Kings

Can Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic bring World Cup stardom back to Sacramento?

Can Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic bring World Cup stardom back to Sacramento?

Serbia finished off their 2019 FIBA World Cup run Saturday morning with a 90-81 victory over the Czech Republic. A fifth-place finish is not what the Serbs were hoping for when they entered the field in China. It was a disappointing showing for a team that came into the tournament with visions of gold.

Losses to perennial international powerhouses in Spain and Argentina proved to be the undoing of Serbia, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort from Sacramento Kings wing Bogdan Bogdanovic. In fact, the 27-year-old has been the talk of the tournament, despite his team’s early exit.

For the tournament, the smooth shooting guard averaged 22.9 points, 4.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 28 minutes per game. During his team’s eight contests, Bogdanovic knocked down 35-of-66 (53 percent) attempts from behind the arc and ran an incredible +100 overall in the plus/minus category.

Bogdanovic was the star of his team and possibly even the MVP of the tournament. He took ownership of his team and put on a show. More importantly for his team back in the NBA, he escaped the tournament without injury and looks ready to take another big step forward in his third season in the league.

It’s possible Bogdanovic will need to take it easy through training camp and the preseason schedule as he recovers not only from the World Cup, but the extreme travel schedule. He’ll fly to Sacramento and then back to India in the first week of October for the Kings’ preseason matchups against the Indiana Pacers.

The Kings have undoubtedly kept a close eye on Bogdanovic throughout the tournament to ensure that he returns to the States in good health, and they have to love what they are seeing on the court. Luke Walton is still learning his players, but like everyone else in Sacramento, he has to wonder if Bogdanovic can translate his international success to another step forward with the Kings.

This is the third straight summer Bogdnaovic has come to the Kings after playing in international competition. His rookie season in the league, Bogdanovic looked worn out early in the year as he adjusted to a new league. In his sophomore season, Bogdanovic missed 11 of the first 12 games after sustaining an injury during the EuroBasket tournament, undergoing knee surgery at the start of camp.

Now fully healthy, Bogdanovic will enter camp competing for minutes in a crowded rotation in Sacramento. The early plan is likely for Bogdanovic to be a key component in the second unit. He’ll have an opportunity to be an offensive leader of the group with veterans like Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza and Nemanja Bjelcia flanking him.

How good can Bogdanovic be? It’s a question the Kings are anxious to learn.

He’s often drawn comparisons to former San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili, who spent years coming off the bench for Gregg Popovich’s club. Like Bogdanovic, Ginobili continued to star in international play as well as with his team in the NBA.

Prior to his third NBA season, a 27-year-old Ginobili led Argentina to a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. That experience appeared to work as a catalyst for the player Ginobili became in the NBA. 

He would go on to make the All-Star team for the first time during the 2004-05 season and he became a vital member of a perennial championship contender in San Antonio.

The Kings can only hope that Bogdanovic will have a similar career trajectory to Ginobili’s. With any luck, his latest experience in World Cup play will give him the confidence to be a more assertive NBA player and to take ownership of the Kings like he has with the Serbian national team.

[RELATED: How Luke Walton could use Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield this year]

Sacramento could use a player that can score at will and makes his teammates better. They have seen flashes of this from Bogdanovic, but they need more.

There is an outline of what Bogdanovic can be. He’s a long way away from a real comparison to Ginobili, but if he can be the player he was for Serbia, he can be a difference-maker for the Kings.

Kings' Buddy Hield blames headband after missing first six 3-pointers

Kings' Buddy Hield blames headband after missing first six 3-pointers

The mental game often can weigh on an athlete's performance. But what if it has to do with a headband?

Kings guard Buddy Hield missed his first six 3-point attempts during Wednesday's 107-99 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. His initial reaction was this ...

Later, after he lost the headband and drilled 2 of his next 5 threes, he admitted to NBC Sports California's Kayte Christensen-Hunter that it was more of a mental issue.

Hield then said it still wasn't an excuse.

Nonetheless, Hield managed to get 20 points by the end of the game. Don't be surprised if you see him without a headband for a while ... or ever.

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are not accepting condolence cards.

Despite an atrocious 0-5 start to the season and major injuries to both forward Marvin Bagley and point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings refuse to give up on the final 70-plus games of the season. The Portland Trail Blazers learned that lesson on Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center.

It took a full 48 minutes, but the Kings staved off the Blazers late to come away with a 107-99 victory in front of an appreciative home crowd.

With two of their top scorers on the shelf, the Kings need more from every member of the rotation. Against a Portland team that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, it was a pair of Serbian national team teammates that came to play.

Nemanja Bjelica was the only Kings player that could find the bottom of the net in the first 8:41 of the first quarter. The 31-year-old forward scored seven of the team’s first eight points, with Richaun Holmes putting in a lone free throw as Sacramento fell behind 18-8 early.

“Bjeli started off well and everybody is staying together as a group and just connecting with each other and supporting each other,” Buddy Hield said.

Bjelica posted his first double-double of the season, finishing the evening with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes.

The veteran big started the game well and then came to the rescue late with a 26-foot three-pointer to give Sacramento an eight-point lead with 2:37 remaining in the fourth.

“Great win, especially in front of our fans,” Bjelica said. “I mean, we’re always talking about is we want to make the playoffs, we need to win every game at home, so it is very important for us.”

Needing a spark to wake up the offense, coach Luke Walton turned to the Kings’ other Serbian-born player, Bogdan Bogdanovic. The third-year wing changed the entire momentum of the game with his defense, scoring ability and playmaking.

Bogdanovic picked up three steals in just under six minutes of play in the first quarter and matched his career-high with four steals on the night.

On the offensive end, Bogdanovic hit Portland with a team-high 25 points, including 15 in the first half while the Kings were struggling to keep up.

“He’s fun to watch, man,” Hield said of Bogdanovic. “Playing with him, he’s such a good passer. He’s a good playmaker and he’s always about team. You see him making shots and scoring, but he’s always a team-first guy.”

With Fox sidelined, Bogdanovic took the reigns of the offense. He finished with 10 assists in 32 minutes of action and during crunch time, he made the right plays when it mattered.

“I think I’m an experienced player and I can adjust to any role here,” Bogdanovic said. “I’m just trying to help the team to get these wins and tonight it was 10 assists. I’m more happy with the win.”

It was Bogdanovic who fed Bjelica for the open three in the fourth. He had another pass to Cory Joseph for a three at the 2:01 mark of the fourth and he found a cutting Harrison Barnes with 1:30 remaining to help seal the win.

Bjelica and Bogdanovic put up the big numbers, but it was a team effort for Sacramento.

Hield struggled with his shot, but still managed to post 20 points on the evening. Barnes went scoreless in the first half but finished with 16 after a strong final 24 minutes. Joseph played solid defense on Damian Lillard and Richaun Holmes chipped in the team’s third double-double with an 11-point, 10-rebound, two-block performance.

[RELATED: What we learned as Kings take down Blazers without Fox]

The Kings have a long road in front of them, but they are playing a better brand of basketball after a tough start and they are starting to show improvements on both ends of the court. With the win, Sacramento is now 4-1 over their previous five games and they’ve climbed to 4-6 on the season.

They’ll have a much tougher test on Friday when they fly to Los Angeles to face LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the 8-2 Lakers.