Hield after rookie season with Kings: 'I’m never going to take a step back'

Hield after rookie season with Kings: 'I’m never going to take a step back'

The Sacramento Kings interrupted the NBA’s showcase weekend with the trade of DeMarcus Cousins. The three-time All-Star was stunned by the move, as were plenty of others around the association.

With all the focus on Cousins and what might have been, rookie Buddy Hield packed up his belongings in New Orleans and moved into a downtown Sacramento motel room. It’s a business. Players are reminded of that all the time, but for a first year player, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

“When you get traded, it’s like a wake up (call),” Hield told NBC Sports California. “First time it happened to me, first year it was like, okay, maybe what I was doing wasn’t good enough for the team to keep me. So you go into your own element and try to make yourself better.”

Hield, the sixth overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, wasn’t setting the world on fire with the Pelicans. Averaging 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game, the 23-year-old wing started the final 36 in a Pelicans uniform for head coach Alvin Gentry.

The Kings liked Hield in the draft and the jumped at the opportunity to add him as part of the mega-deal for Cousins. It took seven games for Dave Joerger and his staff to elevate Hield to the starting shooting guard position and he spent the remaining 18 games of the season looking more like the star scorer from Oklahoma University that fans had become accustom to.

In his 25 game audition in Kings uniform, Hield posted 15.1 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the field and a sparkling 42.8 percent from behind the arc. He set a new career-high in scoring multiple times, including a 30-point outburst late in the season against the Phoenix Suns.

When most first year players were hitting the rookie wall, Hield found himself in a new situation and excelled. The Freeport, Bahama native is known for his tireless work ethic. He could be seen out on the court before anyone else every game night hoisting hundreds of 3-point shots in pregame and behind the scenes, he was known to be in the gym two or three times a day.

“I wear down, but there’s a drive to keep me going,” Hield said. “Just knowing my struggles to get here, how long the process was of me getting to the NBA. That’s what keeps me going. I get tired, but I know where I came from and how hard it was to get here. I just can’t give up.”

Hield showed flashes of being a high-end scorer during his short time with the Kings, but he also showed his youth. He has a laundry list of items to work on over the summer, including improving his shot selection, ball handling and becoming a better defensive player.

“I need a lot of things, this summer is great for me because next year it will show how big of a jump I can make,” Hield said. “After that, we build off of that. Just keep building. I’m never going to take a step back. My motto is we always look ahead, we never look back.”

There is no question that Hield is driven to succeed. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, which was only amplified by his rookie season trade to the Kings. He’ll likely open the 2017-18 training camp as the favorite to win the starting shooting guard position, but the field is crowded and there is no room for regression.

“My rookie season was cool, it was okay, I wasn’t satisfied with it,” Hield added. “Many people might be satisfied with it, but I’m trying to build and make progress and try to get this franchise to the playoffs.”

This attitude is part of the reason the Kings coveted Hield in the draft and made the trade to get him. He has the want to be great and the commitment to do the work. Time will tell what his ceiling is as a player, but betting against him would foolish.

In first game back against old team, Cousins sees progress in young Kings

In first game back against old team, Cousins sees progress in young Kings

Trial by fire. The Sacramento Kings have used a cautious approach to bringing along their young bigs, but that all ended Friday night in the team’s 117-89 loss in New Orleans. 

With Anthony Tolliver and Kosta Koufos both sitting for “planned rest,” Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein started against All-Stars DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, and rookie Georgios Papagiannis saw major playing time. 

“It’s only going to make them get better,” veteran point guard Darren Collison told reporters following the game. “I think it’s a good test for them. A couple of games ago, they played against Blake (Griffin) and DeAndre (Jordan), this game, Cuz and AD. Playing against these talented bigs is only going to get them better.”

The Pelicans featured Cousins in his first game against his former team. The three-time All-Star dropped a game-high 37 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the win. Following the game, he was nothing but complimentary about the trio of young bigs the Kings threw at him.

“I’ve been keeping up with my young guys,” Cousins told NBC California’s Kayte Christensen during post game. “I see their progress. They’re taking their games to another level. They’re all workhorses, so I know it will eventually come.”

Cousins showed his entire arsenal against Sacramento, knocking down 5-of-8 from 3-point range and doing major damage in the post. He powered through the Kings' young players on more than one occasion and he had Papagiannis on skates for much of the night.

Papagiannis managed to score 11 points and grab three rebounds in 24 minutes of action. He even had a block on Cousins, which brought a smile to the 19-year-old 7-footer's face. 

Labissiere shot just 5-of-16 from the field, but he was aggressive and looked up for the challenge. He finished the night with 13 points, eight rebounds and a block in 36 minutes.

“I did okay, I could have done better,” Labissiere told reporters. “It’s all about experiences and that was a good experience for me tonight going up against those guys. I definitely think I can play against them and compete. Just learn from it and move on. I have a lot to work on.”

If there was one major takeaway for the smooth shooting power forward, it was that his body needs work to compete with the stars of the league. 

“I definitely need to hit the weight room harder this summer,” Labissiere said. “It’s all going to come. I’m not worried about it.”

Cauley-Stein had an impressive night starting at the center position for Sacramento. Since Cousins’ departure, the second-year big has been asked to do more. He scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting against his former mentor, but he hit the glass hard, coming away with a game-high 14 rebounds. 

Since the All-Star break, Cauley-Stein is posting 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and over his last four games, the 7-footer is averaging 11.3 rebounds per game.

In his first game back in New Orleans since being traded, rookie Buddy Hield added 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Ben McLemore added 15 points as the Kings fell to 29-47 on the season.

The Kings return to the court Saturday night and it doesn’t get much easier. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves will host Sacramento on the second night of a back-to-back. Expect big minutes for the young guys once again as the Kings finish out the final six games of the 2016-17 season.

Instant Replay: Cousins crushes Kings in first game vs old team

Instant Replay: Cousins crushes Kings in first game vs old team

BOX SCORE

The Sacramento Kings walked into Smoothie Kings Center Friday night shorthanded and DeMarcus Cousins and his New Orleans Pelicans teammates made them pay. Sacramento turned the ball over repeatedly and the Pelicans made them pay on their way to a 117-89 victory.

Playing against Sacramento for the first time in his career, the former Kings cornerstone abused Sacramento’s young frontline. Cousins finished the night with 37 points, 13 rebounds and four assists as the Pelicans improved to 33-43 on the season. 

All-Star Anthony Davis took advantage of the sloppy play by Sacramento, scoring 19 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking five shots. 

E'Twaun Moore got it going late to score 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Dante Cunningham hit 6-of-10 from the field for 12 points and Jordan Crawford added 12 points off the bench.

Buddy Hield played well in his return to the Big Easy. The rookie came to Sacramento in the swap for Cousins and finished the night with 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting and snared eight rebounds.

Ben McLemore continued his recent hot streak, scoring 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting. The fourth-year guard added eight rebounds and put in a few highlight reel dunks. 

Rookie Skal Labissiere took an aggressive approach to playing the Pelicans All-Star frontline. He shot just 5-of-16 from the field, but still managed to score 13 points and grab eight rebounds. 

Willie Cauley-Stein added 11 points and 14 rebounds in the loss. Tyreke Evans chipped in 11 points starting at the three and Georgios Papagiannis scored 11 points, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots. 

STANDOUT PERFORMER

Cousins put on a show against his former team. The big man bullied the young Kings from start to finish. 

TURNING POINT

This game was over when the injury report came out. Without veterans to guard Cousins and Davis, the Kings had no chance in this game.

INJURY UPDATE 

Ty Lawson, Anthony Tolliver and Kosta Koufos sat for scheduled rest. Arron Afflalo missed the game due to a personal matter. Rookie Malachi Richardson is officially out for the season with a right hamstring thickness tear. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles. 

WHAT'S NEXT 

The Kings fly to Minnesota following the game to play the Timberwolves Saturday night as part of a back-to-back.