Kings

Rewind: Role players step up, lift Kings to win in Denver

Rewind: Role players step up, lift Kings to win in Denver

When you’re in the hunt, every game matters. Tuesday’s 120-113 win over the Denver Nuggets gave the Sacramento Kings a tiny bit of breathing room in the eighth spot in the Western Conference before they return home for a seven-game homestand.

It’s not often that you’ve heard Kings player talk in January about playoff chances over the last decade. But Sacramento holds a game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers and with the win, a game and a half lead over Denver and they get an opportunity to strengthen their position Wednesday against a depleted Miami Heat team.

“I think we just came out with a sense of urgency,” DeMarcus Cousins told reporters following the game. “We knew how important this game was. This is a team we are battling with for the eighth spot. Of course this is an important win because it can matter at the end of the year.”

Cousins put up big numbers, as he has in almost every game this season. But the story of this win was season-high performances from Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison and Kosta Koufos.

Afflalo missed the previous three games with a strained right elbow, but showed no ill effects against his former team. The veteran shooting guard went off for 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, using a variety of post moves and even hitting two 3-pointers in the win.

“It’s always fun to play in a familiar building, but we’re in a tight race this year and I just wanted to come back and be ready to play,” Afflalo told CSN’s Kayte Christensen after the game.

Collison had a nice game over the weekend against the Grizzlies, but one night doesn’t end a slump. He built off the Memphis performance with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He got his offense going early and then focused on getting his teammates involved in the third quarter.

“Before these last couple of games, I know I took a step back mentally, kind of deferring to the offense,” Collison said in postgame. “But they told me, ‘it starts with me, you’ve got to be aggressive,’ like I had been earlier in the season, so I’m getting back to that.”

With reserve point guard Ty Lawson out due to injury, Collison finished the night with a team-high seven assists and only turned the ball over twice in 36 minutes of action.  

“They were huge,” Cousins said. “Arron, to come in and play like that off of injury was huge for us. DC finally got rolling. He’s been struggling a little bit of late, but he came in, played with confidence and had a big game for us.”  

Not to be forgotten, Koufos started 81 games for the 57-win 2012-13 Denver team and looked completely comfortable in his old stomping grounds. The 7-footer hit a young, but talented Nuggets frontline with a season-high 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and chipped in five rebounds.

It was a team effort. Garrett Temple scored all eight of his points in the fourth and finished the night with six rebounds, five assists and two steals. When the Kings needed a basket to stem the tide, Anthony Tolliver found the bottom of the net and Ben McLemore dropped in two 3-balls in the third quarter when the temperature of the game turned up.

“I’ll be the first one to say that we’re not a perfect team,” Cousins said. “We’re not a team that’s going to come out and blow out teams on a nightly basis, but we have to come and approach games the right way on a nightly basis. We got to grind it out, we’ve got to play together, we’ve got to defend at a high level all four quarters or games are going to be tough to win.”

A Denver-Sacramento road-and-home back-to-back is never easy, but the Kings get a Miami Heat team Wednesday night that is also playing a back-to-back after falling in Phoenix on Tuesday. If the Kings want to talk playoffs, they need to show up for games against lesser opponents, regardless of the circumstance.
 

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.