Kings look to spoil depleted Timberwolves' home opener

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Kings look to spoil depleted Timberwolves' home opener

Programming note: Kings-Timberwolces coverage begins today at 5 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California (Territorial restrictions apply)!

The Minnesota Timberwolves fell apart last season after Ricky Rubio went down with an injury. How they'll fare with both him and star Kevin Love sidelined to begin the 2012-13 campaign remains to be seen.Brandon Roy and a host of newcomers make their team debuts Friday night when Minnesota hosts the Sacramento Kings, who will look to clean up their play after dropping their opener.The Timberwolves were 21-19 and tied for the Western Conference's final playoff spot heading into their March 9 game against the Los Angeles Lakers before Rubio tore his left ACL in the final seconds of a 105-102 loss.Minnesota proceeded to drop 20 of its last 25 to finish 26-40, its seventh consecutive losing season. Rubio won't be back until at least mid-December, and the team received more bad news when Love broke his hand doing an in-home workout Oct. 17.Love finished fourth in the NBA with 26.0 points per game while placing second with an average of 13.3 rebounds last season, but he'll miss at least the first month."It is a big hole in our lineup, but we have guys that are going to commit to do their job, and we have to find a way to win," coach Rick Adelman said. "That's just the way it is. A lot of teams are facing the same thing. We are no different."Love said he still plans to be around the Timberwolves while he rehabs."I'm going to stay in shape as much as I can, and I'm just going to continue to stay with the team and keep being a leader," he said.Roy is no stranger to battling through injuries after the three-time All-Star for Portland was forced to retire prior to last season due to multiple knee problems.Minnesota, though, decided to take a chance when Roy began his comeback, signing him to a two-year, 10.4 million deal. The Timberwolves also added former Utah standout Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham and Lou Amundson in the offseason."You don't ever have to apologize for an injury. He didn't want this," Roy said of Love. "It's just our job to do the best we can early in the year and try to stay above float, because you know when we get him back we've got a really good team."Sacramento coach Keith Smart believes he has a solid squad as well, though it committed 21 turnovers in a 93-87 loss at Chicago on Wednesday. Tyreke Evans scored a team-high 21 points while Marcus Thornton added 15 off the bench and DeMarcus Cousins finished with 14."I'm still proud of our guys because I thought they withstood a lot of things that happened on the floor," Smart said. "We gave up 25 points off turnovers. If we cut that in half, we have a good opportunity to win the game."If we just continue to duplicate what we did here, we can be a team that has a lot of success this year."The Kings, though, will need to cut down on miscues going forward after committing nearly seven more turnovers than last year's 14.4 average."Unacceptable," Thornton said. "I know it was our first game, but we can't use that as an excuse."Evans scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 116-108 home win over Minnesota on April 2 to earn a split in the four-game season series.

NBA Gameday: Kings begin life without Gay against Grizzlies

NBA Gameday: Kings begin life without Gay against Grizzlies

The Sacramento Kings begin their eight-game road trip Friday night against the Memphis Grizzlies and they’ll have to do it without the services of Rudy Gay. Sacramento’s starting small forward went down in the third quarter of the Kings’ loss to the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night and will miss the remainder of the season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon. 

Gay isn’t the only ailing player for the Kings. Omri Casspi is out 1-2 weeks with a strained calf muscle, leaving coach Dave Joerger shorthanded at the wing position. Joerger has used Garrett Temple, Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes and Ben McLemore at the three and will need someone to step forward and help pick up the slack without Gay’s 18.7 points per game. 

Memphis has hit a rough patch in their schedule. The Grizzlies have dropped three of their last four games, including two straight, but they are still tied for the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff chase. Rookie head coach David Fizdale has a veteran group that coach Joerger knows well after coaching in Memphis the previous three seasons.  

OPENING LINE 

Grizzlies by 6.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

DeMarcus Cousins vs. Marc Gasol -- Cousins has carried plenty of weight for the Kings this season, but his team is going to need even more from the big fella with the loss of Gay. Cousins is averaging a career-best 4.4 assists and over his last three games, he’s posted a whopping 9.3 dimes per game. Gasol is having his best scoring season of his nine-year career, leading the Grizzlies at 19.6 points per game. Like Cousins, Gasol can really move the ball and he’s added the 3-point shot to his game this season.

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 16-25, third place in Pacific
Grizzlies: 25-19, third place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: SF Rudy (left Achilles tendon) out for the season, SF Omri Casspi (calf strain) out, PG Ty Lawson (left ankle) questionable.
Grizzlies: F Brandan Wright (ankle) out, F Deyonta Davis (foot) questionable.

SERIES HISTORY 

These two clubs have split the season series 1-1, with each team picking up a win on the road. The Kings hold a 44-36 record against the Grizzlies all-time.  

QUOTE

“We’ve got an eight game road trip, we’ve got to come together closer and closer, not drift apart.” Ty Lawson following the loss of Rudy Gay

Analyzing the significant ramifications of Rudy Gay's Achilles injury

Analyzing the significant ramifications of Rudy Gay's Achilles injury

UPDATE (Thursday at 2:20pm) -- Rudy Gay suffered a full rupture of his left Achilles tendon, the Kings announced.

Surgery will be scheduled in the coming days.

***

SACRAMENTO -- The worst case scenario played out Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. Injuries happen all the time, but this was a punch to the gut for a franchise in desperate need of some good luck.

The finger pointing behind the scenes has likely already started. Rudy Gay had made his intentions known to the team long ago. He wanted the Kings to find him a new home dating all the way back to early summer. Gay even went as far as to inform the team that he intended to opt out of the final year of his deal that would pay him $14.4 million next season.

That opt out is now in question.

Why wasn’t Gay traded? That’s a complicated question, with layers of answers. First and foremost, very few teams make deals before the week leading up to the NBA’s February 23 deadline. It’s an epic game of chicken that NBA execs like to play in an attempt to maximize the value of their assets. They usually sign off on a deal that they had in place a month or more before, but there is always the hope that something better will come along.

Secondly, despite the recent struggles, the Kings remain just a game and a half out of the final spot in the Western Conference playoff race. Dealing arguably your second best player might diminish the chances of snapping the franchise’s decade-long playoff drought. Getting less than acceptable return for Gay might signal that you were waiving the white flag on the inaugural season in Golden 1 Center.  

Lastly, there is that sneaky pick swap with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Kings had already written off their 2017 draft pick. They assumed they would be outside the top ten and the pick would then be relayed to the Chicago Bulls for a trade made all the way back in 2011.

But with their downturn of late, not only is a lottery pick in play, but so is the Sixers’ ability to steal the Kings’ draft position. In the summer of 2015, Vlade Divac and his front office traded Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Nik Stauskas and what has now been established as their 2019 unprotected lottery pick to Philly for a boatload of cap space and the draft rights to two European bigs. The bigs might never play in the NBA.

Between Thompson, Landry and Stauskas, the Kings saved over $30 million in guaranteed salary over a two-year period. They used that cap space to help pay for their free agency haul of Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos and Marco Belinelli. Only Koufos remains on the roster, although Belinelli yielded the pick that the Kings used to select Malachi Richardson in the 2016 NBA Draft.

The pick swaps were almost an afterthought. Philadelphia has posted the NBA’s worst record over the previous three seasons. The chance for the Kings to somehow jump ahead of the 76ers seemed remote. Until now.

Philly is on a roll. With a 7-2 record over their last nine games, the Sixers now sit at 14-26, just a game and a half behind the Kings in the standings. If Sacramento somehow remains in the top ten and keeps their pick, but then has to swap for a lower pick with Philadelphia, it will turn an already suspect deal into a complete disaster.

All of this could be moot. The Kings are 5-6 on the season without Gay. They very well could rally around their fallen compadre and finish the season outside of the top ten. They would lose their pick, but not face the scrutiny of the pick swap.

Also, Gay could still opt out of his deal. Wesley Matthews, a friend of Gay’s, ruptured his Achilles tendon on March 5, 2015. He signed a 4-year, $70 million deal four months later with the Dallas Mavericks and recovered in time to play 78 games in the 2015-16 season.

Technology has turned a year long recovery into a 7-8 month ordeal. Gay has an extra two months over what Matthews faced, although we still don’t know the severity of the injury.

Even if Gay doesn’t opt out, $14.4 million isn’t an unreasonable dollar figure. Gay and the Rock Nation group would have been looking for that much or more as a starting point for a new 3-4 year deal this summer. If Gay proves he is healthy in the first half of next season, the Kings would once again have the ability to move him at the trade deadline or allow him to expire in the offseason.

Wednesday night’s injury was shocking. It will change the way the Kings approach the trade deadline and how they manage the remainder of this season. But this is part of the game. The Kings took a gamble by not trading Gay and they lost their bet.

The ability to get something for Gay is gone. But Sacramento still has 41 games to determine how badly this injury hurt the franchise long term. An eight game road trip starts Friday night in Memphis. There is very little time for the team to feel sorry for themselves. Next man up.