Kings' skid hits four with close loss in Utah

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Kings' skid hits four with close loss in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 21 points and C.J. Miles added 20 as the Utah Jazz snapped a two-game losing streak, defeating Sacramento 96-93 and spoiling Jimmer Fredette's return to the state where "Jimmermania" began.Fredette had a chance to give the Kings the win with 4.2 seconds left, but launched an air-ball 3-pointer.Hayward's free throw sealed it for Utah (11-7).Tyreke Evans led Sacramento (6-14) with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting.Fredette, a former Brigham Young star and last year's national player of the year, finished with 14 points and 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. But he was just 5 of 13 overall.The Kings were down 13 points in the fourth quarter, but Evans and Isaiah Thomas brought them back.Evans' 5-footer with 30 seconds left cut the lead to one, and after Devin Harris made one of two free throws for a 95-93 lead, the stage for Fredette. He missed.Fredette received a standing ovation from many fans during pregame introductions, with a few scattered boos.The reaction was mixed once the game started. Many booed every time he touched the ball, but when he hit his first 3-pointer with 1:29 left in the first, an equal number jumped to their feet.Late in the game, fans chanted "We Want Jimmer," and he re-entered.He had a chance to come up big in the state where he finished last season with a 28.9-point scoring average in guiding the Cougars to a 32-5 mark and a trip to the NCAA round of 16.Instead, it was another example of his up-and-down rookie season.Fredette was just 1 of 5 shooting in the first quarter, with 3 points and a steal. He started the second quarter with a turnover, dribbling the ball out of bounds, and spent the next 5 minutes on the bench.He finished the half strong, with a 3-pointer that pulled Sacramento within 45-41 and a crossover dribble where he blew by Al Jefferson for a driving layup.He finished the first half with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.Fredette acknowledged before the game that consistency was an issue, and Saturday was no different.While he hit early 3s, he also drove into trouble. He was swatted by Jefferson and rookie Enes Kanter, and had the ball stolen away by Earl Watson, Devin Harris and Miles.Utah's top two scorers struggled in the first half, with Jefferson hitting just 3 of 8 shots for eight points and Paul Millsap shooting 2 of 6 for six points.Still, the Jazz led by as many as nine points in the first half thanks to a 6-0 run on consecutive baskets by Derrick Favors, Miles and Hayward.The Kings came back, finishing the half on a 9-4 run to pull within 49-47 at halftime. Fredette started the run with a 3-pointer, and DeMarcus Cousins scored a pair of baskets.The Kings tied it at 56 early in the third. But Miles, staying in for injured Raja Bell, fueled a 9-0 run. Miles scored seven straight points, and Hayward capped it with a dunk.The Kings responded with their own 9-2 run, started by John Salmons and capped by Fredette's third 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 69-65.Utah came right back with another 9-2 run as Kanter blocked Fredette, and guard Earl Watson drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 78-67 Jazz lead going into the fourth.Notes: Former BYU wide receiver Austin Collie, now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, was in attendance Saturday. ... Big man Chuck Hayes, who had missed the previous 11 games with a dislocated left shoulder, returned to action Saturday for Sacramento and played 20 minutes but did not score. ... Jazz guard Raja Bell left in the second quarter with strained right adductor and did not return. He finished with three points.

Kings head into free agency with money to burn, but limited roster spots

Kings head into free agency with money to burn, but limited roster spots

Draft night is over and done with and the Sacramento Kings filled plenty of holes in their roster for the 2017-18 season. They added a pair of young point guards and a small forward to help fill their two biggest roster needs. They also took a gamble on Duke’s Harry Giles with the 20th overall selection which adds depth in the post long term.

Step one of the summer calendar is done and now the focus shifts to free agency which begins July 1. The Kings have limited roster space, but truckloads of cap space to work with. The NBA has reduced their projected cap for the 2017-18 season to $99 million and the Kings are way below that figure. While the cap is more complicated than just a raw spreadsheet, here is a look at where the Kings currently stand.

2017-18 Salaries - $28.9 million
Projected Rookie Salaries - $9.7 million
Dead Money - $6.1 million
Total - $44.7

Sacramento opted out of both Anthony Tolliver’s $8 million contract ($2 million buyout) and Arron Afflalo’s $12.5 million ($1.5 buyout). They also waived Matt Barnes mid-season, stretching his salary for the 2017-18 season over the next three years ($2.1 million per season).

In addition to Tolliver, Afflalo and Barnes, Rudy Gay informed the team earlier this month that he opted out of his $14.3 million contract for this season and Langston Galloway walked away from a guaranteed $5.4 million to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Kings begin free agency roughly $54.3 million under the cap and after adding four rookies, they have just four standard NBA roster spots and two two-way contracts with the NBA’s G-League. They are also required to spend 90 percent of the $99 million, but they have the entire season to do so and they are allowed to redistribute any shortage back to their own players.

There is hope that European sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic will join this team this summer as well. Although he hasn’t played in the league, his contract is not restricted by the rookie scale. Early projections have him making anywhere from $5-10 million per season with Sacramento.

If Bogdanovic signs for the upper end of his projection - $10 million - the Kings would still have upwards of $44 million to spend, but just three roster spots to work with.

The team still has deficiencies to fill with the roster. Sacramento has two rookie point guards, but no veteran to show them the ropes. Garrett Temple can play in a pinch, but he is better at both wing positions.

Sacramento added Justin Jackson at the small forward spot, but they have little depth behind him and he could use time to develop. Temple can eat some minutes at the position and both Malachi Richardson and Bogdanovic can likely steal time at the three as well. A starting level player is needed, but the market is thin at the position.

There is hope that Skal Labissiere is the answer at the power forward spot, but with Tolliver waived, the team needs more at the position. Willie Cauley-Stein can play in spot duty, but a veteran stretch four is needed.

In addition to position of need, the Kings need more talent and veteran leadership on the roster. Temple is the only player over 30. Big man Kosta Koufos is 28 and everyone else on the roster is 24 and under when the season opens in October.

Expect the Kings to be active on the open market. They also make an attractive trade partner with their ability to absorb contracts. It should be a wild couple of weeks in Sacramento as the Kings look to improve their roster.

Kings' Buddy Hield named to 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team

Kings' Buddy Hield named to 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team

A rollercoaster rookie season for Buddy Hield has ended on a high note.

A very high note.

The Kings shooting guard was named to the 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team on Monday.

Hield is joined by Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon, New York's Willy Hernangomez and Philadelphia's duo of Dario Saric and Joel Embiid.

The Kings acquired Hield in February as part of a trade that sent All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.

Before the trade, Hield averaged just 8.6 points in 57 games with the Pelicans. But he stepped up his game once he got to Sacramento as he averaged 15.1 points in just 25 games with the Kings. In total, the No. 6 overall pick out of Oklahoma averaged 10.6 points and 3.3 rebounds during his rookie campaign.

Fellow Kings rookie Skal Labissiere received one First Team vote and five Second Team votes, finishing with seven total points.

The NBA All-Rookie First and Second Teams are shown below.