Kings

Buddy Hield is 26, not 25, as Kings guard reveals age incorrectly listed

Buddy Hield is 26, not 25, as Kings guard reveals age incorrectly listed

Buddy Hield celebrated his birthday Monday night in Minnesota. While the game never was in doubt -- the Timberwolves won by 27 -- the Kings guard's actual age became a topic of discussion.

Prior to taking the floor, Hield told the Kings broadcast team of Grant Napear and Doug Christie that he turned 26 years old. Strangely enough, every media outlet has his birthday listed as Dec. 17, 1993, which would make him 25.

Following the Kings’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, Hield explained the discrepancy on a 1-on-1 interview.

“That’s their fault, not my fault,” Hield said when asked why everywhere, including the NBA’s website, has him listed as 25. “The first time I saw it on Wikipedia, my mom said, ‘Why do they have your age wrong?’ I said, ‘I have no idea.’ ”

Born in Freeport, the main city on the island of Grand Bahama, Hield came to the U.S. with identification and, according to the Kings star, all of it has the correct date.

“I came over with a passport,” Hield said. “My passport has 1992 on it. My driver's license has 1992 on it. I just think people got their information from Wikipedia or wherever, and they just went with it. They just got it wrong.”

Hield said he believes the University of Oklahoma, where he played college basketball, had his age correct and that, somewhere along the way, a mistake was made in inputting his age into the NBA’s system. Hield's age and birthdate aren't listed in the Oklahoma men's basketball media guide for the guard's senior season, so it's unclear where an error was made or by whom.

“I gave them [the Kings] my passport, Peja [Stojakovic] and Vlade [Divac] know what age I am,” Hield said. “That’s the only thing that matters.”

When reached for comment, Divac confirmed the team has Hield’s birth year as 1992 -- the same as Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Kings general manager isn't sure where the incorrect date came from, but he's confident the team has the right information.

At 26, Hield is having a breakout season. He's averaging 19.9 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting from the field and 43.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc. In addition to the scoring, he has improved in almost every facet, posting career highs in rebounds (5.0) and assists (2.5) while playing 30.8 minutes per game.

Hield, who actually was 23 when the New Orleans Pelicans took him No. 6 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft amid concerns he'd be "an old rookie," is in the third year of his rookie scale contract. He’ll be eligible for an extension next summer, which at this point, he’s earned. If he signs an extension, it wouldn’t kick in until the 2020-21 season.

Known for his work ethic, Hield doesn’t see an issue with him being a little older than originally thought.

“It might look good for me on my side for me looking younger, but it doesn’t matter,” Hield said. "I’m still going to be me out there on the court. I’m still going to be in shape, no matter what."

[RELATED: Hield's career night vs. Thunder not enough for Kings]

The age discrepancy likely won’t hurt Hield in his next contract, but it certainly will come into play later. Already a four-year college player, Hield's second contract won’t start until he's almost 28.

In comparison, his backcourt mate, De’Aaron Fox, who celebrated his 21st birthday Thursday, is eligible for an extension before he turns 23. Fox has an opportunity to work through an entire second contract before reaching the age that Hield will be when he signs his next deal.

Hield still is part of the Kings’ young core and a valuable member of the squad. He just isn’t quite as young as most people thought.

What Kings have to do to erase early struggles, make NBA playoffs push

What Kings have to do to erase early struggles, make NBA playoffs push

The post mortem on the 2019-20 Kings season isn’t ready to be written just yet, but it's getting late for Luke Walton's team. After a promising season last year, the Kings come out of the All-Star break at 21-33, seven games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Injuries, bad beats, two-minute report failings and playing down to competition have turned the first two-thirds of the season into a woulda, coulda, shoulda kind of year. With 28 games remaining, do the Kings still have a chance to turn the season around?

The short answer is yes, the Kings still have an opportunity to end their 13-season postseason drought. The long answer is more complex.

The Kings open their post-All-Star break schedule at home with a matchup against the Grizzlies. If they can find a way to beat an up-and-coming Memphis team, they would give themselves a glimmer of hope for the remainder of the season.

A loss would put them eight games off the pace, with a 1-2 record against Memphis. Game over.

If the Kings can get past the Grizz, they have a small window to make up ground. They travel to Los Angeles for a game against the Clippers on Friday. The last time the Kings were in Staples Center, they lit the Clippers up for a franchise-record 21 3-pointers in a 124-103 win.

After the trip to LA, the Kings continue their four-game road trip with stops in San Francisco to play the Warriors, Oklahoma City and Memphis. Sacramento is 2-0 against the Warriors and 1-1 versus both the Thunder and Grizzlies on the season.

Following the four-game road trip, the Kings return home to host the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers. At the end of this eight-game stretch, the Kings either will still be breathing or their season will be over.

A 5-3 record over this grouping of games really is the worst the Kings can afford. A 4-4 stint or even a 3-5 record would be a huge blow in one of the last remaining soft spots in the schedule.

Even if the Kings make it through this stretch with a 5-3 record or better, they have a long road in front of them. They play 11 of their final 20 games at home, with eight of those games coming against clubs with a .500 or better record. Ten of those remaining games are against teams currently in the postseason picture.

The schedule is one issue, but in order for Sacramento to make up ground, they also have to pass over additional teams in the standings. The Kings trail the Phoenix Suns by a half-game, the New Orleans Pelicans by a game-and-a-half, the San Antonio Spurs by two games and the Portland Trail Blazers by three games.

In short, the Kings would need to jump over five teams in the standings over the final 28 games to make the playoffs.

The remaining strength of schedule, according to Tankathon.com, favors both the Blazers and the Pelicans in this situation.
Remaining strength of schedule (win percentage of remaining opponents):

Grizzlies            .554
Suns                  .522
Spurs                .488
Kings                 .487
Trail Blazers     .467
Pelicans            .449

Strength of schedule only is one of the issues facing the up and coming Grizzlies. Having one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, Memphis has very few players who have been in this situation before. Jonas Valanciunas has 43 career playoff games under his belt. Kyle Anderson played in 30 postseason games with the Spurs and newly acquired Gorgui Dieng has played in five. Tyus Jones (4) and Grayson Allen (2) round out the team’s total playoff experience.

If the Grizzlies fall, which is entirely possible, that still leaves a bevy of teams standing between the Kings and an elusive postseason berth.

The Blazers made it to the Western Conference finals last season, but they’ve struggled to stay healthy and build momentum all season after a series of roster moves. The Spurs are riding a 22-year postseason streak and they always seem to flourish in the window directly following the All-Star break.

The Pelicans just started integrating top pick Zion Williamson into their rotation and they are 5-5 since his arrival. Phoenix is just 3-7 over its last 10 games and their strength of schedule is difficult.

[RELATED: Buddy's Friday night out didn't slow him in 3-point contest]

Despite losing their final two games heading into the All-Star break, the Kings are 6-4 over their previous 10 games. They’re playing better basketball, keyed by the insertion of Bogdan Bogdanovic in the starting lineup, Buddy Hield finding a rhythm off the bench and the arrival of veteran Kent Bazemore.

The odds are not on the Kings' side, but if they can get healthy, integrate Jabari Parker into the rotation and get on a roll, there still is time to at least make this race interesting. It starts Thursday against the Grizzlies. If they can’t get that one, then none of this matters.

How Kings' Nemanja Bjelica has filled gaps, according to Zach Lowe

How Kings' Nemanja Bjelica has filled gaps, according to Zach Lowe

Ever since the Kings signed forward Nemanja Bjelica to a three-year, $20.5 million contract in the 2018 offseason, it quietly has been a great deal for Sacramento. 

Bjelica averaged career highs in points (9.6) and rebounds (5.8) for the Kings last season, and he has been ever better in Year 2 with the Kings. 

The 31-year-old is averaging 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over 54 games this season. He also is shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from 3-point range, both career-bests. 

For his ability to give the Kings quality minutes at center, Bjelica landed on Zach Lowe of ESPN's latest "Ten things I like and don't like." 

"The Kings needed something to fill the void after injuries to Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes -- who had been killing it as their starter -- and whatever the hell happened with Dewayne Dedmon," Lowe wrote. "Credit Bjelica for stepping up.

Lowe notes that per Cleaning The Glass, the Kings have outscored opponents by almost 10 points per 100 possessions with Bjelica as a small-ball center. 

Holmes has missed 17 straight contests with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He attempted to return to the court last week but had a setback after one practice. Bagley, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, has only played 13 games this season and isn't sure if he will suit up again this year after aggravating his sprained left foot

[RELATED: Kings' Holmes 'definitely ready to get back' after setback]

The Kings traded Dedmon back to the Atlanta Hawks months after signing him to a three-year, $40 million contract this past offseason. 

In what feels like yet another lost season in Sacramento, Bjelica has been a bright spot the Kings can count on.