Kings look to upset West's-best OKC


Kings look to upset West's-best OKC

Kevin Durant has scored 33 points in each of Oklahoma City's last two games in helping the Thunder rally for a pair of victories.The three-time All-Star could be poised for another big outing.Durant looks to lead the Western Conference-best Thunder to a seventh straight win over the Kings on Thursday night at Power Balance Pavilion, one of the two-time scoring champion's favorite arenas.After scoring 13 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime in Monday's 111-107 victory over Portland, Durant scored 12 in the final period of Tuesday's 119-116 win over Golden State. He made the go-ahead bank shot with 14.2 seconds remaining against the Warriors after putting the finishing touches on Monday's victory with a dunk with 2.9 seconds left.

"It's fun," said Durant, who has reached the 30-point mark five times in the last seven contests after having one 30-point game in his previous 14. "This is what you dream about as a kid. Guys want to take those shots and play in those minutes."The Thunder (20-5) haven't needed any late-game heroics from Durant against the Kings.Oklahoma City has won six straight in the series since a 101-98 loss Nov. 10, 2009, with the four meetings last season being decided by an average of 13.8 points. Not surprisingly, Durant - third in the league with 27.3 points per game - has played a big role in the Thunder's success, especially in Sacramento.In five games at Power Balance Pavilion since 2008-09, Durant is averaging 32.8 points, his best at any arena.Durant, however, isn't the only player the Kings need to worry about on the Thunder, one of the league's highest-scoring teams at 101.2 points per game.Russell Westbrook is averaging 27.1 points in his last seven games, while James Harden is averaging 20.3 on 52.1 percent shooting in his last four. Westbrook had 31 points and seven assists Tuesday to help give the Thunder their fourth win in five games.Oklahoma City's high-powered offense will likely be a big test for Sacramento, which is playing much better defensively.The Kings (9-16) are allowing an average of 94.2 points on 42.7 percent shooting in splitting their last six games after allowing an average of 117.0 points on 52.0 percent shooting in losing their previous three.Sacramento did a good job of shutting down a Minnesota team playing without the suspended Kevin Love on Tuesday, but the offense struggled in an 86-84 defeat.Tyreke Evans, who averages 17.2 points, scored 11 on 5-of-13 shooting, while DeMarcus Cousins shot 3 for 13 and finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds after combining for 49 points and 39 boards in his previous two games.Rookie Jimmer Fredette, benched for two straight games last week, helped pick up the slack, scoring all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter as the Kings nearly erased a nine-point deficit. Sacramento had a chance to win, but Donte Greene's 3-pointer from the corner missed at the buzzer."It would have been a perfect, happy ending to our comeback for that to go in," Greene said. "But it didn't fall."A game against Oklahoma City, which has allowed at least 107 points in each of its last three games, could help Evans and Cousins bounce back from Tuesday's subpar showings.Evans scored 52 points in his two games against the Thunder last season, while Cousins averaged 21.0 points in four - his second-highest average against any team during his rookie season.

Kings hire VP of professional development


Kings hire VP of professional development

It’s been a summer of change for the Sacramento Kings. A roster upheaval has 10 new players vying for minutes once training camp opens on Tuesday. The coaching staff has been bolstered and fresh blood was added to the front office in the form of analytics guru Luke Bornn and assistant general manager Brandon Williams. On Thursday, one more piece to the puzzle was brought in to help develop the team’s young core.

With the hiring of Galen Duncan as the franchise’s new Vice President of the Kings Academy and Professional Development, Sacramento is making a major investment in the future of their team.

According to the team’s official press release, “Duncan is responsible for implementation of the Kings Academy program, a developmental, player-centric curriculum aligning multi-faceted organizational philosophies and ideals to help athletes mature into well-rounded professionals. Under Duncan’s oversight, Kings Academy will augment on-court progress with access to practical material and experiences that help balance on-court priorities and personal responsibilities with opportunities to become impactful contributors in the community.”

After 10 years with the Detroit Lions, Duncan is making the jump to the NBA game. He’s already had a taste of the league, working with the league office as part of the NBA Rookie Transition Program.

With five rookies and another four sophomores on the roster, the Kings are investing in a seasoned mentor and life coach. Armed with a Ph.D. in health psychology from Walden University, Duncan will aid the players in everything from finding an apartment to dealing with the stress of life as a 19-year-old millionaire with no experience paying a bill.

“My passion has always been sports,” Duncan told NBC Sports California. “Sports has done wonderful things for me. I don’t care what level they’re at or how much money they make, I think there is something to learn and I have something to teach.”

With the Lions, he brought incoming rookie classes through everything from etiquette courses to teaching them how to tie ties. His goal is to transform a group of young men into professionals, who just happen to be professional athletes.

It’s not just about making a polished product for the media and general public. Duncan will work with players on a variety of personal issues, including money management, dealing with family and professional on-court performance.

“Unfortunately, sometimes family can be your worst enemy,” Duncan said. “But if structured correctly and if nurtured, I think the education goes beyond just the player. I think you have to educate the family as well about what they’re doing.”

The transition to the NBA game will be interesting for Duncan. He comes from a game where the incoming rookie class can be anywhere from 10-15 players. He hasn’t dealt with 19-year-olds at the NFL level and guaranteed contracts are new as well, but the job is very similar.

Sacramento has always had a support staff to help with the transition to the NBA game, but the addition of Duncan is a new level of commitment by the team. They have a huge group of young players and they are making an investment into their futures and the future of the franchise. It’s a clear step in the right direction.

Kings finally get to unleash highly skilled weapon Bogdan Bogdanovic on NBA stage


Kings finally get to unleash highly skilled weapon Bogdan Bogdanovic on NBA stage

The legend of Bogdan Bogdanovic grows. After another deep run against European competition, the 25-year-old shooting guard is headed for the NBA with plenty of fanfare.

Bogdanovic and his Serbian teammates fell short of the ultimate goal of winning EuroBasket 2017. Goran Dragic and Team Slovenia took home the gold, pulling away from Serbia for the 93-85 victory in the finals on Sunday.

Dragic scored a game-high 35 points in 28 minutes of action, giving Bogdanovic a taste of what the competition will look like on a nightly basis in the NBA. Bogdanovic led Serbia with 22 points on 9-of-21 shooting, but he struggled from long range, knocking down 2-of-11 from behind the international 3-point line.

The Kings acquired Bogdanovic from the Phoenix Suns, along with the rights to Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere for Marquese Chriss on Draft night 2016. Phoenix had failed multiple times in their attempts to bring the sharpshooter over from his Turkish league team after taking him with the 27th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Vlade Divac couldn’t get Bogdanovic to come over for last season, but he found traction early this summer and added the talented wing as part of his July shopping spree.

After dominating league action overseas, Bogdanovic became the highest paid rookie in NBA history, signing a three-year, $27 million deal with Sacramento. He’ll make close to $9.5 million in his first season in the league, more than double what fifth overall pick, De’Aaron Fox, is scheduled to make.   

Bogdanovic walks into a crowded situation in Sacramento. He’ll compete for minutes with Buddy Hield, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson at the shooting guard position. Both Hield and Temple worked under coach Dave Joerger for parts of last season, but the Kings front office is very high on their European import.

Listed at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, Bogdanovic has great size for the two and he might even be able to shift to the small forward spot for short stints. He is not the defender that Temple is and Hield might have an edge on him as a volume scorer, but Bogdanovic has an advantage over both players in versatility.

He’s a highly skilled offensive weapon that should make an immediate impact on the floor. He spent plenty of time manning the point guard position for Serbia and can even act as the primary ball handler. Bogdanovic is blessed with an extremely high basketball IQ and he’s shown advanced playmaking skills, both with Fenerbahce and the Serbian national team.

Bogdanovic can light it up from distance, having knocked down 43 percent of 3-pointers this season for Fenerbahce, but he’s not just a catch and shoot player. He hit 50 percent from the field overall using a variety of moves to create space. He has a killer crossover and step back jumper, a nice floater in the lane and he is fearless going to the rack.

Where he has the biggest advantage over his competition is in the pick-and-roll. Bogdanovic uses hesitation dribbles and crafty maneuvering to create looks for both himself and his bigs moving to the hoop. He also has nice court vision and is an unselfish distributor.

If Bogdanovic’s European game translates to the NBA, Sacramento has a rotational player and possibly much more. He’ll likely struggle on the defensive end initially, like most rookies coming into the league, but he plays with effort and has solid instincts.

Joerger has a lot to work out during training camp and the early season. He has multiple bodies at every position and the competition for minutes is going to be intense. While it’s early to make predictions, it appears that Bogdanovic will have a substantial role as the Kings enter year one of their rebuild.