After six years, Kings almost free from shackles of Hickson trade

After six years, Kings almost free from shackles of Hickson trade

Rarely does an NBA trade hang over the head of franchise like the J.J. Hickson deal. In June of 2011, the Sacramento Kings sent Omri Casspi and a protected pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Hickson. Hickson didn’t even make it through the 2011-12 NBA season before being waived, but the protected pick has followed the Kings like a dark shadow ever since.

At first glance, it didn’t look like a bad deal. Hickson was an up and coming 22-year-old big ready to break out. Casspi was a young role player and the protections on the pick kept it out of the Cavs hands as long as the Kings weren’t a playoff team.

The hope was that Hickson, along with young cornerstones Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, would help deliver the Kings back to the postseason after a year or two together.

Years later, the Kings are still searching for the magic pill to catapult them back to the playoffs and that pick is finally going away.

Per the original deal, the first round selection was protected for picks 1-14 in 2012, 1-13 in 2013, 1-12 in 2014 and 1-10 in 2015, 2016 and 2017. If the pick was not conveyed during 2017, it instantly became a 2017 second round selection, completing the transaction.

Six years the pick has hampered the Kings’ ability to make moves. Due to the NBA’s “Stepien Rule,” team’s aren’t allowed to trade back-to-back picks. With it unknown whether Sacramento would have the rights to their selection in 2012-2017, they weren’t able to use picks as assets in deals until 2019 (the 2019 pick is a story for another day).  

Hickson, still just 28-years-old, is out of the league and playing in China. He never reached his potential, spending time in Portland, Denver and Washington before exiting the NBA. He played in just 35 games in a Kings uniform during the 2011-12 season. When it was clear the team had no takers at the trade deadline, Sacramento bit the bullet and waived him.  

Casspi went on to play two seasons in Cleveland and a year in Houston before returning to Sacramento for the previous three seasons. He was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during All-Star weekend, along with Cousins, but broke a thumb in his first game. He was waived and then signed by the Minnesota Timberwolves where he completed the 2016-17 season.

With the Kings finishing at 32-50, the NBA’s eighth worst record this season, the statistical probability of three teams jumping past them into the top three selections in the draft is nearly impossible.

If they avoid falling out of the top 10, as expected, they will send their 2017 second round selection to the Chicago Bulls (who received the Kings pick via trade in 2014), ending one of the longest running transactions in recent memory.

Three general managers, six different head coaches, an ownership change and a new arena have all happened in Sacramento since the Hickson/Casspi trade. Barring a catastrophe May 16 during the draft lottery, this deal will finally be put to rest.

 

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.

Divac, Joerger on the same page as they envision bright future for Kings

Divac, Joerger on the same page as they envision bright future for Kings

SACRAMENTO -- The 2016-17 NBA season ended the same way the previous 10 had for the Sacramento Kings - 82 games and nothing more. Following the Kings' 115-95 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles Wednesday night, both head coach Dave Joerger and vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac held a formal press conference at Golden 1 Center to wrap up the campaign.

Despite the drama of the season, including the All-Star weekend trade of center DeMarcus Cousins, Joerger and Divac presented a united front as cameras rolled.

“I thought we were pretty tight anyway,” Joerger said of his relationship with Divac. “You’re going to go through things and us being together and rock solid from day one has been very good.”

Divac was asked specifically about the Cousins trade and whether or not he had any regrets after the Kings 32-50 finish to the season.

“I was very confident with what I’m doing and a lot of people saw it in the last 20 games, we’re in the direction we really want to be,” Divac said. “Excitement. A young team that develops every day, every game moving forward. It’s a bright future.”

The focus of the conversation was mostly on the youth movement the Kings are currently undergoing. With four 2016 first-round selections on the roster and as many as four rookies scheduled to come aboard this summer, Joerger had to shift his priorities from a coach to a teacher. 

“Coach did a great job, I’m so happy and so proud of him the way he coached those kids,” Divac said. “See them everyday improve a little bit, we just had exit interviews with those guys and it’s so exciting there.”

After setting expectations high with playoff talk the previous three seasons, only to come up short, the team is taking a realistic approach as they bring along the young core. 

“I want to measure how they improve, obviously, I can say in the last 20 games, our kids improved so much,” Divac said. “We want to continue to do that. We know this is a process and we are going in the right direction.”

Neither Divac, nor Joerger would talk about draft, free agency or the fate of veteran players. They spoke glowingly about the youth of the team. Both were clear that they and they wouldn’t mind seeing Rudy Gay return and the door is open to plenty of the team’s other veteran free agent players. 

As far as the front office goes, Divac is in control, but he is willing to add more pieces in the right situation.

“We’re open always to improve - the team, the front office, everything is open for improvement,” Divac said. “I’m very happy and confident in what we have right now, but like I said, we should be open if something can make you better.”

The Kings will now turn all of their attention to the NBA Draft. They will attend the draft combine in Chicago in May and there are plans to bring prospects through Sacramento closer to the draft in June. 

It’s another season in the books in Sacramento. The mood around the team is positive and the early returns on their youth movement is solid. Expect the team to be extremely active as they try to reshape the roster from the ground up.