Kings

As draft prep heats up, Kings front office getting respect around NBA

As draft prep heats up, Kings front office getting respect around NBA

It’s all about relationships. The NBA game is not just about who you are, but who you know. The Sacramento Kings have struggled with this issue over the past five or six seasons, but they appear to be turning the corner.

The first major addition was Vlade Divac, a former player known for his ability to bring a room together. But the Kings needed more pieces to the puzzle.

Last summer they added Ken Catanella as an assistant general manager to help support Divac and his growing team. Veteran NBA executive Scott Perry joined the fray following the 2016-17 season to help pull it all together.

Divac, flanked by Perry and Catanella, as well as holdovers Mike Bratz and Peja Stojakovic and the rest of the basketball operations staff, made their way to Chicago for the NBA’s annual Draft Combine for an all hands on deck approach. In past years, the Kings have had trouble getting consideration from elite prospects, let alone an interview with a top tier player. That all seems to be changing.

Not only did Markelle Fultz, the player most believe will go with the top overall pick, sit down with the Kings brass, Sacramento got the first crack at an interview with the guard from Washington. Perry, the team’s new executive vice president of basketball operations has ties to the Fultz camp, which is usually the way this all works.

According to a source inside of Fultz’ camp, the 19-year-old point guard would have no problems joining the Sacramento Kings if that’s how the cards fall. Fultz is a gym rat. His primary focus as a young man is basketball and Sacramento is an environment that allows a player to mature into his roll without the bright lights of the big city.  

“I think Sacramento is a good place to grow,” the source said.

Josh Jackson, another top five candidate out of Kansas, is represented by former All-Star and World Champion, B.J. Armstrong. Armstrong, a former teammate of Divac, isn’t counting out the Kings.

“Vlade and Scott Perry, they are as sharp as anybody in this league,” Armstrong told NBC Sports California. “They’re going to be fine.”

Armstrong spent the 1997-98 season as a member of the Charlotte Hornets with Divac and considers him, “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

As for Perry, Armstrong said, “his track record of success speaks for itself.” Both Detroit natives, Armstrong said that he and Perry have known each other for years.

If the Kings found themselves in the top five, would Armstrong shy away from bringing Jackson to Sacramento for a visit?

“If other people see problems, we see enormous opportunity,” Armstrong told NBC Sports California about Sacramento.

Armstrong was clear - you come in the league as a player, but it is the prospects who strive to become professionals that succeed. Professionals can succeed anywhere.

“If you love to compete, there’s nothing to run away from,” Armstrong said.

Fultz will listen. So will Jackson. But that’s not where it ends.

“We have as a company (CAA), four or five guys that are going in the top 20,” agent Aaron Mintz told NBC Sports California. “They will all be going to Sacramento and we are very hopeful that the Kings will take one if not two of them.”

CAA represents Frank Ntilikina, John Collins, Donovan Mitchell and Luke Kennard, as well as plenty of others in this year’s draft.

“When you have good people who work hard and are passionate and honest, good things usually happen,” Mintz said of the Kings.

Like Armstrong, Mintz has known Perry for years. They have a relationship that is built on decades of trust. The fact that Perry is now with the Kings doesn't change that, either during the draft or when free agency opens on July 1.

“It’s not just the draft, even in free agency this is an organization our clients are going to look at,” Mintz said. “It’s a credit to Vlade, Scott and Ken.”

Sacramento offers a wide open opportunity at most positions. They have a young core in Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson, Georgios Papagiannis and Willie Cauley-Stein, but the point guard and small forward spots are there for the taking.

Kentucky’s De'Aaron Fox, another player expected to go in the top of the lottery, met with Sacramento over the weekend. He probably won’t make it to picks 8 or 10 where the Kings are projected to select, but even as a 19-year-old college kid, he can see the opportunity.

“They just feel like if they’re able to get a point guard, somebody who can run the team, they feel like they could do something special,” Fox told reporters after meeting with the Kings. “But like I said, that division is really hard. You’re going to have to have a point guard that’s ready to play every night to do something in that division.”

NBC Sports California has learned that there is a very good chance that Fox, Kennard, T.J. Leaf, Bam Adebayo, Dennis Smith and Hamadou Diallo will all visit Sacramento for pre-draft workouts. Ntilikina is still playing in the playoffs with his European team, leaving his draft workout status in flux.

The Kings plan to be aggressive over the next few weeks leading up to the draft. They will know more about where they stand Tuesday night following the NBA Draft Lottery. If the ping pong balls fall their way, the list of potential visitors to Sacrament is bound to expand.

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

SACRAMENTO -- Light in the rear. It’s a term the Sacramento Kings coaching staff has used since the beginning of training camp to describe the bigs on the roster. On Monday night at Golden 1 Center, the team’s lack of strength inside was on full display as the Denver Nuggets crushed them on the glass.

“I think we’re 29th in the league for rebounding, so that’s a little bit of our makeup of how our team is made,” Dave Joerger said following the Kings’ 114-98 loss.

Joerger is close in his assessment, but off by a few spots. His roster ranks 26th in the league in rebounding overall and 28th on the defensive side of the ball. It’s become an achilles heel for a team that has a few glaring weaknesses.

“When Willie (Cauley-Stein) and Kosta (Koufos) aren’t in there to snag every rebound, we have to get in there and help Zach (Randolph) and help Skal (Labissiere),” veteran Garrett Temple said. “Skal’s a little undersized in terms of weight and Z-Bo will put his body on people, but some people might be able to out jump him.”

On a normal night, Temple is right. Randolph and Labissiere struggle to put up big numbers on the glass. But against the Nuggets, it was Koufos and Cauley-Stein that combined to grab nine rebounds in 51 total minutes of action.

Randolph and Labissiere didn’t fair much better, finishing with 10 boards between the two of them in 38 minutes with the starters. Between the Kings’ four bigs, they were out rebounded by the Nuggets bigs by a final of 34-19.

The Nuggets came into the night a top 10 rebounding team overall and the second best offensive rebounding team in the NBA at 11.8 per game.

It’s not just the bigs that struggled to grab boards for Sacramento. Without Buddy Hield, the club’s best rebounding wing, the Kings’ were dominated 49-34 overall in rebounding, including 14-5 on the offensive glass.

“The first shot, it’s a good contest, we did everything right, except get the rebound,” rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “And then they get an open shot off a second chance shot. If we can complete a lot of plays with the rebound, we’ll be okay.”

To Fox’s point, the defensive possession doesn’t end until the rebound is secured. Sacramento was outscored 19-6 on second chance points. In a 16-point game, those numbers loom large.

“Us guards, we know we have to help our bigs,” Fox said. “We know our bigs are athletic. We know they do what they do, at the end of the day, other team’s guards are helping their bigs rebound and their bigs aren’t alone.”

Outside of the four bigs, none of the other seven players to see action had more than three rebounds. It’s an issue that has to be addressed as the Kings move forward.

“There are some instances that really bothered me,” Joerger said. “We had some guys leaking out, standing at half court and that I won’t have.”

The Kings have a day of practice on Tuesday to try and sure up some of their issues. Some of the problems stem from inexperience, but some of the issue comes down to energy and effort.

It doesn’t even get easier on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Lakers rank second in the league in rebounding at 47.5 boards per game. On the plus side, they also give up the 28th most rebounds in the league.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings

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USATSI

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings

Michael Malone won't be on the sideline when his Nuggets take on his former team on Monday night.

The NBA announced Monday afternoon that Malone has been suspended without pay for the game against the Kings.

The suspension stems from Malone "entering the court, halting play and making contact with a game official" during Denver's game against the Lakers on Sunday. The incident occurred midway through the second quarter.

Malone was hired as head coach of the Kings prior to the 2013-14 season. He was fired just 24 games into the 2014-15 season.

Coverage of the Nuggets and Kings gets underway at 6:30pm on NBC Sports California and streaming on the NBC Sports App.