Kings

Kings will try to play spoiler, end Spurs' streak

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USATSI

Kings will try to play spoiler, end Spurs' streak

For two decades, the San Antonio Spurs have been the gold standard of the NBA. Monday night at the AT&T Center, they’ll need a win against a Sacramento Kings team that continues to put up a fight night in and night out.

Bogdan Boganovic, Justin Jackson and Willie Cauley-Stein all hit big shots in the final minute of the Kings one point win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. The Kings have won two of their last three games as they finish off the 2017-18 campaign on a strong note.

Tim Duncan is gone. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are bit players and Kawhi Leonard is on hiatus. And the Spurs still have an opportunity to extend their 20-year playoff streak. This isn’t a 60-win team like the last two seasons, but they are still dangerous.

BETTING LINE

Spurs by 13.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

De’Aaron Fox vs. Patty Mills -- Fox went off for a career-best 26 points the last time these two teams faced off. It didn’t stop San Antonio from winning their 13th straight over the Kings. Mills has started the last 20 games for the Spurs as he takes over for Parker at the point. The 29-year-old Australian is lightning quick and he knows coach Gregg Popovich’s system well.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 26-54, fourth place in Pacific

Spurs: 46-34, third place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: PF Skal Labissiere (left ankle sprain), SG Garrett Temple (left ankle sprain), PG Frank Mason (sore left heel), SG/SF Iman Shumpert (knee rehab and plantar fasciitis) and PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) are out.

Spurs: SF Kawhi Leonard (shoulder) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Spoiler -- For one of the first time in 20 years, the Spurs have to fight their way into the playoffs in the final week of the season. San Antonio currently sit in a three way tie for the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings, but they hold a narrow one game lead over both the Timberwolves and Nuggets. One slip up and things change dramatically for the Spurs.

Let the standings take care of themselves -- When Bogdanovic drilled a jumper with one second remaining, the Kings moved into a tie with the Brooklyn Nets for the sixth worst record in the NBA. Brooklyn picked up their 27th win Saturday evening, moving into a tie with the Bulls for the seventh worst record in the league. Play the game and let the chips fall where they may.

Clutch -- The Kings continue to battle all the way down the stretch. They compete, but they also have a knack for hitting big shots. They are getting incredible late game experience on most nights, even if it doesn’t always equate to wins.

SERIES HISTORY

The Spurs are up 3-0 in the season series and currently own a 13-game win streak over the Kings. San Antonio holds an 90-39 lead during the Sacramento-era and a 119-55 advantage all-time.

Bogdan Bogdanovic to undergo left knee surgery

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AP

Bogdan Bogdanovic to undergo left knee surgery

After jumping straight from European competition to the NBA last summer, Bogdan Bogdanovic is scheduled to undergo a minor procedure on Tuesday.

A postseason MRI picked up on a slight tear in the meniscus of Bogdanovic’s left knee.

Playing for a year and a half straight without a break takes a toll on a player’s body.

According to the Kings, he will undergo a minimally invasive meniscus debridement procedure at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

The arthroscopic procedure is being performed by Dr. Riley Williams. With the cleanout, he is expected to make a full recovery in time for the team’s training camp schedule.

Bogdanovic, 25, joined the Kings on a three-year, $27 million contract last summer after playing the year before for Fenerbahce of the Turkish Super League.

The Serbian-born guard averaged 11.8 points, 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebound in 27.9 minutes per game for Sacramento in his rookie NBA season.

Kawhi Leonard is not the answer for the Kings

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USATSI

Kawhi Leonard is not the answer for the Kings

The murmurs have already started. Teams are lining up for a potential run at one of the game’s best players. We aren’t talking about LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Paul George, who all have early termination clauses in their contracts this summer. That trio will dominate the news July 1 when the NBA’s free agency period begins. 

There is another player who has an ability to change the course of a franchise and the way things are heading, who might become one of the biggest trade targets in recent league history. 

No one really knows the entire story about what is going on with Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs have their side and Leonard’s team likely has a different version. What is known is that the 26-year-old small forward was cleared by San Antonio’s medical staff to resume game action a few months back. 

Leonard returned to the court for a nine-game stretch during December and early January. And then he shut it down again. 

The two-time All-Star and former NBA Defensive Players of the Year has been diagnosed with tendinopathy in his right quadricep. He’s bounced back and forth between San Antonio and New York City all season, having his injury evaluated and re-evaluated by both the Spurs and his own medical team.

Where the Spurs go from here is anyone’s guess. They have the best two-way player in the game and he has made the decision on his own not to play. 

A season ago, San Antonio rattled off a 61-win season before falling to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. They made additions in the summer to make another run, but without Leonard, they didn’t stand a chance.

To make matters worse, the Spurs roster is aging quickly. Manu Ginobili turns 41 in July. Pau Gasol is almost 38 and Tony Parker will be 36 soon and in the last year of his contract. Six players in their rotation are 30 or older and the clock is ticking.

Leonard’s decision wiped out any chance of winning a ring for the Spurs. It also threw away one of the few seasons left for a couple of his teammates.

For the last four decades, San Antonio has been the model NBA franchise. They don’t get into situations like this. And now they have to make one of the most difficult decisions a team has to make. 

To complicate matters, Leonard has two years left on his five-year, $94 million deal he signed in 2015. The final year is a player option worth $21.3 million and it’s very unlikely that Leonard will exercise that option.

Why is this of interest to the Sacramento Kings? It might not be, but that won’t stop fans from turning to the trade machine to find a way to land Leonard in purple and black.

Anytime a player of this ilk comes available, it’s within every team’s best interest to at least make a call. It’s possible the Spurs would turn the Kings down three seconds into the conversation. Then again, they might listen.

While San Antonio is going to want a star in return for Leonard, that isn’t the way these things usually work out. The question then becomes, do the Kings have the assets to acquire Leonard?

It’s very possible that the Spurs can get more than what the Kings would be willing to offer. Sacramento has a group of young players, two or three of which might draw interest. They also have a top seven pick in the upcoming draft.

Due to the Stepien Rule, the Kings can’t trade their draft pick prior to the 2018 NBA Draft. League rules prohibit teams from trading draft picks in back-to-back seasons and Sacramento has already given up their 2019 pick in a salary dump in the summer of 2015. 

The Kings can make a selection for another team and consummate a deal once the new season begins in July, so there is still an opportunity to include the pick in player form. 

San Antonio would likely ask for multiple young players, as well as the Kings’ 2018 selection. Sacramento also has cap space and a few veterans on expiring contracts to make the dollars and cents work. 

Whether the Kings could come up with the pieces to make a deal work is debatable. The real question is, should they try and chase Leonard if he becomes available? 

The simple answer is no. 

No, the Kings shouldn’t offer up a top 10 pick and two or three of their young core to acquire one of the game’s best players. 

Take all of the issues that Leonard has had this season and throw them out the window. At 100 percent health, the risk is still too much for a team like the Kings to take.

It’s about the contract and it’s about the talent that you would have to give up. The Los Angeles Lakers might be able to absorb the risk of trading for Leonard. They would likely have to give up Kyle Kuzma and plenty more to make something happen. But they would also have a fighting chance of retaining Leonard once he opts out of his current deal and becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Kings fans will reach deep on this, bringing up that Chris Webber made the decision to stick around in Sacramento back in 2001, inking a seven-year, $122 million deal. 

Not only were those different times, but the Kings’ franchise was on a roll. Webber was the best player on one of the best teams in the league. He was also surrounded by quality teammates, many of who remain extremely close more than a decade later.

Leonard would come to a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006. It is also a franchise that would have to give up plenty of assets to acquire him. He wouldn’t make the Kings an instant success and although the team would have plenty of money in the summer of 2019 to not only pay Leonard, but add a few more pieces, the risk would never be worth the reward.

If the team truly believes that Leonard is an option, they might as well draft a high quality player in 2018, develop the current talent base, make a move or two to improve the roster and then chase the All-Star wing a summer later when they have upwards of $70 million to throw around.

It’s a fun conversation, but one that can only lead to ruin for a team like the Kings. The best chance to turn things around for Sacramento is to stay the current course and continue to develop the players on the roster. 

If the team can begin to build something, landing the right player and then keeping them around will happen for the Kings.