Malachi Richardson, the Kings' forgotten man


Malachi Richardson, the Kings' forgotten man

Before Buddy Hield was acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans in the DeMarcus Cousins deal, another rookie shooting guard had already earned a spot in the Kings' rotation. Before Skal Labissiere put the NBA on notice with a 32-point, 11-rebound performance against the Phoenix Suns or Georgios Papagiannis managed three double-doubles in the last month of the season, another 2017 draft pick had already begun to make a name for himself. 

Malachi Richardson is the Kings’ forgotten man. Taken with the 22nd pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the wing out of Syracuse dazzled in his short stint with the Reno Bighorns and quietly earned the trust of Dave Joerger once he saw minutes in Sacramento. If not for a torn hamstring in the final game before the All-Star break, Richardson would be a player firmly on the Kings’ radar for this season.

But injuries happen. And a partial thickness tear of the hamstring is not something to take lightly. After trying to return late in the season, the Kings shut Richardson down with the hopes of him having a full recovery leading into the summer. 

Those hopes were dashed when Richardson tweaked his hamstring again during Summer League in Las Vegas and was forced to miss most of the competition. His absence opened the door for 2017 15th overall pick, Justin Jackson, to earn minutes and the rookie didn’t disappoint.

“It was tough,” Richardson said Friday from the Kings practice floor. “I had worked so hard to get ready for Summer League. To get out there and play pretty well. I played okay in the first half and then to re aggravate it in the second half, towards the end of the game again, it was very frustrating.”

Now fully healthy, Richardson is ready to fight for his rotational spot again, but the road to playing time won’t be easy. 

“My body feels good, I’m a little sore from the two-a-days and just long practices, but my body feels great,” Richardson said. “I’m ready to roll into the season.”

During his absence, Hield played starter minutes down the stretch at the shooting guard position. Hield earned a shot to compete for the starting job after averaging 15.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in the final 25 games of the season.

You can also add Serbian sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic to the equation, who came over from Europe on a three-year, $27 million deal over the summer. Neither Hield, nor Bogdanovic have the size to slide to the small forward position for long stints, making the competition for minutes at the shooting guard spot fierce. 

Garrett Temple is also in the mix at the two. He’s the Kings’ best defensive player and the coaching staff love his leadership. He can play both wing positions, but his natural spot on the floor is at the shooting guard spot. 

Following Friday’s training camp session, coach Dave Joerger mentioned that he might even steal some minutes at the two for veteran guard George Hill to help get more time for top prospect De’Aaron Fox at the point. 

The path to playing time might not be so simple at the three either for Richardson. Jackson has turned heads with his mature play. Veteran Vince Carter will play minutes off the bench for Joerger and Temple will shift over, possibly even starting at the three. 

“Competition, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ve got to compete every day, that’s the plan, go and compete and get better,” Richardson said.

There are six players and possibly more vying for time on the wing. Someone is going to get the short end of the stick. 

Richardson is just 21 years old. He spent most of the summer in Sacramento working with the training staff and he’s 100 percent healthy. He’s also reworked his body, going from 200 pounds last summer to a muscular 220 coming into camp. 

“I didn’t plan on playing the three at all, I just knew I wanted to get my body a lot stronger that it was coming into the NBA,” Richardson said. 

At 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan, Richardson has the size to man either wing position. Having a year under his belt might help him as well. He knows the terminology of the coaching staff and what is expected of him.

It’s way too early to speculate on the rotation, but Richardson is in a dogfight for playing time. He needs to improve every day and earn the trust of the coaching staff like he had last season. 


Response to adversity opens Kings, Golden 1 Center to national conversation

Response to adversity opens Kings, Golden 1 Center to national conversation

SACRAMENTO -- Gavin Maloof once described a potential downtown Sacramento arena as “a beacon of light, shining bright.” Vivek Ranadivé likened the idea of Golden 1 Center as the modern town square, cathedral or communal hearth.

On Friday, Ranadivé might have finally found the best way to describe his $500-plus million arena in the center of Sacramento’s downtown core. Speaking to the Sacramento Bee, Ranadivé said, "you can't always dictate what the stories are that are being told around the fireplace."

Thousands of protesters surrounded Ranadivé’s fireplace on Thursday evening. They locked arms and barred fans from coming in the building as the Kings faced the Atlanta Hawks.

In one night, Golden 1 Center was transformed from the home of the Kings, to something much more. It became the meeting place for the protesters to vent their frustrations after the officer-involved shooting death of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old African American from South Sacramento.

The Kings’ first reaction was to protect the fans that had entered the building. They locked down the arena and cleared everyone from the massive windows that highlight the grand entrance. The limited number of fans allowed in the building were treated to seat upgrades and unlimited free food.

After securing the safety of the fans inside, the team chose a specific course of action. Instead of pointing fingers at protesters who likely cost the franchise hundreds of thousands of dollars, they allowed Golden 1 Center to become the heart of Sacramento.

It’s not always going to be about basketball or concerts or Disney on Ice. For Golden 1 Center to become what Ranadivé envisions, it has to be a place for everyone.

Instead of shunning the protest and turning their ire towards the thousands outside, Ranadivé had his defining moment, not just as an owner, but as a leader in the Sacramento community.

“The Kings recognize your people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that,” Ranadivé said from center court. “We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform. It’s a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously and we stand before you; old, young, black, white, brown and we are all united in our commitment.”

His postgame speech was humble and showed a different side of the Kings’ Chairman. It was also a moment for the franchise to become part of a larger conversation that is facing nearly every community in America.

To turn a blind eye to social injustice and civil unrest would violate the spirit of what Golden 1 Center was created for. If it is truly the fireplace of Sacramento, then there has to be an open invitation - not just for basketball, and not just for protests, but for all that a community has to give.

The Kings aren’t asking for games to be interrupted on a regular basis. But the team’s handling of the situation has opened the door for Golden 1 Center to become the communal meeting place they hoped it would be when they broke ground.

Report: Former Kings star offers to pay for Stephon Clark's funeral

Report: Former Kings star offers to pay for Stephon Clark's funeral

Former Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins reportedly reached out to Stephon Clark's family and offered to cover the cost of his a funeral, according to The Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones

Sacramento police shot and killed Clark, a 22-year-old African-American father of two, on Sunday while he was holding a cellphone in the backyard of his grandmother's home. Clark was unarmed. 

During his six-and-a-half year tenure in Sacramento, Cousins was not only the face of the Kings on the court, but the face of outreach efforts off of it. He paid for the funeral of Sacramento-area high school football player Jaulon "JJ" Clavo, who was shot in 2015, and ran free children's basketball camps for the city's children during the summer.

He continued to run a camp last summer following a midseason trade to the New Orleans Pelicans, and has spoken at length about how much he treasures maintaining strong ties to Sacramento. He told The Sacramento Bee last February that he "still consider[s Sacramento] a home."

“It’s very important to me,” Cousins told The New Orleans Advocate in October. “I’ve built relationships in a lot of the different places I’ve been. My biggest thing is helping those kids and helping families in need. I was once in their position, and it would’ve done wonders if I could’ve had a little bit of help coming up. I’m just doing my part.”

Bodycam footage from the officer-involved shooting was released on Wednesday, setting off protests on Thursday. Protestors blocked traffic on Interstate 5 both ways, according to NPR, before locking arms and surrounding the Golden 1 Center ahead of Hawks-Kings that night. Those protests delayed the start of the game by 15 minutes, and an estimated 15,000 fans were unable to enter the arena.