Kings

Kings face Trail Blazers seeking first road win

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Kings face Trail Blazers seeking first road win

Programming note: Kings-Trail Blazers coverage begins on Comcast SportsNet California at 7 p.m. Territory restrictions apply.

The Portland Trail Blazers are already eager to be back at home after a disappointing trip. Facing a winless road opponent is even more ideal.

The Trail Blazers begin a six-game homestand Saturday night when they try to drop the Sacramento Kings to 0-7 on the road.

Portland (8-11) went 2-5 on a trip that ended with Wednesday's 99-92 loss to Indiana. Rookie Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 23 points.

There was room for optimism since the defeat came on the heels of thrilling wins against Cleveland and Charlotte that both went past regulation. Lillard scored 24 points in each of those victories.

"I liked the way our guys finished the road trip, I liked the way we competed, got some of the young guys involved off the bench," coach Terry Stotts said. "So I thought there were things that were good but I don't think any of us were necessarily satisfied being 2-5. You wanted to get one or two more on the road."

Lillard, the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, continues to lead all rookies with 19.3 points per game. He's scored at least 20 in three straight games for the first time since he made a splash by doing so in his first three contests.

"Everything is going kind of smoother than I thought it would," Lillard said. "That's just what it is. I never really said I'm just going to come in and I don't know what's going to happen. I felt I was going to be productive, I just didn't know how productive."

Sacramento (6-12) comes to town enduring its worst road start since going 0-9 to begin 2007-08. The Kings have dropped six of their last seven at the Rose Garden.

Currently, though, they are on a bit of an upswing and can post their first three-game win streak of the season after beating 91-82 over Orlando on Friday. DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points and 14 rebounds while reserve guard Isaiah Thomas added 17 points.

Starting guard Tyreke Evans didn't play for the third time in four games with a sore right knee. Francisco Garcia made his first start of the season in place of Evans.

Evans, who totaled 13 points on 4 of 18 shooting in Sacramento's two losses at Portland last season, is questionable for Saturday's game. His absence could be critical since he could again face off against Lillard.

That matchup proved to be a mismatch the first time these teams met as Lillard outscored Evans 22-10 in a 103-86 road victory Nov. 13. Lillard also had nine assists compared to four for Evans.

Cousins, who has three double-doubles his last four games, missed that contest due to suspension.

Although the Kings successfully used a smaller lineup in the fourth quarter Friday, don't expect to see it against the Blazers.

"The lineup that Orlando used allowed me to do that rotation tonight," coach Keith Smart said. "They didn't look to post up their guards. In tomorrow's game, Portland will post up their twos and threes, so there may not be a situation like that."

It's unclear if Portland forward Nicolas Batum will be available after he sat out part of Friday's practice with a back strain suffered against the Pacers.

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.