Kings

Big names veterans coming to Sacramento, but will the wins follow?

Big names veterans coming to Sacramento, but will the wins follow?

LAS VEGAS, NV -- It’s a busy day in Kingsland. With a big crowd expected for Monday night’s Kings vs. Lakers matchup, both in Sacramento at the team’s viewing party and in Las Vegas at the Thomas and Mack Center, the team took care of more paperwork.

Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill officially signed on the dotted line and became the newest members of the Sacramento Kings. Following signatures, the trio of veterans held a press conference that felt more like a symposium on building a winning culture than an introduction.

Big names are walking in the door, but wins aren’t a sure bet. Building a successful franchise is a process, especially when you bring so many young players in over a span of two seasons. 

General manager Vlade Divac measured his club and saw a missing ingredient. He used his cap space wisely and came away with known leaders for his stable of young players.  

“It’s very hard to develop guys if you create a losing mentality,” general manager Vlade Divac said following the press conference. “I just want to compete. And those kids need support for that.”

Carter made an appearance Sunday night at Cox Pavilion as the Kings fell to the Memphis Grizzlies. The 8-time All-Star drew a crowd everywhere he went as he signed autographs, took pictures and hugged former teammates around the arena.

The 40-year-old wing signed a one-year, $8 million deal to join his former Grizzlies head coach, Dave Joerger. The 19-year NBA vet ranks 27th all-time in scoring with 24,555 points, just 260 points behind Patrick Ewing for 26th place on the list.

“I definitely didn’t see myself playing to 40, more than anything, it’s not what I do, it’s what I’m willing to do,” Carter said follow the press conference. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to still be here today.”

Carter finished last season averaging 8.0 points and 3.1 rebounds in 24.6 minutes a night for Memphis. With Sacramento, he’ll play, but he’ll also be asked to take on the role of mentor with the Kings, as they enter the season with a bevy of young talent.

“They’re listening, they’re asking questions and that’s all you can ask from young guys,” Carter said about teaching the young players. “When you’ve got guys like us that have been around and are willing to share our knowledge, what we want is young guys that are willing to listen and willing to put in the work and learn. Everything else is easy after that.”

After spending the last eight seasons with the Grizzlies, Randolph inked a two-year, $24 million deal with the Kings. Like Carter, he spent plenty of time with coach Joerger and looks forward to playing for his former head coach again.

The 16-year NBA veteran turns 36 on July 16, but age didn’t stop him from having a very productive season last year. Z-Bo came off the bench for new head coach David Fizdale in Memphis, averaging 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game.

In Sacramento, he’ll play solid minutes at the power forward spot. He’ll also be asked to take the Kings stack of young bigs under his wing and teach them the ropes. Randolph brings a physicality that the team lacks and there is hope that it rubs off on the young guys. According to the veteran big, it’s more than just strength or pushing opponents around.

“It’s not about toughness, it’s about playing for each other,” Randolph said of teaching the young guys. “I’m going hard for George, I’m going hard for Vince, and vise versa. That’s what it’s all about - giving all you’ve got for your teammates.”

Both players confirmed that Joerger was a big reasons they joined the Kings. Despite offers to play for winning franchises, they liked the opportunity to try to turn things around with their former coach. Joerger couldn’t be happier with the additions.

“It’s fantastic, their good human beings and they’re pros,” Joerger told NBC Sports California. “Obviously, having history of competition and playoffs and going through the battles, but even more than that, you’re supporting each other's family, you’re watching each other’s kids, you’re going to weddings together. That kind of stuff that  runs pretty deep.”

While Hill hasn’t played for Joerger in the past, he was needed to support a very young backcourt. With both De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason entering their rookie season’s, Divac and his team looked for a veteran leader to help solidify the point guard position. They inked one of the better free agents lead guards.

“You don’t look at it as competing for minutes, you look at it as what’s the best opportunity for us to win the game,” Hill said of working with Fox. “If the front office and coaches or whatever think it’s best that he plays more minutes, then he plays more minutes. At the end of the day, we have to develop him and I know that. My job here is to help develop him.”

After five seasons with the Indiana Pacers, Hill, 31, spent last year posting career numbers with the Utah Jazz. He landed in Sacramento on a 3-year, $57 million deal, although the third year is only partially guaranteed. He brings nine-years of NBA experience to the table, including averages of 16.9 points and 4.2 assists over 31.5 minutes per game last season.

It was just a press conference, but the vets said all the right things. They’ll join Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos as a core group of leaders. Temple briefly played with Hill during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons and Koufos paired with Randolph and Carter during the 2014-15 season in Memphis.

It’s a solid group, but they have a tall task in front of them. Outside of the group of five, Willie Cauley-Stein is the only other player on the Kings with two years of NBA experience. Joerger has the difficult job of balancing competing on a nightly basis with developing his young players. At least he has some familiar faces to help in the process.

Key Kings dates for NBA draft, free agency, extensions as offseason begins

Key Kings dates for NBA draft, free agency, extensions as offseason begins

The bubble experience is over.

For the 14th consecutive season, the Kings have missed the NBA playoffs. Following Thursday morning’s season finale 136-122 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Kings head directly to the airport and abandon the Disney World campus. That has been their home for the last five weeks and fly home to begin the offseason.

What lies ahead is the unknown. Will the Kings make an adjustment to their front office or coaching staff? Will they be active on the trade front and what do they do with all of their own free agents?

While there are plenty of questions hanging over the franchise, here is a quick rundown of the important dates that are just on the horizon.

Aug. 15-16: NBA play-in game(s).

Aug. 17: Early entry deadline for draft eligible prospects. This is the last day for prospects to enter the NBA Draft.

Aug. 17: NBA playoffs begin from the Orlando bubble.

Aug. 20: NBA Draft Lottery.

The NBA moved the draft lottery up to Aug. 20, which should give teams a window to really dig into the draft portion of the offseason. The league will revert records back to March 11 for the 14 lottery bound teams.

The Kings are currently tied with the Pelicans for the No. 12/13 spot in the lottery. The two teams will have almost the same lottery odds, but a coin flip will be held to determine who gets the higher of the two lottery positions.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Aug. 31: Conference Semifinals begin.

Sept. 15: Conference Finals begin.

Sept. 30: NBA Finals begin.

Oct. 6: Last day to withdraw from the NBA Draft.

Oct. 13: NBA Finals conclude (If Game 7 is necessary).

Oct. 16: NBA Draft.

Oct. 17 (3 PM PT): Final day for player/team options to be exercised.

Oct. 17: Final day for teams to extend Qualifying Offer to eligible players.

Oct. 17: Nemanja Bjelica’s $7.2 million contract with Kings becomes guaranteed.

Oct. 18 (3 PM PT) - NBA Free Agent negotiation period begins.

Oct. 18 - De’Aaron Fox becomes eligible for rookie scale extension.

Oct. 19-23 - NBA Free Agent moratorium period.

Oct. 23 (9 AM PT) - NBA Free Agency officially begins. Players can sign contracts, trades can be completed, offer sheets can be submitted.

Dec. 1 - Start of 2020-21 season. This is a tentative date that is likely to move back, at least a few weeks and as much as a month or two depending on a myriad of coronavirus related concerns.

This is all a whirlwind of action that could still have some adjustments. If the season start date holds at Dec. 1, Media Day will likely happen in the first week of November with training camp starting the next day. Preseason might be condensed slightly to allow teams more recovery time, but then it’s right back to the grind, whether that’s in Orlando or back to home arenas, with or without fans.

Kings facing major decisions with season, NBA bubble experience over

Kings facing major decisions with season, NBA bubble experience over

The Kings' bubble has burst. The 2019-20 season is officially over for Sacramento and 14 other teams. While the Kings didn’t have the success they hoped for in the eight-game seeding tournament, matched with the 64-game regular season, we have plenty of information to walk into the summer with.

Most of what we saw wasn’t pretty. The coronavirus took its toll on the Kings' roster early, which once again led to a slow start. The team didn’t play defense at all in the bubble. There were chemistry and injury issues, and an overall malaise as the team fell out of contention.

How does it get better? Do the Kings need a total overhaul? Here is a look at some of the pressing issues facing Sacramento heading into the offseason.

The Star

If nothing else, the eight-game seeding tournament cemented the fact that the Kings were right to build their team around De’Aaron Fox. Through the first six games of the restart, Fox averaged 26.2 points, 7.3 assists and 1.7 steals in 34.7 minutes per game.

This team will go as far as Fox can take it. The focus of the offseason should be to add more pieces that fit with Fox. That means more shooters, more length at the forward positions and a true rim protector.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The Big Question

The mid-season switch from Buddy Hield to Bogdan Bogdanovic at the starting shooting guard position has set the Kings on a dangerous course. Hield is about to enter the first season of a new 4-year, $86 million deal and his play in the bubble has been nothing short of baffling.

Can the Kings enter next season with Hield as their sixth man making nearly $25 million? Will they look to move Hield for a potential starting level small forward or long-term fix at the four? Hield is an elite 3-point shooter and has been a valuable member of the squad, but he makes high-end starter money. All options should be on the table at this point.

Does Someone Pay for Bubble Struggle

Vlade Divac landed his man in the summer of 2019, inking former teammate Luke Walton to a four-year deal to run the Kings. Walton’s first year in Sacramento began on the wrong foot with an 0-5 start to the season, but the team was playing much better when the season went on hiatus on March 11.

The team’s slow pace and 3-5 record in the bubble create some issues, but Divac and Walton are a package deal at this point. With the franchise losses in the tens, if not hundreds of millions due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to see the Kings pulling the plug on the pair, but stranger things have happened in Sacramento.

An early prediction would be that Divac and Walton are given another season to fix the situation, but the next 48 hours will be telling. The team finished with a 31-41 record for a win percentage of .430. That equates to a 35-47 record, which is four games off of last season's total under Dave Joerger.

Free Agents Abound

The Kings walk into the offseason with a stack of free agents. Bogdanovic is the lone restricted free agent and the Kings are likely to match any offer he receives in the offseason. The remaining group of Harry Giles, Alex Len, Kent Bazemore, Yogi Ferrell and Corey Brewer are all unrestricted moving forward and can sign with any of the league’s 30 teams.

Expect Bogdanovic back, but the rest of the group is completely up in the air. Bazemore was an impact player for the Kings after joining the squad at the deadline. After Bogdanovic, he should be a priority for the Kings. Len made an impact as well as a big body in the post. If the Kings can retain him on a budget deal, he could provide plenty of depth in the paint. Ferrell likely has played his last game in a Kings uniform after two seasons in Sacramento and Brewer always is an option down the road as veteran depth.

Giles is a tough one. His passing ability and raw potential are intriguing. Does he fit with the roster moving forward? Did the Kings burn a bridge when they didn’t pick up his fourth-year option? It’s very likely that Giles will be playing elsewhere next season.

Power Decision

Sacramento has a stack of power forwards, but all come with question marks. The team has until Oct. 17 to guarantee Nemanja Bjelica’s final year at $7.15 million. He has played extremely well in stretches for the Kings over the last two seasons and his 3-point shooting gives Fox room to run.

Jabari Parker, who joined the Kings at the deadline, has a player option at $6.5 million. Parker has hardly played since coming over from the Hawks, but he looked good in limited time in the bubble. Walton used him primarily at the five in the restart, but if he comes back in good shape, he can easily help out at the four as well.

The Kings also have Marvin Bagley at the four, but after playing just 13 games in his second NBA season with three separate injuries, the team can’t bank on the talented young big. That means they need depth at the positions and then hope that Bagley can stay on the court. There also is a chance that the Kings search for an impact player at the wing, move Harrison Barnes to the four and shift Bagley to the center position full time. There is a lot to consider at this spot.

[RELATED: Key dates to know for Kings as offseason officially begins]

The Concern

The Kings missed the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season and the league only is getting tougher around them. The Golden State Warriors should be back in the mix for the postseason next year, New Orleans and Phoenix are both improving and the Memphis Grizzlies have a nice young squad, too.

Sacramento has to find a way to dramatically improve within a short period of time. That means that nothing outside of dealing Fox should be off the table. The Kings have to take that mindset into the offseason and be aggressive, or the team will be in a similar position next summer.