Suns snap Kings' home winning streak

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Suns snap Kings' home winning streak

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SACRAMENTO -- No longer are the Phoenix Suns a fast-paced team that wins games solely with its run-and-gun style.They can play a little defense now, too.The Suns were effective in slowing down Sacramento, and Jared Dudley had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix, which never trailed in defeating the Kings 98-84 on Saturday night.The victory was the fourth in five games for the Suns, who have won their last three on the road. Phoenix took a double-digit lead in the second quarter and maintained a comfortable margin for the remainder of the game.Phoenix shot 50 percent and hit eight 3-pointers, which are numbers that seem typical of Suns teams in the past. What wasn't typical in previous seasons was holding a team to 35 percent shooting and blocking 11 shots, including four by center Marcin Gotat and three by reserve forward Markieff Morris."We did a good job of keeping a man in front of them and made the Kings take bad shots," Dudley said. "We've been playing a lot better lately, especially on the road."One emphasis entering the game was controlling Kings guard Tyreke Evans, who leads Sacramento in both scoring and assists. That job was handed to Grant Hill, the oldest player on the court at age 39, and a veteran of 17 NBA seasons. Hill made it difficult on the Kings' explosive guard, who shot 1 of 9 and finished with four points and five assists."He's a great player," Hill said. "I tried to use my size and length against him, and make him take tough shots. I'm sure the next time we play them it might be different."Morris had 18 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Channing Frye had 17 points and Gortat had 15 points and seven rebounds.DeMarcus Cousins had 26 points and nine rebounds, and Marcus Thornton made four 3-pointers and had 21 points for the Kings.Sacramento, which had won four of its previous five games, hardly resembled the team that two nights earlier defeated the Western Division-leading Oklahoma City Thunder 106-101."We were going up against a team that was pretty solid and highly trained to guard," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "I thought Grant Hill did a great job of trying to create space and keep us out of the paint. We couldn't finish some plays in the paint."The Suns made three 3-pointers over a three-minute span, and the final one by Michael Redd put them ahead 86-69 midway through the fourth quarter.Suns point guard Steve Nash, who turned 38 earlier this week, took a shot in the mouth on the final possession of the first quarter and spent much of the second quarter getting four stitches to sew up a wound in his lower lip.The sensitive lip didn't slow down Nash. He shot sparingly all game and scored four points, but handed out 15 assists in 29 minutes."He can dominate a game and not have a basket," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "He came back in the third quarter and helped us get separation. We never let them back in the game."Phoenix controlled the tempo in the third quarter, scoring inside frequently and making the cold-shooting Kings take contested shots. Gortat scored six points and the Suns shot 61 percent in outscoring the Kings 22-16 and taking a 75-60 lead into the final quarter."Our offense was kind of stagnant. We broke down defensively on some plays and we didn't get the stops when they were needed," Kings reserve forward Chuck Hayes said. "But you've got to give the Suns credit. They had a great game. They moved the ball very well. They know how they want to play and they do it."With Nash leading the way with his pinpoint passing, the Suns scored numerous baskets in transition in the third quarter when the Kings committed six turnovers. Nash was scoreless until tossing in a short floater with 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter.Dudley scored 13 points and Frye had 10 to help give the Suns a 53-44 halftime lead. Both Thornton and Cousins had 11 points for Sacramento, which shot 38 percent but committed only three turnovers.With the injured Nash in the locker room getting stitches and missing the entire second quarter, the Suns were still able to maintain its lead. The Suns' much-maligned bench combined for 12 points in the quarter when Phoenix outscored the Kings 22-20.Notes: The Kings won't play another home again until Feb. 28. On Tuesday, they start a six-game road trip, playing exclusively Eastern Conference teams, followed by the All-Star break. ... Nash had six assists in the game's first eight minutes, helping the Suns take a 31-24 lead after one quarter. ... Cousins had 11 points in the opening quarter, but picked up three quick fouls in the second period and only played two minutes.

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.