Kings

George Hill will play a major role as he mentors Kings rookies

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USATI

George Hill will play a major role as he mentors Kings rookies

On draft night 2017, the Sacramento Kings tested the old proverb, “patience is a virtue.” Instead of giving up gold to move into the top three of the draft, guaranteeing a shot at selecting De’Aaron Fox, they sat back and let the talented 19-year-old point guard fall to them at the fifth pick.

They backed that selection up by drafting Frank Mason, another point guard, in the early second round. The message was clear - veterans Darren Collison and Ty Lawson were not coming back for the 2017-18 season.

It appeared that Vlade Divac and his group were ready to head into the season with rookies manning one of the most important positions on the floor, and then the team went on a July 4th spending spree. Vince Carter and Zach Randolph were added for veteran leadership at the wing and in the post and George Hill inked a three-year, $57 million deal to stabilize the backcourt.

Hill, 31, has plenty left in the tank. He spent last season with the Utah Jazz, helping the team improve from 40 wins during the 2015-16 season, to 51 wins in 2016-17. He averaged a career-best 16.9 points for coach Quin Snyder while posting 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per game.

The nine-year NBA vet might not see the same type of minutes in his first season in Sacramento, but Dave Joerger is going to give plenty of time to his veterans while the young core finds its sea legs.

Sacramento is very high on Fox. They also know that Mason can play solid minutes in year one, but Hill will play a major role while he mentors the rookies.

Both Fox and Hill can also shift to the shooting guard position for short stints and play alongside each other. The Kings already have plenty of bodies at the two, but Fox’s development will be a high priority as they groom him for the seasons to come.

On the downside, Hill has missed plenty of games over his career, including 33 last season due to toe and groin issues. He’s never played a full 82 games, but in this scenario, that might not be a negative.

Sacramento hedged their bet with Hill, giving themselves a $1 million buyout for year three of the deal. If Fox is ready to take over full-time or Hill begins to decline as a player, the Kings can clear a mountain of cap space off the books for the summer of 2019.

For now, Hill will start at the point and act as a veteran advisor for Fox and Mason. There is no question that he knew what he was buying into when he signed his contract with the Kings. He’ll eat plenty of minutes as the rookies learn the ropes at the NBA level and then he will pass the torch when the time is right.

The Kings have talent, depth and a future at point guard. Minutes will be earned, not handed out, which is the way it should be.

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.