Kings

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

The Sacramento Kings are young and lack experience. They have plenty of holes in their roster and they even sat three veterans when they rolled into the Staples Center for a 12:30 start on Sunday afternoon. 

Sacramento also has talent and they play hard. The Clippers just learned the hard way what plenty of other teams already knew - there is no quit in this team.

From start to finish, the Kings played a gritty style of defense. They closed out strong on the Clippers shooters and did their best to quash the alley-oop that Chris Paul is so famous for. Los Angeles coasted through the game assuming that they won before the opening tip. And then Sacramento flipped the table late, shutting the Clippers down in the fourth while riding a 22-3 run to finish the game with a 98-97 come from behind victory.

“I thought the whole game, the guys didn’t lose effort and they deserve it,” veteran point guard Darren Collison told media following the game. “Look at our last couple of weeks, even though the results haven’t been what we want it to be, so many guys that kept fighting, they were able to deserve this win.”

Trailing by 18 at the 5:16 mark of the fourth quarter, this game looked like so many others that we have seen over the last month. Sacramento had fought to stay in the contest, but in the end, the experience of their opponent wins out. But the Kings kept fighting.

“They didn’t lose hope, not one bit,” Collison said. “They kept pulling and pulling and pulling. Eventually they got some big threes, some big shots.”

So many contributed to the victory, but at the 2:19 mark, rookie Buddy Hield knocked down a 3-pointer to draw the Kings within six. Moments later he stole the inbounds pass and dropped in a second straight three in a nine second stretch.

“You just have to stay confident, trust yourself and trust what got you here,” Buddy Hield said.

Through three quarters, Hield had shot just 1-of-7 from the field and looked overwhelmed by the Clippers star players. He came alive in the fourth, hitting 3-of-3 from behind the arc to finish the quarter with 11 points and five rebounds. Hield scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds on the night, showing fans that he is ready to compete in crunch time.

“We kept playing and made some plays and the little things matter,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I’m really proud, it’s like we won Game 1 of the playoffs.”

With their teammates rallying on the court, the Kings bench looked like a cheerleader troup. All they needed was some pom-poms and a lot of eye liner.

Regardless of the record, Sacramento has remained a close knit group. Youth and veterans have meshed well as they forge towards another lottery selection. 

“I’ve been on a lot of teams, some winning teams and the chemistry is not as good as this team,” Collison added. “People don’t understand how hard it is to be in our shoes and come to work every single day with the circumstances that we have dealt with. But to be together still and fun, it shows a lot about this team. I’m real happy to be a part of this team. We’re not winning games, but the way we’re going about our business - we’re losing games together, we’re winning games together.”

Collison went off against his former team, scoring 19 points and handing out four assists in 28 minutes of action. Anthony Tolliver hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range to finish with 15 points and rookie Georgios Papagiannis but up 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and blocked two shots.

With the win, the Kings snapped their four-game losing streak and improve to 28-45 on the season. They play again on Monday when the Memphis Grizzlies drop by the Golden 1 Center on the second night of a road-and-home back-to-back. 

How Vlade Divac, Kings came out ahead in DeMarcus Cousins trade gamble

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AP

How Vlade Divac, Kings came out ahead in DeMarcus Cousins trade gamble

After Vlade Divac surprisingly traded DeMarcus Cousins on Feb. 20, 2017, the Kings general manager famously delivered a prediction.

“I believe we are going to be in a better position in two years,” Divac said. “I want to hear again from these same people in two years. If I’m right, great. If I’m wrong, I’ll step down. But if I go down, I’m going down my way.”

We’ve almost reached that two-year mark, so it’s time to assess the work Divac has done since making the difficult decision to deal away Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package featuring Buddy Hield and a first-round and a second-round draft pick.

The Kings were 24-33 when they traded Cousins, a four-time All-Star who considered the franchise’s cornerstone from the moment he was picked fifth overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. They were just outside of the playoff hunt at the time of the transaction but fell apart down the stretch, struggling to an 8-27 record over the final 35 games to finish with the league’s eighth-worst record.

Hield played well for Sacramento after coming over in the deal, finishing his rookie season by averaging 15.1 points per game in 25 games wearing a Kings uniform. In his third season, the 26-year-old has become one of the league’s best shooters, and he’s averaging more than 20 points per game as the Kings’ starting shooting guard.

New Orleans struggled down the stretch after acquiring Cousins, which worked out perfectly for the Kings. They took the 10th overall selection from the Pelicans and traded it to the Portland Trail Blazers for the 15th and 20th picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.

With the 15th pick, the Kings selected Justin Jackson out of North Carolina. He has become a valuable part of the team’s rotation as a reserve wing, and is showing major improvements in his second season.

Divac selected Harry Giles with the 20th pick, and then redshirted the talented but injured big man in Year 1. Giles has worked himself into the rotation and has high-end potential in the post.

Sacramento also received the 34th pick in the 2017 draft as part of the Cousins trade. It used the selection to take Frank Mason, who has been in and out of the rotation in his first two seasons with the team.

In addition to acquiring Hield, and the picks used on Jackson, Giles and Mason, there was an expected secondary result from the trade. In fact, it was one of the motivations behind it.

[RELATED: Shump explains what makes Fox so special]

The Kings owed a top-10-protected pick to the Chicago Bulls as part of the 2011 trade that sent Omri Casspi to the Cleveland Cavaliers for J.J. Hickson. The transaction hung over Sacramento’s head for years, but 2017 was the final summer that Chicago could receive the pick. If it wasn’t relayed during that season, it converted to a second-round selection.

By falling apart down the stretch without Cousins, the Kings retained the pick. On draft lottery night, Sacramento moved from the eighth spot in the lottery to the third pick, before dropping back to fifth as part of a pick swap with Philadelphia.

With the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, Divac selected De’Aaron Fox out of Kentucky. In his second NBA season, he is the centerpiece of the Kings’ franchise.

Divac gambled, and the early results are shocking. He basically turned Cousins into Hield, Jackson, Giles, Mason and Fox. He went young last season, and that resulted in another lottery selection, which became Marvin Bagley.

In Cousins’ six-plus seasons with the Kings, the team never made it to Jan. 1 with a .500 record. The team currently sits at 23-22 on the season and is in the hunt for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, Cousins is with the two-time defending champion Warriors after leaving the Pelicans, trying to rebuild his value after an Achilles injury cut his 2017-18 season short.

Sacramento did its best to build a team around Cousins, who would’ve been paid upwards of $35 million this season, not the $5 million the Warriors are on the hook for now. Every summer, the Kings focused on bringing in the right fit to match with their star. It never worked out.

[RELATED: Kings' early trade targets before the Feb. 7 deadline]

The rebuild hasn’t been easy. The Kings have made some mistakes, and there were plenty of ups and downs, but Divac has reinvented the team as a young and exciting club with plenty of talent.

He and his staff also have used the cautious approach to the salary cap and have the financial freedom they wouldn’t have had with Cousins in tow. They are walking into the trade deadline with $11 million in cap space and $37 million in expiring contracts.

If Divac and his group take a cautious approach to the deadline, they can walk into the summer with most of their rotation under contract and upwards of $60 million in cap space.

Trading DeMarcus Cousins was about as bold as it gets in the NBA world. Divac put himself on notice with the move, and he’s found a way to come out ahead.

NBA trade deadline 2019: Six early targets for playoff-hungry Kings

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AP

NBA trade deadline 2019: Six early targets for playoff-hungry Kings

The Kings have a wad of cash and it’s burning a hole in their pocket. Armed with $11 million in available cap space and another $37 million in expiring contracts, the Kings are surfing the market looking for long term, as well as short term upgrades.

Sacramento has needs, like every team in the league. High on the priority list is size at the wing and possibly a backup point guard. They are open to adding talent, as long as the move makes sense both now and in the future. 

Here is an early list of players that the Kings have either been linked to in the past or are available on the open market and fit the team’s needs:

VIEW THE TRADE TARGETS HERE