Kings probably won't try that lineup experiment again anytime soon

Kings probably won't try that lineup experiment again anytime soon

SACRAMENTO -- They don’t call it a process for nothing. The Sacramento Kings attempted to skip a few steps in the evolution of a young team Sunday night against the Washington Wizards. It didn’t go well.

The decision was made to sit veterans George Hill and Zach Randolph, allowing the duo to rest just six games into an 82-game schedule. The idea was to allow the club’s young players to experience something different. The test went poorly and probably won’t be repeated anytime soon.

“I disagree with the mindset that you go out and do this every night and that’s how you learn to play in the league,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I think competing and competing for minutes and earning and deserving them, which is what we’ve been trying to do, is the best way to learn how to win.”

But with Hill and Randolph both off to slow starts and so many young players needing an opportunity, the Kings went young.

Rookies De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic made their first career starts. Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere have a combined 78 starts under their belt and Willie Cauley-Stein was the seasoned vet with just two full seasons of NBA experience.

The Wizards came in prepared. They jumped all over the young Kings, rattling off 13 straight points before Sacramento could find the bottom of the net in their own gym. They led by 19 at the end of the first quarter and 31 before the half, ending the game before Sacramento could get an ounce of momentum behind them.

“Obviously, we started bad again,” Bogdanovic said following the game. “We’ve got to work on it - better start, better opening to the game. It’s tough when you play against these teams. They are consecutive playoff teams and they play high IQ basketball.”

Washington knows where the Kings are at. It wasn’t that long ago that John Wall and Bradley Beal were a young core struggling to build something. They won 29 games in their first season together during 2012-13 season, which helped yield Otto Porter with the third overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.

The Wizards have built around these three players for the last four seasons, adding pieces when necessary, but with the idea that this is their core. They went 49-33 last season, good enough for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. It’s a model that gives the Kings another possible blueprint to follow.

“We’re still young,” Skal Labissiere said following the Kings 110-83 to the Wizards. “The Wizards basically started like us if you look at it and look at where they are now. It’s just going to take time.”

Joerger took a cautious approach to player development last season and through the first few weeks of the season, it appeared that would be the plan again. But the Kings are off to a slow start and the young players have outshined the veterans. They took a gamble on Sunday and it didn’t pan out.

“You can see the talent here,” Bogdanovic said. “We have many talented guys here. It’s about time and experience.”

Sacramento is in search of a core. Fox and Bogdanovic are showing signs that they are building blocks. Hield, Labissiere and Cauley-Stein have thrown their names in the hat as well. Justin Jackson, Frank Mason, Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis need developing and Harry Giles hasn’t even stepped on the floor. So many young bodies, so few minutes to go around.

There are going to be plenty of nights like Sunday, especially if the Kings try to run before learning how to crawl. Patience is more than a tagline as the Kings start at the beginning.

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


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.