SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings return home to Golden 1 Center Wednesday night to face the upstart Milwaukee Bucks. After three games on the road, the Kings will play one in front of the Sacramento crowd before heading back out on the road Friday when they face the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.
Dave Joerger and his young core of Kings have gone 3-10 since the All-Star break, but they compete on a nightly basis and are showing promise. Rookies Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield and Georgios Papagiannis have each had breakout games and second-year big Willie Cauley-Stein is posting 13.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 32.5 minutes since the big roster shake up in late February.
The Bucks are 9-2 over their previous 11 games, surging into the playoff conversation after a rough start to the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the way for a young Milwaukee team that has had to adjust on the fly after another devastating injury to forward Jabari Parker.
Bucks by 5
MATCHUP TO WATCH
? vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo -- It’s the same question we asked when these two teams met in the first two weeks of the 2016-17 season, only it’s a little more difficult to answer. Rudy Gay is done for the year, Matt Barnes is a Warriors and Omri Casspi plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. What is left at the small forward position is a collection of undersized wings that will face one of the league’s best young small forwards. At 6-foot-11, Antetokounmpo plays like a guard, but can put you on a poster in the blink of an eye. If the Greek Freak gets loose, it’s going to be a long night for Sacramento.
WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 27-43, third place in Pacific
Bucks: 35-35, third place in Central
Kings: SF Tyreke Evans (ankle) unknown at this time, SG Malachi Richardson (hamstring) unknown at this time, F Rudy Gay (ruptured left Achilles) out.
Bucks: F Jabari Parker (knee) out, F Michael Beasley (knee) out.
Milwaukee leads the season series 1-0 over Sacramento after beating the Kings 117-91 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Nov. 5. The Kings own a 28-27 lead over the Bucks during the Sacramento-era.
“I’m blessed and excited and happy to have this opportunity to have a beautiful young baby girl in my life right now. It changes a lot for me right now. I’m definitely in a state of shock and at a loss for words. At this point, I’m just like, man, I’m really a father. It’s a dream come true.” -Ben McLemore on the birth of his first child, Teagan Joyce McLemore
SACRAMENTO -- Ben McLemore was noticeably missing from the Kings three-game road trip. The fourth-year guard has rarely been unavailable for a game during his time in Sacramento, but he stayed home so he could attend the birth of his first child.
The proud papa gushed at practice Tuesday afternoon as he announced the birth of Teagan Joyce McLemore to the media.
“I’m blessed and excited and happy to have this opportunity to have a beautiful young baby girl in my life right now,” the 24-year-old shooting guard said. “It changes a lot for me right now. I’m definitely in a state of shock and at a loss for words. At this point, I’m just like, man, I’m really a father. It’s a dream come true.”
Drafted with the seventh overall selection of the 2013 NBA Draft, McLemore has played his entire career in a Kings uniform, including 215 starts. He came to Sacramento as a 20-year-old kid from St. Louis and he’s grown up a lot in his time with the Kings.
With just 12 games remaining in the season, McLemore’s future with the club is in question.
“I’m really not even focused on that,” McLemore said about his future. “I’ll let my agent, Rich Paul, and my circle kind of handle all of that and keep me up to date on things like that.”
If Sacramento chooses to extend a $5.4 million qualifying offer to the wing, he will enter the summer as a restricted free agent, which gives the Kings the opportunity to match any offer. If they decline the qualifying offer, McLemore becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any NBA club.
At times this season, McLemore has been lost in the shuffle at the shooting guard spot. He’s had bright moments, but also challenges as the Kings brought in Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple, Malachi Richardson and Buddy Hield to compete for minutes at his position.
On the season, McLemore is averaging a career-low 7.2 points per game in just 18.2 minutes a night, but he’s shooting 39.4 percent from behind the arc. Since the start of February, McLemore is shooting 51.3 percent from 3-point range, but consistent minutes have been tough to come by.
“I’m just going out there and playing free,” McLemore said of his recent success. “I’m not worried about anything. I’m just going out there and playing my game. Not thinking about it too much, just letting the game come to me.”
Nothing is certain moving forward for McLemore. His focus is on finishing the season strong and of course, that new baby girl.