Kings

Bogdan Bogdanovic's return creates a good problem for Dave Joerger

Bogdan Bogdanovic's return creates a good problem for Dave Joerger

SACRAMENTO -- There were plenty of questions coming out of the Sacramento Kings offseason, but one thing was known - the team knew who their starting backcourt was. 

De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic finished off the 2017-18 season building chemistry and playing off one another. Fox is the speed merchant with star potential. Bogdanovic is the wise European player with an advanced feel for the game and deadly outside shot.

Sacramento’s plan was thrown out the window when Bogdanovic tweaked his left knee playing for the Serbian National team late in the summer and underwent a procedure to repair the joint on Sept. 25. 

The injury cost Bogdanovic all of training camp and another 10 games of the regular season. It was also Bogdanovic’s second procedure on the same knee this summer, which forced the Kings to take a more cautious approach.

Six minutes into the first quarter of the Kings’ 114-105 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Bogdanovic finally made his season debut. He even received a huge ovation from the Sacramento crowd when he stepped to the scorers table to check in.

“It was good for him, just to see him back out there playing with us,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “Any time one of your guys goes down with injury it’s always nice to see them come back.”

Bogdanovic didn’t make the fans wait long to hear his name over the PA system. At the 4:51 mark of the quarter, he made a driving layup to give the Kings a seven point advantage. 34 seconds later, he drilled a 3-pointer and started to look like his old self.

“I thought Bogdanovic looked solid,” coach Dave Joerger said. “He got tired, there was no question about that and it showed a little bit - but I’m very proud of him and our entire team.”

Joerger is going to bring Bogdanovic along slowly, especially with the team’s new uptempo style. He played the 26-year-old guard 18 minutes, but he did so in short bursts. Bogdanovic played five minutes in the first quarter, a little over four in quarter number two. He totaled nine minutes in the second half, split evenly between the third and fourth quarters.

“He’s trying to find his rhythm,” De’Aaron Fox said. “He’s a great scorer and he shoots the ball well and a good playmaker. It adds another dynamic to the our team.”

Following the game, the Serbian-born wing spoke to the media. 

“I’m not 100 percent, condition wise, I’m healthy, that’s most important right now,” Bogdanovic said. 

After sitting out most of the last six weeks, Bogdanovic finished the night with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting. He also grabbed two rebounds and dished out an assist in the loss. 

He played four positions for the Kings on the evening, including the one, two, three and four. 

“I felt good honestly,” Bogdanovic said. “I’m just happy to be part of the team and to be healthy.”

Joerger has some difficult decisions to make in the near future. Bogdanovic’s setback opened the door for shooting guard Buddy Hield to step into the lineup and he’s taken full advantage in the team’s surprising 6-5 start. Through the first 11 games, Hield is posting over 20 points per game and shooting the lights out from all over the court. 

Bogdanovic will take a few games to get back into NBA shape, but when he’s ready, he is a player that commands major minutes with his play. 

When asked about how difficult it will be to fit Bogdanovic back into his rotation, Joerger was all smiles.

“Not a problem,” the veteran coach said. “He’s pretty good.”

It’s possible that Joerger will eventually start Bogdanovic alongside Fox and Hield in a three guard set. It’s also possible that Bogdanovic comes off the bench as a multi-positional super sub. Either way, having him back in the fold is a good problem to have for Sacramento. 

Bogdanovic won’t have long to wait for his next opportunity to run up and down the court. The Kings play a home-and-home back-to-backs on Friday and Saturday beginning with the Minnesota Timberwolves, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Skal Labissiere learning from Trail Blazers' bench in NBA playoff run

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AP

Skal Labissiere learning from Trail Blazers' bench in NBA playoff run

With the clock winding down, Damian Lillard measured Paul George and stepped into a 37-foot game winner to push the Portland Trail Blazers into the second round of the NBA playoffs.

It was bedlam. In a single moment, Lillard transformed from All-Star to something more. A superstar? Maybe. A legend in Portland? For sure.

As his teammates stormed the court, a photo was taken which captured a deadpanned Lillard staring into the lens as his teammates piled on.  

“That was the craziest shot I’ve ever seen in person,” Skal Labissiere told NBC Sports California. “It was great, just the atmosphere and the moment, the magnitude of the moment. It was the last game of the series and being against OKC. It was just a great shot.”

Labissiere’s huge smile lights up the picture. He’s in the upper right hand corner embracing his star guard.

One of the biggest moments of the 2018-19 playoffs and somehow Skal Labissiere makes the picture? This is the NBA life. One moment you can be wasting away on the Sacramento Kings' bench preparing for a 13th straight year without a postseason appearance and the next thing you know, you are in the Western Conference finals.

The 7-footer was dealt at the trade deadline from Sacramento to Portland in a swap for Caleb Swanigan. While he hasn’t found a spot in the rotation quite yet, the Haitian-born big was in desperate need of a career reboot.

Selected by Sacramento with the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Labissiere played 106 games in a Kings uniform before the trade. With the focus shifting to young players like Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles, the 23-year-old center was a spare piece.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Labissiere said of the trade. “Since I’ve been here I’ve been learning a lot from all the veterans here and the coaches. I’ve been learning a lot - the culture, the game, the guys here, they welcomed me with open arms. I’ve gotten a lot better since I’ve been here.”

Labissiere played in just nine games for the Blazers as they fought for playoff positioning down the stretch. In the season finale against his former team, the smooth shooting big dropped in 29 points and 15 rebounds in 41 minutes, reminding the Kings what could have been.

While things didn’t go as planned for Labissiere in Sacramento, he has no ill-will towards the franchise. If anything, he was gracious for the experience.

“Thank you for everything,” Labissiere said of his two-plus years in Sacramento. “Thank you to Vlade (Divac), Vivek (Ranadivé) for taking a chance on me on draft night. Even coach Joerger, giving me a chance to play in my rookie year and after the (DeMarcus Cousins) trade and in my second year in the league, just believing in me and cheering for me.”

Even when he wasn’t playing major minutes, Labissiere said he appreciated the cheers he received from the fans. He’s starting over in Portland with the hopes that he can find a permanent spot in the league.

He’s also getting an incredible experience of playing deep into the playoffs. He’s made three appearances in the postseason so far, but he’s taking it all in and trying to absorb as much as he can from the opportunity.

“This is a first time for everything, so I’m very excited to be here, just getting to experience this, even though I’m not playing a whole lot,” Labissiere said. “I’m still watching and learning how the guys approach every game and just supporting. Hopefully at some point I’ll get out there and be able to help the team, but as of right now, I’m satisfied with just learning and watching from afar.”

There’s a lot you can learn about the game of basketball by sitting back and watching. There is also a lot you can learn by walking into a new environment.

“I could tell when I first got here just the closeness of this group,” Labissiere said. “Everybody is for each other. They all care about winning, no matter what it takes. Whatever they have to do, sacrifice, as far as their roles, they’ll do it just for the betterment of the team.”

[RELATED: Should Suns forward Jackson be trade target for Kings?]

Labissiere has a guaranteed contract next season in Portland and a summer to show that he can fit into the system and be part of the Blazers' family. For now, he’s trying to take it all in and enjoy the ride.

He isn't the only former Kings player still alive in the postseason. Seth Curry, George Hill, Eric Moreland and DeMarcus Cousins are all still playing as the playoffs inch towards the Finals.

NBA draft 2019: Kings to bring in first six prospects for workout

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AP

NBA draft 2019: Kings to bring in first six prospects for workout

The Sacramento Kings don't have a first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, but they do have three second-round picks.

In possession of the No. 40, No. 47 and No. 60 overall selections, the Kings will be looking for lower-level talent -- players that might take a few years to develop.

With that in mind, the Kings have invited six players for a pre-draft workout that will take play Monday, May 20 in Sacramento.

[RELATED: Fox a Most Improved Player finalist]

The Kings' 2019 first-round pick belongs to the Boston Celtics. Back in 2015, Sacramento included the future first-round pick in a salary dump trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. Two years later, the 76ers traded the rights to that pick to the Celtics in order to move up from No. 3 to No. 1 in the 2017 draft to select Markelle Fultz.