Papagiannis ends Kings' Tech-less streak: 'I'm not going to back down'

Papagiannis ends Kings' Tech-less streak: 'I'm not going to back down'

SACRAMENTO -- The streak is over. After amassing a stunning 29 technical fouls before the All-Star break, the Sacramento Kings made it 23 games without one heading into Tuesday’s contest with the Phoenix Suns.

Then things got messy.

Rookie big man Georgios Papagiannis got tangled up with Dragan Bender of the Phoenix Suns and the 7-footer didn’t back down. In fact, he was ready to take on the entire Suns team as they walked into his personal space.

“It happened, I was trying just to get my hand out of [the grasp] of Dragan and he just turned around, he came to my face,” Papagiannis said. “I had to protect, first myself, and then I saw three players from the Phoenix Suns come to me - I’m not going to back down. If you want to have a fight, we going to have a fight.”

Before the Kings could even respond, the 19-year-old giant was nose to nose with not only Bender, but Sacramento native Marquese Chriss as well. The end result was double techs for each Papagiannis and Bender and a separate technical for Chriss.

The Kings players have seen this side of Papagiannis before. Not one of them in the locker room was shocked.

“I’m not surprised actually, honestly, Pop’s crazy,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “You’ll see. Pop’s mean, yo. You’all see.”

Ty Lawson, who went off for his first career triple-double in the game had a similar thought on the rookie from Greece.

“He’s a little hot head, especially when someone’s bumping him and stuff like that,” Lawson said. “He’s not going to let anyone punk him, ever. Probably of anyone on the team, he would be the first one [to get a technical], I would have put my money on that.”

“It’s a good thing,” Lawson added. “You don’t want to be punked by anybody and stuff like that. You get that reputation in the league and it sticks with you. I’m glad he actually did that.”

Garrett Temple rushed in to play peace maker and had a front row view of the near scuffle. It wasn’t the fact that Papagiannis was in the middle of the situation that surprised him, it was the clarity of the language from the center.

“I had no notion that Papa was soft by any means, but it was good to him - he was speaking perfect english too,” Garrett Temple said. “I was there right under him hearing exactly what he was saying. You learn those words first I guess in the other language.”

No punches were thrown. No one was ejected. Just a good old fashion NBA standoff, complete with giant men going chest to chest with very little chance of actual punches being thrown.

Papagiannis finished the night with 13 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes of action. He’s shown more and more of his personality in each of his 15 appearances since the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans and freed up time for him in the post. On Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center, he gave the fans a glimpse into what the Kings have seen behind the scenes.

“They know really what I am,” Papagiannis explained of his teammates. “I may be quiet sometimes, but you know, they say all the quiet persons, they just have a fire inside them.”

 

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.