Kings

Buddy Hield making tremendous strides both on and off court for Kings

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AP

Buddy Hield making tremendous strides both on and off court for Kings

SACRAMENTO -- He grows on you. With his big smile and thick Bahamian accent, Buddy Hield has arrived this season in so many ways for the Kings.

The third-year guard has impressed on a nightly basis with his ability to score in bunches. He has become an extremely efficient shooter, and very few players in the league put in the overall miles that the former Oklahoma Sooners guard does for the up-tempo Sacramento offense.

Hield has failed to score in double-figures just twice all season and he ranks fourth in the league in 3-point percentage, knocking down a shocking 45.2 percent on 7.6 attempts per game. He's averaging 20.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 31.6 minutes per game this year.

All of those numbers are career-highs.

“You watch him and you just smile, because he loves to play,” coach Dave Joerger said of his budding star at the two. “He loves to make a play and it’s not selfish or greedy in any way, shape or form.”

There are still moments when Hield drives you crazy. At the pace the Kings play, the design is for Hield to get back on defense and not hang around the key looking for boards.

“He runs in for offensive rebounds, which makes me pull my hair out sometimes,” Joerger said following the Kings’ win over the Miami Heat on Friday. “He did that today and won the game for us.”

Sure enough, it was Hield who slashed to the basket, grabbed an errant layup from De’Aaron Fox and laid it in to seal the victory for Sacramento.

Hield is learning that it can’t just be about how many points he scores. If he wants to be part of a winning culture, he has to do whatever it takes. 

Even if that means sacrificing some of his statline or defying his coach on occasion.

“It’s the little things and the little things get me chewed out a lot by Dave too, but I’m going to keep on plucking away and try to find ways to win,” Hield told NBC Sports California. “That’s what you’ve got to do as a basketball team, a basketball player, you’ve got to find ways to win and help your team.”

The light bulb has gone on for Hield both on and off the court. His maturation as a player is stunning, but his change in demeanor is equal to (or greater) than what fans are seeing between the lines.

Following the stunning trades of Iman Shumpert and Justin Jackson last Wednesday, it was Hield who stood in and fielded difficult questions. With a void in leadership, he is one of the players who is ready to step in and take the torch.

“You’ve got to step up, you’ve got to grow,” Hield said. “Shump is not the voice anymore like it use to be. Z-Bo’s (Zach Randolph) not here. Garrett’s (Temple) not here.”

This isn’t the same kid that came to the Kings at the 2017 NBA trade deadline in a swap for big man DeMarcus Cousins. Everything about him feels different.

“Look at me, I’m the one shooting most of the balls, so you know, I have to have something to back it up,” Hield said.  

Those are words that Hield wouldn’t have spoken a year ago. Like so many others that come into the league, Hield was all about his own numbers in his first couple of seasons.

His lack of versatility as a player had plenty within the organization believing he would never be a starting-level shooting guard in the league.

Those concerns are gone. Hield is clearly a starter, and he might even be a lot more than that.  

“You’ve just got to love his spirit and what he brings to our team,” Joerger said. “I can’t say enough good things about [how] the positive far outweighs the negative with him.”

[RELATED: Divac has heart-to-heart with Fox after Kings' trades]

Hield will participate in the 3-point shootout on Saturday as part of NBA All-Star weekend. There’s a good chance it won’t be the last invitation he receives to the NBA’s annual showcase.

While it should be a fun experience, Hield is focused on his team’s chase for a playoff berth, which has evaded the Kings franchise for the last 12 seasons.

Hield knows what the playoffs would mean for his young team, and he also understands that his squad is playing for more than just themselves.

“There’s a lot of pressure. You know why? Because the city hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2005-06 and it would be a joy to get them back there,” Hield said. “It’s a great fanbase and they love it so much. They’re passionate about basketball and it’s a lot of pressure.”

Young players don’t always understand the big picture. In his third season, Hield is starting to see the forest through the trees, which is a refreshing development.

Marvin Bagley continues to showcase star potential in win vs. Mavs

Marvin Bagley continues to showcase star potential in win vs. Mavs

SACRAMENTO -- The Marvin Bagley III era of Sacramento Kings basketball is upon us. He can hit you with a spin move, rise over you for a half hook and on Thursday evening at Golden 1 Center, he starting dropping in 3-pointers.

At 20-years-old, there is no telling where the ceiling is for the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. Since returning from injury, five games ago, he’s been on fire, despite dealing with a minutes restriction.

“It was just a matter of time before I was able to show out and just go out and play,” a confident Bagley said following the Kings’ 116-100 victory. “Play without thinking and just play basketball. Whenever I’m playing like that I just play free and I’m not worried about mistakes.”

For the third straight game, the former Duke star posted 20 points or more for Sacramento, finishing with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He added 12 rebounds four the 14th double-double of his rookie campaign and blocked four shots as well.

Suiting up for the first time against fellow rookie, Luka Doncic, Bagley looked fresh and ready for the challenge. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Doncic looked every bit the part of a rookie who has had to carry the scoring load for his team all season. The Slovenian-born guard finished the night with just 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.

Following the game, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle raved about the Kings’ rookie.

“Bagley is terrific,” Carlisle told reporters following the game. “He’s much improved. Shooting the three consistently, so he’s a big problem.”

While Bagley knocked down the 3-ball at the college level, it was in limited attempts. Since joining the Kings, he’s taken a cautious approach when it comes to hoisting from the perimeter, shooting just 69 3-pointers through his first 51 games.

Tuesday against the Nets, Bagley shot and made two 3-pointers. On Thursday versus the Mavs, he looked confident in his five attempts, hitting a career-best three makes from behind the arc.

“It’s just a progression,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I’ve never told him not to, I’ve asked him that I prefer if the ball comes from inside the line where you’re getting your momentum going forward.”

For Bagley to take the next step in his progression and move into the starting lineup, the Kings need him to at least be a threat from the perimeter. If opposing defenses have to stay with him behind the 3-point line, it keeps the lanes open for De’Aaron Fox to attack the rim.

“He’s a special talent, man,” Buddy Hield said. “Sometime you don’t even run a play for him. He just gets our misses and puts it back in. That’s what comes with a special talent. He’s just going to keep growing and getting better. He’s still not to his potential.”

[RELATED: What we learned from Kings' win over Mavs]

In 10 games since the All-Star break, Bagley is averaging 20.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. He’s quickly living up to the hype and showing improvement at almost every step.

With just 11 games remaining in the season, Bagley would like to end on a high note. The Kings need him to continue to develop his perimeter skills during his first real offseason and build some up his strength for the grueling 82 game NBA schedule.

Kings takeaways: What we learned from bounce-back win over Mavericks

Kings takeaways: What we learned from bounce-back win over Mavericks

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- Needing a win to move on from Tuesday’s epic collapse against the Nets, the Kings played with pace, shared the ball and hit their shots Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks.

Buddy Hield hit his shots, De’Aaron Fox put on the jets and both Marvin Bagley and Willie Cauley-Stein posted doubles to help push the Kings to a 116-100 victory.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings moves within a game of .500 at 35-36 on the season.

Bagley vs. Doncic

The Kings took a beating in the national media when they selected Bagley with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. The rookie big continues to show why he was worthy of the pick.

The 20-year-old power forward struggled with his shot at times, but still managed to notch 22 points on 8-for-16 shooting to go with 12 rebounds and four blocks. He was active on both ends of the floor and made a tremendous impact on the outcome of the game.

Luka Doncic was the player many thought the Kings would select at two. When the Kings passed, Dallas moved up to select the talented guard out of Slovenia. Doncic struggled with his shot, shooting just 4-of-19 from the field to finish with 13 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

While they didn’t match up against each other often, both look like top-level young players.

Returning to form

After failing to break the 20 point mark in three straight games and posting just eight in the Kings’ loss to the Nets on Tuesday, Hield woke up against Dallas.

Sacramento’s leading scorer hit 7-of-13 from long range to finish the night with a team-high 29 points.

Hield is the barometer for this team. When he plays well, the Kings are tough to beat.

Revenge game

Justin Jackson played rotational minutes throughout the first half of the season with the Kings before heading to the Mavericks with Zach Randolph in exchange for Harrison Barnes at the trade deadline.

He returned to his old stomping grounds Thursday evening and looked pumped up against his former team. The 23-year-old wing was active and hit his shots, scoring 19 points on 9-for-16 shooting for Dallas in 32 minutes of action.