Programming note: Pacers-Kings coverage begins tonight at 7 p.m. on Comcast SporstNet California. Territory restrictions apply.
Still trying to find their way without All-Star Danny Granger, the Indiana Pacers appear to have taken a big step forward.The Pacers look to keep their momentum going Friday night when they try to sweep the season series with the Sacramento Kings for the first time since 2008-09.After fighting through a slow start without Granger, who is targeting a February return from a left knee injury, Indiana (7-8) has a chance to win for the fourth time in five games.The Pacers put together perhaps their biggest win of the season Tuesday night when George Hill banked in a shot over Dwight Howard with 0.1 seconds left to give Indiana a 79-77 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the opener of a four-game road trip.Hill scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game with a team-high 19 points for the Pacers, who had lost six of their first eight away from home."We need road wins to build our togetherness, our belief in ourselves and our new identity, and to build confidence," coach Frank Vogel said. "This is a big one, and one that we were looking for."David West added 16 points, 10 rebounds and a season-high eight assists. The power forward has played well recently, averaging 21.0 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 55.2 percent in his last four games.Indiana, though, has had its struggles offensively. The Pacers shot under 40.0 percent (36.7) for the seventh time Tuesday and scored less than 80 for the fourth time, but they made up for it with another impressive performance on the defensive end.Indiana held the Lakers to a season low in points and their lowest field-goal percentage at home (31.6) since April 8, 2000. The Pacers lead the NBA in defensive shooting percentage (40.2) and rank third in points allowed per game(91.2).Now, Indiana faces a Kings team that had averaged 107.7 points while shooting 52.8 percent from the field - 23 of 48 (47.9) from 3-point range - in three games before a 97-89 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday.After falling into a tie with New Orleans for the worst record in the Western Conference, Sacramento (4-10) will try to wrap up its three-game homestand with its third win in five games.Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins each scored 20 against the Timberwolves. Evans has come on strong of late, averaging 21.0 points on 54.8 percent shooting over his last five games.While the Kings have the third-lowest turnover average in the West at 14.6, they committed five miscues in the fourth quarter Tuesday."We make plays throughout the whole game and then it's either a turnover or a couple of stops we didn't get," guard Isaiah Thomas said. "We've just got to learn from it and we've got to fix it or, like I said, we're not going to win these close games."Cousins has enjoyed some success against an Indiana team that ranks near the top of the league in rebounds (48.5) and blocks (7.4) per game. He's recorded three straight double-doubles versus the Pacers and averaged 18.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in four career meetings.Indiana has won six of nine against the Kings, including 106-98 in double overtime Nov. 3. West and Hill each scored 18 points while Paul George chipped in 16 and a career-high 17 rebounds for the Pacers.The Kings were led by Marcus Thornton's season-high 26 points off the bench and Cousins' 21 points and 13 boards.
SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings continued their purge of veteran contracts Friday afternoon. NBC Sports California has confirmed that the team opted out of the second year of Arron Afflalo’s 2-year, $25 million deal. They will instead pay the shooting guard a $1.5 million buyout, saving $11 million and allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Afflalo, 31, posted 8.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game. The 10-year NBA veteran played in 61 games, including 45 starts for the Kings last season while shooting 41.1 percent from behind the arc.
The former UCLA star is the second Kings veteran to have his option declined, joining Anthony Tolliver in the ranks of unrestricted free agents. Both Rudy Gay and Langston Galloway have chosen not to exercise player options with the team as the franchise turns to a youth movement.
Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos are the only remaining players players on the Kings’ roster with more than two years experience in the league. Sacramento will enter free agency with upwards of $55 million to spend in free agency once they sign their four rookies from Thursday evening’s NBA Draft.
SACRAMENTO -- The Kings had a big draft night. The kind of night that might turn a franchise around. They entered the evening with three picks, including two in the top 10. With their first selection, they filled the franchise’s biggest need when they drafted De’Aaron Fox and then they went to work.
Vlade Divac and his team of front office execs jumped on an early trade, dealing the No. 10 overall selection to the Portland Trail Blazers for No. 15 and No. 20. North Carolina’s Justin Jackson was too appealing to pass on, and like Fox, he fit a major position of need.
Sacramento came back with the 20th selection, taking one of the biggest risk/reward picks in the draft. Duke’s Harry Giles is playing on rebuilt knees, but before that, he was one of the top prospects in all of basketball. If he can stay healthy, the Kings may have drafted the biggest steal of the night.
They topped off the evening with the selection of Wooden and Naismith Award winner Frank Mason III with the 34th overall pick. The Kings entered the night without a single point guard and they ended it with two very exciting options.
“I’m very excited about the talent that we brought here tonight,” Divac said. “They’re going to just be an addition to what we’re trying to build here in the second half of the season.”
The Kings turned down overtures to move up to draft Fox. The 19-year-old speedster will step in and immediately compete for the starting point guard spot and he’s very excited to be a King.
“It’s just the vibe that I got when I was out there,” Fox told local Sacramento media via phone. “I felt like they really wanted me.”
John Calipari is known for his bevy of All-Star bigs throughout the league, but he’s also produced a long line of big-time guards. Sacramento is hoping that Fox can live up to the billing of other former Calipari guards like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall. According to Divac, the Kings were so high on Fox, they would have taken him higher.
“Screaming,” Divac said about the reaction in the room to Fox falling in their lap. “It was a guy that we all loved and in some way, if we had the number 1 pick, he would’ve been our guy.”
“De’Aaron is our future,” Divac added.
Without a perfect fit at 10, Divac made an adjustment on the fly to add more assets. The decision to trade 10 for 15 and 20 was very similar to the last season when the Kings dealt the eighth overall pick for No. 13, 28 and the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic. By splitting the pick in two, the Kings were able to land two talented pieces that mesh with the current roster build.
Jackson and Fox know each other well. The duo played AAU ball together and Fox says he considers Jackson an older brother. He is friends with Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere from their Kentucky connection.
“I feel like we can grow together,” Fox said of the Kings’ young core. “Of course, it’s going to take some time, but every franchise takes time.”
Fox is the jewel of the night and Jackson will compete for time at the wing, but Giles is the wildcard. The 19-year-old big can play the four and the five and has elite potential.
“I’m so excited he was there for us at the 20,” Divac said. “That kind of talent you can’t pass.”
The Kings have done their homework on Giles. The type of knee injury that he sustained is similar to former NBA players Danny Manning, Amaré Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin. Manning and Martin each played 15 years in the league and Stoudemire lasted 14 seasons before retiring in 2016. After meeting him in person in Sacramento and working him out, they are very confident that he will be able to overcome his injuries and have a successful career in the NBA.
Mason III will remind Kings fans of Isaiah Thomas, another undersized point guard that fell to the second round. The Kansas star posted 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Jayhawks last season. He’s a hard-nosed leader that can jump out of the gym and will instantly become a fan favorite in Sacramento.
It’s a huge haul. Sacramento added two points guards, a wing and a big from some of the best basketball schools in the country. More than that, they added high character winners to a changing culture.
For the first time in a while, the Sacramento Kings have accumulated assets. They have hit the ground running in their attempted rebuild and for one night, they are the talk of the NBA.