Kings

By locking up Divac and Joerger, Kings cement long-term leadership

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USATSI

By locking up Divac and Joerger, Kings cement long-term leadership

For years, the Sacramento Kings had stability under president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie and head coach Rick Adelman. The two worked in unison, one stuffing the roster with talent and the other managing the players to near perfection. 

When Adleman walked away from the Kings following the 2005-06 season it started a revolving door of coaches and eventually front office personnel. Over the last decade Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt, Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Michael Malone, Tyrone Corbin and George Karl have all manned the head coaching position, with none of them lasting more than 171 games coached. 

Last season’s coaching search in Sacramento dragged on for weeks, before general manager Vlade Divac and the management team decided on Dave Joerger. On Wednesday morning, the franchise decided to commit to both Divac and Joerger for the long term.

Divac’s contract has been extended through the 2019-20 season and after just a year on the job, Joerger’s fourth year option was picked up. The duo have the next three seasons to right the Kings’ ship which has been well off course since the departure of Adelman.

“We wanted to do this together, I love working with him,” Joerger said. “Whether we got this done or not, I love working with him. Even so, now knowing though that we’re going to be standing shoulder to shoulder for three years for sure, and hopefully we can get this to be a perennial 50-win team.”

The Kings haven’t won 50 games since the 2004-05 season, and since the departure of Adleman, their best season is 38-44. But there is hope that the stability of Divac and Joerger working as a cohesive unit will lead to better days in Sacramento.

“Together with Dave and his staff and the front office and the entire ownership group, we have a vision of where we want to see this franchise in a few years,” Divac said. “I’m so excited we are on the same page and moving forward.”

Joerger took a gamble on Sacramento last season. After three successful seasons in Memphis, he joined a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in a decade. Midway through the year, his star big man, DeMarcus Cousins, was traded to New Orleans and the rebuild of the Kings began in earnest.

According Joerger, he knew that it was possible coming in that the team would take a dramatic new direction. Late in the season he began to refer to the season as “year zero.” Getting that fourth year gives him a true fresh start with this season becoming year one of the rebuild.

“This helps look at the broad strokes, which we would have done anyways, but it really cements the stability and the partnership going forward for the long term,” Joerger said. 

Joerger raved about the development of Divac as an executive and he knows that the heavy lifting has now shifted to the coaching staff as they attempt to develop a young and inexperienced roster. Divac also knows that he needs a top notch collaborator in this process as the franchise builds from the ground up.

“Dave is a great partner to be in this,” Divac said. “He’s working so hard and it’s fun to watch him every day, how he can help those guys to improve. I’m so confident that he’s the guy that should be here.”

The Kings have chosen a direction and given both management and coaching staff the backing to move forward. Now the real work begins. 

Gameday: Kings start four-game road trip against T'Wolves

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USATSI

Gameday: Kings start four-game road trip against T'Wolves

The Sacramento Kings hit the road for another trip across the country beginning Thursday in Minnesota. They’ll face a Timberwolves team that is finally living up to their talent level after a couple of disappointing seasons. 

Sacramento is coming off a home win against the Suns on Tuesday, but the road has been unkind this season. Veteran George Hill stepped up big against Phoenix after missing the previous game due to personal reasons. The Kings need more from their big free agent signing. 

Minnesota is coming off an overtime loss to the 76ers on Tuesday, but they have a formidable starting lineup and a chance to snap their 13-season playoff drought this year. The offseason additions of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague have made a huge impact for the T-Wolves, who currently sit in fourth place in the Western Conference standings.

LINE 

Timberwolves by 10

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 9-18 fourth in the Pacific

T-Wolves: 16-12 first in the Northwest

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Karl-Anthony Towns -- These two know each other well from their season together at Kentucky. Towns has developed into a perennial 20 and 10 guy for Minnesota. Cauley-Stein is finding another gear with the Kings. They’ll see plenty of time against one another Thursday at the Target Center.

INJURY REPORT 

Kings:  PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) is out until January at the earliest.

T-Wolves:  PF Nemanja Bjelica (foot) out, C Justin Patton (toe) out. 

SERIES HISTORY 

Sacramento won the season-series 3-1 last season, including an April 1 victory over the Timberwolves at the Target Center. Minnesota holds a slight lead in the all-time series 54-53.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

More George -- George Hill has struggled both on and off the court early in the 2017-18 campaign, but he came alive against the Suns. Sacramento needs the 31-year-old point guard to find some consistency and start leading the starting unit. 

Bench Dominance -- Sacramento leads the NBA in bench scoring at 49.7 points per game and they’ll need the second unit to come up big if they hope to knock off the Wolves. Minnesota’s reserves score just 25.7 points per game which ranks 28th in the league. If the Kings starters can keep it close, the bench might be enough to put them over the top.

Make the T-Wolves Work -- Minnesota has improved on the defensive end, but they still allow 106.7 points per game. If the Kings can push the tempo and make the Wolves work on the defensive end, they can make life difficult.

Things could get interesting for Kings if this version of George Hill sticks around

Things could get interesting for Kings if this version of George Hill sticks around

SACRAMENTO -- There was a George Hill sighting Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center. The veteran point guard has struggled both on and off the court early in the 2017-18 season. But against the Phoenix Suns, he looked like the player folks have become accustomed to seeing over his 10-year NBA career.

“He was very assertive offensively, got a couple of shots to go down,” head coach Dave Joerger said following the 99-92 victory. “We need him to be a playmaker.”

Hill started early, scoring eight of his team-high 18 points in the first quarter. He knocked down two 3-pointers in the period and picked up three early steals as the Suns played hot potato with the ball.

“It was really nice to see him make some shots and not only that, he made some plays (and) rebounded pretty good,” rookie Frank Mason III said. “I think it’s really good to see him get going and I still think he can play better.”

Sacramento spent big money on Hill over the summer, locking him up on a three-year, $57 million deal. The hope was that he could solidify the point guard position while helping to develop Mason and fellow rookie De’Aaron Fox.

“I’m just trying to help the young fellas learn and mentor them and try to figure it out as we go,” Hill said.

Down from his career-best 16.9 points per game last season in Utah, Hill came into the game against Phoenix averaging just 9.0 points and 2.4 assists in 25.5 minutes per game. He’s shooting the ball well, but he’s not getting the volume of shots he’s become accustomed to during his decade of service in the league.

Adding to his on-court struggles, Hill has missed two games due to two separate personal family issues off the court, including Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors.

With Hill back in the mix, the Kings found a rhythm late against a talented, but young Suns roster. They erased a five-point deficit in the fourth with a 13-0 run to come away with the win and improve to 5-5 over their last 10 games.

“He’s a big part of this,” Zach Randolph said of Hill’s breakout game. “Without him on top, this game is going to be hard for us. We need G to play like that every game.”

With the game still in the balance, Joerger turned back to his veteran leader at the 5:07 mark of the fourth with the Kings still trailing 85-82. He responded with a basket 30 seconds later to give Sacramento a lead and he helped push the team’s advantage to double-digits at the 25.9 mark of the fourth while seeing time at the power forward position.

It was just the second time this season that Hill has reached 18 points in a Kings uniform, with his season-high of 21 coming in game no. 2 of the campaign. He shot 6-for-9 from the field and knocked down 2-of-3 from behind the arc. He added seven rebounds and three steals to help the Kings improve to 9-18 on the season.

Hill isn’t the only Kings player struggling to find his niche through 27 games, but the Kings are a different team when he is on. Randolph is anchoring the post. Buddy Hield is proving the scoring punch off the bench. If Hill can give the team a reliable backcourt presence, things might get a whole lot more interesting in Sacramento.