Kings

Kings running towards a freight train?

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Kings running towards a freight train?

LOS ANGELES (AP) - These are heady days for the long-suffering Los Angeles Clippers. They've tied a franchise record with an 11-game winning streak and at 19-6 are tied for the second-best record in the NBA.

Still, Chris Paul wants to keep the fans' euphoria in check, saying, "We're not trying to peak now. We're trying to build something."

While the Lakers, their Staples Center co-tenants, continue to stumble with a losing record and an early-season coaching change, the Clippers are flying high led by All-Stars Paul and Blake Griffin. Bolstered by one of the league's deepest benches, which was remade in the offseason, Paul and Griffin haven't been seeing much playing time in the fourth quarter.

That's when they become cheerleaders for free agent additions Jamal Crawford and former Laker Matt Barnes, along with Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf, the latter two being the other former Lakers on the team.

"They have their identity and it starts on defense," Griffin said.

The Clippers have shown they're capable of winning without big numbers from Griffin. They are 13-3 in games when he scores less than 20 points. He's averaging 18.0 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Veterans Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, another free-agent pickup, have been vocal with their leadership and support while rehabbing injuries.

"We're all playing for one goal and not individual accolades," Paul said.

The Pacific Division leading-Clippers have taken advantage of a soft stretch in their schedule to win those 11 straight games, with victories over some of the league's worst teams, including New Orleans, Charlotte, Toronto, Detroit, Phoenix and Sacramento, their next opponent on Friday night.

"Eleven in a row. Not bad, is it?" owner Donald Sterling said before leading a locker room cheer after a 93-77 victory against the Hornets on Wednesday night.

Before the streak began, they knocked off some of the league's best. They have wins over Memphis, the Lakers, San Antonio (twice), Atlanta and defending NBA champion Miami.

"They have a chance to win it all," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said.

Even the team's veteran announcer, Ralph Lawler, is on his own winning streak. His "Lawler's Law," which dictates that the team reaching 100 points first will win, is 19-0 this season.

Paul and Griffin have clearly clicked on and off the court in their second season together. They frequently kid each other during their dual postgame interview sessions held in a separate room next to the locker room.

Paul regularly rallies his teammates for outings on the road, including dinners and trips to a mall or movie theater. The team took in the new Tom Cruise flick "Jack Reacher" on their last trip, a 4-0 venture as part of the current winning streak.

There's a family feeling in the locker room, too, with Paul's 3-year-old son and Barnes' twins among the kids cracking up the players after games. Big man DeAndre Jordan has a drawing of himself done by Caron Butler's 8-year-old daughter taped to his locker.

"I've never been on a team this close," said Crawford, averaging 16.6 points off the bench. "Everybody here is pulling for each other, whether it's your night or somebody else's night. Everybody has a role to play."

Willie Green, who has started 22 games in place of Billups, sat when the veteran guard recently returned for three games before getting hurt again.

"He didn't complain and he didn't play a minute," Paul said, giving an example of the attitude permeating the team.

The last time this franchise won 11 in a row was as the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75.

"Most of the guys weren't even born then," coach Vinny Del Negro points out. "We want to make our own history and that's only going to happen if we have the right mentality."

Del Negro preaches defense first and the Clippers have bought into it.

"We can score on any given night," Paul said. "As long as we defend, we give ourselves opportunities to win."

They should have a great opportunity to beat the Kings, who have won only one of their 11 road games. That includes a 116-81 drubbing at the hands of the Clippers on Dec. 1.

Sacramento (8-17) did manage to end a five-game losing streak with a 131-127 home win over Golden State on Wednesday, getting 24 points from DeMarcus Cousins and 23 from Aaron Brooks to help hold off a late Warriors rally.

"We showed a little bit of character and fired back," Brooks said.

Tyreke Evans missed his second straight game with a knee problem and his status is unclear for Friday.

Kings hire VP of professional development

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AP

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

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AP

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.