Kings

Gameday: Battle down low is the matchup to watch as Kings host Hornets

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AP

Gameday: Battle down low is the matchup to watch as Kings host Hornets

SACRAMENTO -- Fresh off a tough loss to the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday evening, the Sacramento Kings return to their home court to start the new year Tuesday. They’ll face an underachieving Charlotte Hornets team that’s still struggling to find their way.

The Kings put up one of their worst performances of the season against Memphis, falling behind by as many as 33 on their home floor. Willie Cauley-Stein put up solid numbers, finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds, but he was one of just three Sacramento players to score in double-figures in the 114-96 loss.

Charlotte is a veteran team that’s fallen on hard times. Coach Steve Clifford’s team shoots the lowest field goal percentage in the league at 43.5 percent, but they get to the free throw line an NBA best 27.8 times per game.

OPENING LINE:
Hornets by 3.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Dwight Howard -- There was a time when Howard was the most feared big man in the game. He isn’t the player he once was, but he still manages to average 15.6 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in his 14th season in the NBA. Cauley-Stein is improving with each month, posting 13.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in December. The 24-year-old big man is heading in the right direction, but he’ll need to work overtime to keep Howard off the glass.

WHERE THEY STAND:
Kings: 12-24, fourth place in Pacific

Hornets: 13-23, third place in Southeast

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: PG De’Aaron Fox (thigh tear) is available to play, PG Frank Mason III (right heel contusion) will miss at least one week of action, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) is out and the team has yet to give a timetable for his return.

Hornets: C Cody Zeller (knee) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Battle on the Boards -- Charlotte is one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, coming in at No. 4 with 46.7 boards per game. Sacramento has struggled on the glass, grabbing just 39.9 rebounds a night, which ranks 29th in the league. They’ll need to keep a body on Howard and rebound as a team or the Hornets could have a field day.

Home Court Advantage -- The Kings are in the middle of a six-game homestand and so far, it’s been a little rocky. After beating the Cavs, Sacramento has dropped two winnable games to the Suns and Grizzlies. They sit at 6-10 at Golden 1 Center this season, despite sellout crowds every night.

Mason out, Fox in -- Frank Mason injured his heel in the Kings loss to Memphis on Sunday and left on crutches. He’'ll miss at least one week. De’Aaron Fox has practiced, and was cleared to play by the Kings.

SERIES HISTORY:
This is the first of two matchups between these two teams this season after a 1-1 split of the series last year. The Hornets hold a 28-26 advantage over the Kings all-time.  

QUOTE:
“We got our butt kicked. It’s not fun losing. We’ve got to figure it out.” -George Hill after the Kings’ loss to the Grizzlies

Hill to the Cavs? The best and biggest deal for the Kings is...

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USATSI

Hill to the Cavs? The best and biggest deal for the Kings is...

Is the George Hill era in Sacramento coming to and end? According to Shams Charania, the Kings might have an interested party in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Hill signed a massive three-year, $57 million deal with Sacramento over the summer, but has yet to live up to the contract. Through 37 games, Hill is posting 10.5 points and 2.7 assists per game for Sacramento. Those numbers are down from 16.9 points and 4.2 assists he averaged last season as a member of the Utah Jazz.

If a deal between the two teams is going to happen, it might be more complex than just shipping the 31-year-old to Cleveland on the next flight. Here is a look at a couple of possibilities without going into potential 3-way deals.

BEST DEAL FOR KINGS

Kings receive: Jae Crowder (3-years, $22 million), Iman Shumpert (2-year, $21.4 million - year-two a player option at $11 million)

Cavs receive: George Hill (3-year, $57 million), Malachi Richardson (2-year, $3 million with team option for third year)

Why Kings make deal: They land a very serviceable forward that instantly fills the team’s biggest need. At 27-years-old, Crowder is affordable and under contract for another two seasons, although he’s really struggled in his first season in Cleveland. Shumpert is coming off an injury and would likely opt out of his final year.

Why Cavs make deal: Hill instantly improves their backcourt. He can play the one of the two either as a starter or off the bench. Giving up tow wings might not be the best option, but Sacramento is going to want something of value back. Richardson is thrown into the deal to make salaries match.

BEST DEAL FOR CAVS

Kings receive: Channing Frye (1-year, $7.4 million) Iman Shumpert (2-year, $21.4 million - 2018-19 contract a player option at $11 million)

Cavs Receive: George Hill (3-year, $57 million), Malachi Richardson (2-year, $3 million with team option for third year)

Why Kings make deal: Kings give up an asset in Richardson, but they shed Hill’s $19 million owed for 2018-19 season. If Shumpert opts in, the Kings still save $8 million off the books for next season.

Why Cavs make deal: Basically, they land Hill for a couple of spare parts. Richardson is

BIG DEAL

Kings receive: Jae Crowder (3-years, $22 million), Channing Frye (1-year, $7.4 million) Iman Shumpert (2-year, $21.4 million - 2018-19 contract a player option at $11 million)

Cavs receive: George Hill (3-year, $57 million), Kosta Koufos (2-year, $17 million with player option for second year), Malachi Richardson (2-year, $3 million with team option for third year)

Why Kings make deal: They land Crowder and a get out of jail free card on Hill’s contract. Koufos can opt out of his deal at the end of the season and the Kings get nothing. Throwing in Richardson isn’t ideal, but the Kings are deep at the two and they have to match roster spots.

Why Cavs make deal: They get an upgrade in the backcourt in Hill. They are also rumored to be in the market for a big and Koufos is a much more affordable option than DeAndre Jordan.

Bogdan Bogdanovic breaks his shell early in 2018, 'he’s able to do everything'

Bogdan Bogdanovic breaks his shell early in 2018, 'he’s able to do everything'

He’s not really a rookie. After playing for years overseas, Bogdan Bogdanovic has proven very quickly that he is an NBA player. Midway through his first season in the league, the 25-year-old Serb is finding his stride. 

From the moment he stepped on the floor in Sacramento, Bogdanovic showed flashes of something special. You could see early on that he was trying to fit in and make nice with his teammates, but the honeymoon phase is over. Bogdanovic is no longer holding back.

For the third time in the new calendar year, Bogdanovic set a career-high in scoring on Wednesday evening. He dropped in 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including a perfect 6-of-6 from long range. 

“I’ve said it all year, he’s not really a rookie, he’s been playing pro ball for so many years,” De’Aaron Fox said of his backcourt mate. “He definitely doesn’t play like a rookie. He brings the intelligence, the savvy, the shooting - defensively, he gets after it. He’s able to do everything for us.” 

He’s pushed his season numbers up to 11.5 points, 2.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game. Bogdanovic has also raised his shooting percentages drastically as the season has progressed, knocking down 48.8 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from behind the 3-point line. 

In eight games in January, Bogdanovic has taken his game to another level. He’s hit the opposition for 16.3 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 30.6 minutes a game. Dave Joerger has come to rely on the former Fenerbahce star, even giving him starts in the last two games since the youth movement was officially put into motion.

“I’m working every single day as hard as I can, I’m trying to be the best version of (myself).” Bogdanovic said following the team’s loss to Utah on Wednesday.

It’s a small sample size, but Bogdanovic’s shooting numbers in 2018 are off the charts. He’s hitting 54.8 percent from the floor, a stunning 58.3 percent on the 3-ball and 92.3 percent from the line.

With All-Star weekend on the horizon, Bogdanovic has likely earned his way into an invitation for the Rising Stars Challenge. Amongst rookies, he’s currently seventh in scoring, fourth in 3-point percentage, eighth in field goal percentage and sixth in steals. 

Sacramento’s 2017-18 season is about sifting through the young players and figuring out what they have. It appears the Kings have found a keeper in Bogdanovic.