Kings

Buddy Hield fired up for Bogdan Bogdanovic's big night in World Cup tuneup

buddybogius.jpg
USATSI

Buddy Hield fired up for Bogdan Bogdanovic's big night in World Cup tuneup

With so much focus on De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes and Marvin Bagley trying to make the Team USA roster, it’s often overlooked that the Sacramento Kings have players all over the globe preparing for the FIBA World Cup in China later this month.

Fox and Barnes still are in the running for Team USA and they'll be joined in the tournament by Cory Joseph, who is playing for Team Canada, Isaiah Pineiro who accepted an invitation to play for Puerto Rico and both Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica, who both are part of a powerhouse Serbian national team.

At 4:25 a.m. on Tuesday morning, a video was posted of Bogdanovic dropping a cool 27 points in Serbia’s friendly matchup against Lithuania on Monday evening and it didn’t take long for Buddy Hield to chime in.

Bogdanovic responded to his Kings teammate and of course, Hield never is one to allow someone else to have the last word.

This was the second of two matchups between Serbia and Lithuania this week, with the Serbs taking home victories in both.

Bogdanovic led the way with 18 points and Bjelica chipped 15 in the team’s 72-68 win on Aug. 10. Bogdanovic’s 27 points were tops again in Serbia’s 95-91 win Monday, with Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic chipping in 14.

Serbia is considered one of the favorites to challenge Team USA during the World Cup, although they recently lost Milos Teodosic to injury. In addition to Bogdanovic, Bjelica and Jokic, they also have 7-foot-3 giant Boban Majanovic and 2019 Kings second-round draft pick Vanja Marinkovic on their squad.

"Let’s let [Team USA] play their basketball and we will play ours and if we meet, may God help them," Serbian head coach Sasha Djordjevic said on Serbian National television over the weekend.

Lithuania is stacked as well. They have a big frontline, including the Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis and Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas. In addition, they have Arturas Gudaitis, a 6-foot-10 banger that played for the Kings' summer league team during the 2016-17 season.

[RELATED: Lowry withdraws from Team USA, opens door for Kings' Fox]

Team USA is in Group E with the Czech Republic, Japan and Turkey, so we won't see a Bogdanovic vs. Fox battle early in the tournament. Serbia is part of Group D with Angola, Italy and the Philippines. Team USA opens the tournament against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1, while Serbia and Angola are the first game of the event on Aug. 31.

Kings' Wenyen Gabriel making family proud in road from war-torn Sudan to NBA

Kings' Wenyen Gabriel making family proud in road from war-torn Sudan to NBA

Kings forward Wenyen Gabriel is one of 25 active NBA players who attended the University of Kentucky, but his journey to the league is far from common.

“I’m 100 percent pure-bred, South Sudanese and I take pride in that.”

Gabriel emigrated to Egypt when he was just a year old to escape a brutal civil war, before eventually getting to the U.S. as a refugee through the United Nations. His first name, Wenyen, means “wipe your tears” in Sudanese, and Gabriel takes that message to heart. 

“I’ve kind of taken it on going forward, that I’m going to wipe the tears from my family, wipe the tears from my country.”

Gabriel was also a college teammate of Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, who has been more than impressed by Gabriel throughout his career.

“He’s great, I mean he’s been through a lot, but that’s why he works so hard,” Fox said.

“I met him like our senior year, before we were both committed to Kentucky, and he reached out to me.”

Gabriel went undrafted in 2018 and was signed to a two-way contract by Sacramento, playing in 42 games for the Stockton Kings in the G League. The big man averaged 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

[RELATED: Why Kings' De'Aaron Fox likely walked away from Team USA opportunity]

His game really made waves this summer, as he averaged just over 15 points and seven rebounds in six summer league games, while also shooting 42 percent from three.

Despite the small sample size, an ability to stretch the floor at his size and athleticism will make Gabriel a valuable commodity for a young Kings team looking to make some noise in the Western Conference.

Harrison Barnes all smiles as last Kings player on Team USA roster

shootingbarnesusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Harrison Barnes all smiles as last Kings player on Team USA roster

And then there was one.

Harrison Barnes is the last Kings player left on the Team USA roster after point guard De'Aaron Fox decided to withdraw Saturday, one week after big man Marvin Bagley did the same.

Fox was scheduled to travel with the team this week to Australia for two friendlies, but he’ll now stay home to focus on helping the Kings end their 13-year NBA playoff drought.

Fox's choice was a bit shocking and confusing, considering what he had said in recent days, but in the end, it's the right thing to do based on all the travel that would come along with playing another two weeks until the FIBA World Cup in China.

Barnes, on the other hand, is one of the sage veterans on the team, and it appears he plans to stick it out.

The 13 remaining players on the Team USA roster got together for a photo shoot in Marina del Rey on Saturday, and Barnes was all smiles.

Fox impressed his coaches and teammates during Team USA's training camp, but he never found a consistent role. Barnes, though, started the friendly against Spain on Friday, and finished with two points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.

[RELATED: Why Fox likely decided to leave Team USA]

With the Kings traveling to India for two preseason games in October, Barnes could have three long trips in his future if he also goes to China with Team USA.

Hope you're able to sleep on planes, Harrison.