Kings

Back in Sacramento, Rudy Gay reflects on time with Kings: 'A lot of learning'

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AP

Back in Sacramento, Rudy Gay reflects on time with Kings: 'A lot of learning'

SACRAMENTO -- The last time Kings fans saw Rudy Gay in a basketball uniform, he was pounding the floor of the Golden 1 Center in frustration after tearing his right Achilles tendon. It was the dramatic conclusion of Gay’s career in Sacramento, one that left even the most hardened fan filled with emotion.

The veteran forward left Sacramento over the summer, turning down a $14.3 million player option. He’s now a member of the San Antonio Spurs who are in town to face off with the Kings in the preseason opener.

“I’ve never even been in the other side of this building, so I’m learning,” Gay said following shootaround. “Little bit of emotions. I’m looking at the spot where I hurt myself and I’m just glad to be back out here and healthy.”

Gay, 31, spent three and a half seasons in Sacramento uniform, playing Robin to DeMarcus Cousins’ Batman. He finished his Kings career averaging 19.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists over 223 games.

“It was a learning experience,” Gay said of his time in Sacramento. “I met a lot of great people. Some of the best fans I’ve ever played for. A lot of learning. I’ve been through a lot here and it’s going to mold and shape the rest of my career.”

Despite the injury, Gay has been cleared for basketball duties. He’s spent the week training with his teammates in preparation for the 2017-18 season. He’s chomping at the bit to get his first game action, but coach Gregg Popovich is going to err on the side of caution when it comes to early season playing time.

“They say not, I say yes, that’s just what I do, I’m more conservative,” Popovich said as to whether Gay’s playing time should be limited. “I’ll probably bring him along more slowly than he’s going to want to. When he gets after me like Manu (Ginobili) or Timmy (Duncan) does, then I’ll lighten up.”

Gay will not play Monday night in Sacramento. Popovich will let him get stronger and more comfortable in the Spurs system. He’ll be asked to play both forward positions this season in San Antonio and he looked noticeably bigger as he fielded questions sitting courtside.

The Kings open their 2017-18 preseason against the Spurs Monday night at Golden 1 Center. Sacramento travels to San Antonio later in the week where they’ll see Gay and his teammates at the AT&T Center on Friday evening.

Buddy Hield struggles, Richaun Holmes impresses in Kings' loss to Spurs

Buddy Hield struggles, Richaun Holmes impresses in Kings' loss to Spurs

The Kings had the San Antonio Spurs on the ropes and couldn’t deliver the knockout blow Friday night in a 105-104 overtime loss at AT&T Center.

Sacramento blew a nine-point lead in the final 1:50 of the fourth to go to overtime. In the extra frame, they fouled the Spurs twice on 3-point attempts and still had four shots in the final 17 seconds to win the game.

Effort isn’t an issue, and neither is competing. The Kings have to learn how to finish games or this is going to be a very long season.

Here are a few notes and quotes from the Kings’ loss.

Buddy Hield is struggling

The sharpshooter came into the evening shooting just 12-of-50 from 3-point range over his previous four games. Against the Spurs, Hield knocked down 3-of-11 from deep and just 10-for-27 from the field.

The burden of keeping the Kings in games seems to be overwhelming Hield. He is forcing shots and has lost his rhythm. With De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley out of action, teams are camping on the Kings’ shooters on the perimeter. Both should be back soon, which will relieve a lot of pressure off of Hield and others on the Kings’ roster.

Hield’s shooting is an issue, but he also had a late mental mistake on the defensive end, which allowed Marco Belinelli to drill a 3-pointer to tie the game with 4.1 seconds remaining.

“I left Belinelli open, I should have took him when he was driving,” Hield told reporters in San Antonio following the loss. “I took my eye off of him. He walked on and I got trapped on the screen and it was too late and it went in”

Harrison Barnes' bounce-back game

Barnes posted one of his worst games of the season in the Kings’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, and he took full responsibility for his performance.

“The people who are out there, we’ve got to get it done,” Barnes told NBC Sports California on Wednesday. “Tonight wasn’t a great performance on either side of the ball for myself. and I know I can be better, but for everybody, we’ve just got to find a way. We’ve done that this season and we’ll continue to do that. Hopefully at some point, we’ll all be healthy and on the floor at the same time.”

Against the Spurs, Barnes played well in his 43 minutes on the court. He finished the night with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He turned the ball over four times, but he also went 9-of-11 from the line, which accounted for half of the team’s free throw attempts.

Manna from heaven

The Kings have made plenty of mistakes in free agency over the last few seasons, but Richaun Holmes was a true find. The 6-foot-10 center came into Friday second in the NBA in field-goal percentage, shooting an incredible 66.9 percent.

Against the Spurs, Holmes played a career-high 45 minutes, posting 13 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Through 21 games, he has eight double-doubles, which is just three shy of his combined career total coming into the season.

Unexpected Errors

Cory Joseph isn’t going to break off a 3-point scoring performance anytime soon, but he has been a steady hand who has helped guide the Kings through a very difficult stretch without Fox. With 1:50 remaining, it was Joseph’s 3-pointer -- just his eighth triple of the season -- that gave the Kings a nine-point lead. And then things went sideways for the veteran.

Joseph then had two egregious turnovers that led to breakaway dunks by San Antonio over the next 34 seconds of play. To compound the mistakes, Joseph missed all three of his shots in the overtime session and then fouled Patty Mills shooting a t3-pointer with the game tied and under a minute remaining.

The veteran point guard was questionable coming into the game with a sore back and still managed to give Walton 38 minutes of hard-nosed basketball. He just has to avoid making big mistakes in crunch time.

[RELATED: Bagley cleared for contact, moves closer to Kings return]

17.4 seconds of hell

The final box score is unkind for Sacramento and will likely be sifted through by the NBA’s Two Minute Report, just for fun. The last 17.4 seconds from the play-by-play log are something else. 

:17.4    MISS B.Hield 11' Pullup Shot
:14.4    B.Hield REBOUND
:10.3    MISS T.Ariza 26' 3PT Jump Shot
:07.2    B.Hield REBOUND
:04.2    MISS T.Ariza 26' 3PT Jump Shot
:01.3    B.Hield REBOUND
:00.9    MISS B.Hield 10'

Ariza had two wide-open shots and missed. Those were his only two misses on the evening after knocking down his first three 3-point attempts.

“Yeah, I just missed them. I had real good looks, I just missed,” Ariza told reporters following the loss.

Hield was active and even looked for an open man after his first two rebounds. His 10-footer at the buzzer was rushed, but it was also wide open on the baseline.

“No, I'm not frustrated," Hield said in San Antonio. "I mean again, make or miss it, you tell me Trevor is going to get open 3s, two of them, I’ll take that. But he got a nice rebound and had a clean look too, I’ll take that as well. That’s not frustrating, what’s frustrating is the turnovers at the end of the regulation. That’s something that we can’t do as a group.”

The Kings have had the ball bounce their way a couple of times this season, but they also have five losses by six points or fewer. 

Buddy Hield shoulders blame for late mistake in Kings' loss vs. Spurs

Buddy Hield shoulders blame for late mistake in Kings' loss vs. Spurs

All the Kings needed to do was play 14 seconds of good defense and they would walk out of AT&T Center in San Antonio with an impressive win.

But Buddy Hield didn't fight through a LaMarcus Aldridge screen and a wide-open Marco Belinelli drained a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left in regulation.

The game would go to overtime, and the Kings would eventually lose, 105-104, to the Spurs.

After the game, a somber Hield pointed the finger at himself for the end-of-regulation breakdown.

"I should have been more locked in and have more attention to detail in regulation and shouldn't put us in that situation," Hield told reporters in San Antonio. "I see what coach is talking about, but it's my fault."

While Hield blew the assignment on Belinelli's game-tying shot, the Kings will want to forget the final two minutes of regulation.

Up 98-89, the Kings were outscored 11-2 over the final 1:50 of the fourth quarter. They turned the ball over three times during that span, allowing the Spurs to chip away at the deficit.

Still, Hield was upset with himself.

"I didn't lock in and pay extra attention to Belinelli, so it's on me," Hield said.

Coach Luke Walton wasn't happy either, but for a different reason.

"The turnovers at the end of regulation, that's something we can't do as a group," Walton told reporters in San Antonio.

Despite how regulation ended, the Kings still had a chance to win the game at the end of overtime. Hield and Trevor Ariza had open shots, but couldn't connect.

"At the end of the day, we had three open looks to win and we missed all three of them," Walton said. "So, it's frustrating, it hurts to lose. It's what the journey's about and it's about learning from these and getting better as a group and going out and being able to do a better job at executing down the stretch next time we're in that situation."

With the loss, the Kings sit at 8-13 on the season and the schedule doesn't get any easier. On Sunday, they take on MVP candidate Luka Doncic and the Mavericks. The next day, they will be in Houston to take on James Harden and the Rockets. That's a brutal back-to-back.

[RELATED: Bagley cleared for contact]

As they wait for De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley to get healthy, the Kings need to learn from their mistakes and put together a complete game. If they don't, they will come home on Tuesday seven games under .500, a spot they don't want to be in.