Kings

Randolph arrest puts Kings in (familiar) uncomfortable situation

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AP

Randolph arrest puts Kings in (familiar) uncomfortable situation

SACRAMENTO, CA -- For the second straight season, the Sacramento Kings are in the uncomfortable position of having to answer questions about the off-court actions of one of their veteran leaders.

After spending plenty of time last December on Matt Barnes’ arrest and eventual guilty plea for his role in a nightclub skirmish, the Kings were hit with another development Thursday morning. 

Recently signed big man, Zach Randolph, was booked in a LA County for felony possession of marijuana with the intent to sell.

“We are aware of the situation. We have no further comment at this time,” the Kings responded when reached for comment.

It’s not the news that any team wants to wake up to, especially one in rebuild mode. Randolph, a 16-year NBA veteran, signed a two-year, $24 million deal with the Kings in July. Randolph, along with Vince Carter and George Hill were brought in to mentor the young core of the team that includes 10 players with two years or less in the league, five of which are rookies this season.

Like Barnes, this isn’t the first run in with the law for Randolph. In fact, Randolph has found trouble multiple times in his life dating all the way back to his high school days. He struggled during his time with the Trail Blazers early in his career and there has been concerns over the company he keeps in the past.

“As always with Randolph’s life away from basketball, you never know the full story and you never knew if it was his fault, or his fault for hanging around the wrong people, or nobody’s fault,” Jonathan Abrams wrote in his comprehensive piece on Randolph for Grantland in October of 2012.

At the time of Abrams piece, Randolph was a 31-year-old player who was entering his 12th season in the NBA. Abrams chronologs Randolph’s stops in juvenile detention for a myriad of offenses as a teen, as well as arrests for underage drinking and even a fight with a former teammate during his time in Portland.

But by most accounts, the 36-year-old power forward has matured both on and off the court as he made his way through the league. He has become a family man, a respected veteran and according to his agent, the latest snafu is nothing more than a misunderstanding.

"The charges are false and misleading," Randolph's agent and attorney Raymond Brothers told the AP on Thursday. "We're looking at all options to resolve this matter."

The Kings are at the mercy of the courts and then the league. There are very few options they have in this circumstance until the legal process has moved beyond the initial investigation stage. Like the Barnes situation, Sacramento will likely take a patient approach and wait for more details to emerge.

Despite his legal issues last season, Barnes remained with the Kings until the All-Star break when the team cut ties with the veteran wing. They chose to pay out his remaining year and half left on his deal and reboot the locker room down the final 30 games of the season.

The Kings are counting on Randolph to mentor their fleet of young bigs, including Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein and Georgios Papagiannis. He is also a player that averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game last season and he is very familiar with head coach Dave Joerger after their time together in Memphis.

Sacramento needs Randolph to be both the player and the leader that they hoped they were getting when they handed him $24 million in guaranteed money. His latest entanglement is an unwanted distraction that once again thrusts the franchise into an uncomfortable situation. 

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.

Gameday: Kings favored against worst-in-defense Suns

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USATSI

Gameday: Kings favored against worst-in-defense Suns

SACRAMENTO -- With another road trip starting on Thursday in Minnesota, the Sacramento Kings hit their home floor looking for a win Tuesday evening against the Phoenix Suns. They’ll face a young team missing their best player and riding a three game losing streak.

The Kings have been hit and miss throughout the season, but an outline for success is beginning to form. The starting unit is still struggling on most nights, but the reserves are playing out of their mind. Zach Randolph has turned back the clock, and young players like Buddy Hield, Frank Mason III and Bogdan Bogdanovic are carving out niches for Sacramento.

Phoenix can score with the best of them, but they have the NBA’s worst defense, allowing an incredible 115 points per game. They’re without sharpshooter Devin Booker for the next few weeks, but they have plenty of firepower to work with.

LINE

Kings by 4.5

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 8-18

Suns: 9-19

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Skal Labissiere vs. Marquese Chriss... part II -- Labissiere is fresh off a trip to the G-League to jump start his season. He hasn’t had the breakout campaign that many expected, but he showed signs of coming around against the Raptors. Chriss has struggled all season, both as a starter and off the bench. The Sacramento native will have plenty of fans in the stands as he tries to convert potential to production at Golden 1 Center.

INJURY REPORT

Kings: C/PF Willie Cauley-Stein (lower back strain) game-time decision, but he participated in shoot around and is expects to suit up, PF Harry Giles (bi-lateral knee rehab) is out until January at the earliest.

Suns: SG Devin Booker (adductor strain) out, SF Jared Dudley (toe) questionable, PG Brandon Knight (ACL tear) out for the season, G Davon Reed (knee) out, PF Alan Williams (knee) out.

SERIES HISTORY

Sacramento dominated the season-series 3-1 last season, but the Suns snuck out a 117-115 win over the Kings early in the 2017-18 campaign. Phoenix leads the all-time series 132-90 and they hold an 85-51 advantage during the Sacramento-era.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Willie Play? -- Willie Cauley-Stein has made a huge impact off the Kings bench. The third-year big is posting 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 28.5 minutes over seven games with the second unit. He’s missed three straight with a lower back strain, but he was confident following Monday’s practice that he would return to action against the Suns.  

Aggressive Fox -- The Kings have been patient with the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. The 19-year-old point guard turned the ball over seven times and looked lost against veteran Kyle Lowry on Sunday. He attacked late in the game, showing a side that the Kings’ coaching staff has been begging to see. Tyler Ulis and Mike James are both young and inexperienced, which might give Fox an opportunity to shine.   

Feed the Beast -- Zach Randolph is on a roll. The 36-year-old big man continues to anchor the Kings offense. He’ll get a test against veterans Tyson Chandler and Greg Monroe, but he’s handled himself well against bigger names. The Kings need him to continue his strong play if they hope to start leapfrogging teams in the standings.

QUOTE

“I pretty much released myself today. I wasn’t trying to baby it. I just wanted to get out and blow the air out of lungs and try to get back into playing shape.” -Willie Cauley-Stein on returning to practice on Monday.