have the third-lowest turnover average in the West at 14.6, they committed five miscues in the fourth quarter Tuesday."We make plays throughout the whole game and then it's either a turnover or a couple of stops we didn't get," guard Isaiah Thomas said. "We've just got to learn from it and we've got to fix it or, like I said, we're not going to win these close games."Cousins has enjoyed some success against an Indiana team that ranks near the top of the league in rebounds (48.5) and blocks (7.4) per game. He's recorded three straight double-doubles versus the Pacers and averaged 18.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in four career meetings.Indiana has won six of nine against the Kings, including 106-98 in double overtime Nov. 3. West and Hill each scored 18 points while Paul George chipped in 16 and a career-high 17 rebounds for the Pacers.The Kings were led by Marcus Thornton's season-high 26 points off the bench and Cousins' 21 points and 13 boards.
SACRAMENTO -- The one that got away.
News broke Friday afternoon of another player move from the Sacramento Kings. A transaction 22 years in the making was finally completed when according to a published report, the Kings renounced the rights to 6-foot-7 Serbian, Dejan Bodiroga.
The now 44-year-old wing has been retired since 2007. He’s known around the basketball circles as one of the greatest European players to never to come to the NBA.
Drafted by Geoff Petrie with the 51st overall selection in the 1995 NBA Draft, Sacramento tried multiple times to get the sharpshooter to come to the states. It was always a longshot, but after selecting Corliss Williamson and Tyus Edney with his first two selections, Petrie took a late-round gamble.
Bodiroga has a trophy case full of awards, including a Spanish League MVP, a FIBA World Cup MVP and a Greek League MVP. He also won championships in the Italian, Greek and Spanish Leagues, as well as silver medal in the 1996 Olympic games.
He is also on the list of the 50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors along with fellow Serbian and current Sacramento Kings General Manager, Vlade Divac.
Kings fans reacted on Twitter to the news in standard fashion:
SACRAMENTO -- The season is still months away, but the slow buildup has started. Thursday afternoon the Sacramento Kings announced their preseason schedule for the 2017-18 season and there is plenty of intrigue to look forward to.
The Kings open their preseason schedule on Oct. 2 at the Golden 1 Center against the San Antonio Spurs. Under head coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs won 61 games last season before falling to the Golden State Warriors in four games during the Western Conference Finals. They didn’t land Chris Paul, like early rumors suggested, but they roll into Sacramento with former King Rudy Gay and a team chalked full of veterans.
Four days later, the Kings travel to the AT&T Center in San Antonio to face the Spurs again. San Antonio will start the season without point guard Tony Parker, who ruptured a quad tendon during the playoffs and is expected to sit out until January.
The Kings fly to Sin City on Oct. 8 for their annual matchup in Vegas against the Lakers. The game will certainly take on a more of a circus feel as the Lonzo Ball vs. De’Aaron Fox fanfare hits a fever pitch.
Following the Lakers game, the Kings travel back to Sacramento where the vaunted backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum await on the second night of a back-to-back. Portland took the season series 2-1 last year and come in with rookie Zach Collins, who Sacramento dealt away on draft night for opportunity to select Justin Jackson and Harry Giles at picks 15 and 20.
The Kings take on the new-look Los Angeles Clippers on Oct. 12 at the Staples Center. The backcourt of Chris Paul and J.J. Reddick is no more and veteran sixth-man Jamal Crawford is now with the T-Wolves. The additions of Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic make the Clippers and intriguing watch.
Sacramento finishes out their preseason schedule Oct. 13 at Oracle Arena against the reigning world champs. The Warriors come back with most of their championship roster intact, but a few additions. Nick Young will come off the bench to add more offensive firepower and former Kings forward Omri Casspi will make his return to Sacramento after being traded away at the All-Star break last season.
Per NBA scheduling changes, the preseason and regular season have been moved up. Sacramento will finish their exhibition schedule five days ahead of last season’s schedule. With only two home games on the docket, plenty of Kings fans will have to wait until the regular season to get their first glimpse at the team’s five rookies and three free agent acquisitions.