Kings look to snap skid vs. lowly Hornets

694782.jpg

Kings look to snap skid vs. lowly Hornets

After the Sacramento City Council and Mayor Kevin Johnson took care of the financial details that should help the team break ground on a new downtown arena, the Kings have plenty of upcoming business to attend to at their current home.
NEWS: Sacramento approves arena plan to keep Kings
Sacramento will try to snap a four-game losing streak on Wednesday night when it opens a franchise-record nine-game homestand against the Western Conference-worst New Orleans Hornets.The Kings and the NBA reached a tentative agreement during last week's All-Star break to finance a new arena in Sacramento, and the City Council approved the measure Tuesday night.

That facility would open in 2015-16, but in the meantime fans who've been fighting to keep the Kings (12-26) from relocating to Anaheim would certainly like to see a better product on the court.Sacramento returns home with just two victories in its last 12 games. The Kings were seconds away from salvaging a win to close their three-game road trip, but lost 119-116 in overtime to Denver on Monday.Kings guard Marcus Thornton hit a career high-tying six 3-pointers and finished with 27 points, but he fouled Arron Afflalo on a 3-point attempt with 0.6 seconds left. Afflalo hit all three free throws, and Ty Lawson's 3 with four seconds left in OT handed Sacramento another defeat."It's on me. I can't do that. I take this loss. I have to be smarter," Thornton said.Kings coach Keith Smart, whose contract was extended through 2012-13 earlier Monday, had a more positive spin to the latest loss."We are growing and moving in the right direction," he said. "It just came down to micro moments of management and we didn't come through at that time."Sacramento has come through in both contests versus New Orleans this season.Even after DeMarcus Cousins was told to stay away from the team by then-coach Paul Westphal for apparently demanding a trade, the Kings defeating the visiting Hornets 96-80 on Jan. 1.Tyreke Evans led Sacramento with 27 points in that victory, while Thornton, a former Hornet, added 25 with five steals.Thornton had just 12 points in the teams' Feb. 6 matchup, but Evans scored 11 of his 20 in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento complete its rally from 18 down and end a five-game skid in New Orleans with a 100-92 victory.That duo could cause plenty of problems for the slumping Hornets (9-29).With points guards Jarrett Jack and Greivis Vasquez each recording just six total assists in the last two games - both losses - New Orleans has averaged 79.0 points on 41.1 percent shooting."A lot of that goes on our guards," coach Monty Williams said following Monday's 86-74 loss at Portland. "They have to be able to get us into offense."Trevor Ariza returned Monday after missing two games with an illness, but the Hornets could again be without Carl Landry (sprained knee ligament), Jason Smith (concussion) and Emeka Okafor (sore left knee).Hornets center Chris Kaman, who has started the last 11 games for Okafor, is averaging 13.5 rebounds against the Kings in 2011-12.Cousins scored a season-best 28 points with 19 boards in last month's meeting.

How the four Kings rookies fit in heading into 2017-18 season

How the four Kings rookies fit in heading into 2017-18 season

SACRAMENTO - The Sacramento Kings swung for the fences during the NBA Draft Thursday night. They filled holes, took a gamble and might have even come away with a steal or two in their four selections. There are major roster questions that still have to be answered in free agency or through trade, but here is a look at how the new faces fit into the current situation in Sacramento.

De’Aaron Fox, point guard, University of Kentucky
Sacramento let it be known early that Fox was a target. The speedy point guard put on a show in his lone season in Kentucky, averaging 16.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 29.6 minutes per game. He’ll need to improve his 3-point shooting (24.6 percent) to keep defenses from sagging off and clogging his running lanes, but his mechanics are sound.

According to Vlade Divac, “De’Aaron is our future.” Whether the team will look to add a veteran presence is still in question. Veterans Darren Collison and Ty Lawson have spoken about their willingness to return as a mentor, but Fox is expected to play major minutes in his rookie season as the Kings look to turn up the tempo.

Fox is a big time athlete with great size for the position. Standing a little over 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-6.5 wingspan, the left handed point guard projects well on both ends of the floor. He’ll need to add weight to his 170-pound frame, but the Kings have a strong strength and conditioning team that has been working overtime all summer building on last season’s draft class.

With both Collison and Lawson entering free agency unrestricted, Fox is likely the Kings starter on Day 1.

Justin Jackson, small forward, University of North Carolina
Jackson tested the draft waters a year ago and decided to return to the Tar Heels for one more season. The gamble paid off as Jackson and his North Carolina teammates rolled through the NCAA tournament and were crowned champs.

In addition to winning it all, Jackson showed major improvement in his junior year under Roy Williams. The 22-year-old wing posted 18.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 32.2 minutes per game. Jackson’s biggest improvement came as a perimeter shooter where he converted 36.8 percent of his 3-point shots, compared to just 29.2 percent as a sophomore.

Like Fox, Jackson needs to add strength and weight to compete in the NBA for 82 games a season. He is a wiry athlete that stands 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, but he weighed in at just 201 at the Draft combine (up from his 192 a season ago).

As of today, Jackson is the only true small forward on the Kings roster. They have options in Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson, but they will likely address the position in free agency or through trade. Jackson will play minutes as a rookie, but how many will be determined by how quickly he can adjust to the NBA level. He’s a mature scorer and he has defensive potential, but he will likely begin his career in a reserve role, at least initially.

Harry Giles, power forward/center, Duke University
There was a time when Giles ranked amongst the very best of high school player in the country. A series of bad breaks led Giles to tumble down the draft board where the Kings were more than willing to gamble at the 20th selection.

You can take his numbers at Duke and throw them out the window, he was never truly healthy in his time with Coach K. Standing 6-foot-10.5 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, the 232-pound big has an incredible frame. Unfortunately, the frame is supported by two surgically repaired knees.

Giles tore his ACL in both knees as a prep athlete in separate incidents and he needed a third procedure to clean up one of his knees last year. If there is good news here, it is that both knees were damaged in contact injuries, as opposed to the knee giving out in a non-contact situation. The scope that occurred later is also not out of the norm as the body attempts to adjust to the changes in the joint.

Like the Duke medical staff, the Kings will need to show patience in years one and two as Giles continues to heal from the series of surgeries. The Kings knew the risk of drafting the talented 19-year-old and they also know that players like Danny Manning, Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin went on to have very successful careers after bilateral ACL tears.   

Don’t expect Giles to play major minutes in year one, but the Kings fell in love with his talent in a pre-draft workout in Sacramento. The team has a bevy of bigs, including Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and Georgios Papagiannis. This is a risk/reward pick for the future. If Giles can get right, he could be the best big man taken in the 2017 NBA Draft and maybe even a lot more than that.

Frank Mason III, point guard, Kansas University
Despite collecting a room full of trophies in his senior year at Kansas, Mason slid to the early second round where the Kings shunned trade offers and pounced. Like Fox, the high-flying guard was a major target of the Kings, even coming to Sacramento twice for visits before draft night.

The 23-year-old Wooden Award winner dominated in his final season under Bill Self, averaging 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 36.1 minutes a night. He even shot 47.1 percent from behind the arc on 4.8 attempts per game. At 6-foot, 189-pounds, the biggest knock on Mason is his lack of size. He makes up for that with power and a 41-inch vertical.

Sacramento is in a tough situation when it comes to their point guard position. Fox was a no-brainer at number five and Mason is an NBA ready contributor at pick 34. But can they walk into a season with two rookies manning the point guard position? 

It’s possible. The Kings have Temple on the roster, who can steal some minutes, but Fox and Mason make an intriguing thunder and lightning pairing that should be a lot of fun to watch. Don’t be shocked if Mason earns a spot in the rotation in training camp and plays solid minutes in a sparkplug role off the bench as a rookie.

Purge of veterans continues as Kings waive Arron Afflalo

Purge of veterans continues as Kings waive Arron Afflalo

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings continued their purge of veteran contracts Friday afternoon. NBC Sports California has confirmed that the team opted out of the second year of Arron Afflalo’s 2-year, $25 million deal. They will instead pay the shooting guard a $1.5 million buyout, saving $11 million and allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Afflalo, 31, posted 8.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game. The 10-year NBA veteran played in 61 games, including 45 starts for the Kings last season while shooting 41.1 percent from behind the arc.

The former UCLA star is the second Kings veteran to have his option declined, joining Anthony Tolliver in the ranks of unrestricted free agents. Both Rudy Gay and Langston Galloway have chosen not to exercise player options with the team as the franchise turns to a youth movement.

Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos are the only remaining players players on the Kings’ roster with more than two years experience in the league. Sacramento will enter free agency with upwards of $55 million to spend in free agency once they sign their four rookies from Thursday evening’s NBA Draft.