Five things to watch in Kings' ‘bullies get bullied’ win vs. Pelicans


Five things to watch in Kings' ‘bullies get bullied’ win vs. Pelicans

Programming note: Watch the re-air of the Kings’ victory over the New Orleans Pelicans from Dec. 8, 2017 tonight at 6 PT on NBC Sports California.

With the NBA on shutdown, NBC Sports California has decided to replay some entertaining games from the last few seasons of Kings basketball to quench the thirst of fans.

In our fifth installment, we go back to 2017, when veteran big man Zach Randolph was manning the post surrounded by a stack of rookie and second-year players. It was a defining moment for Randolph during his brief stay in Sacramento and one that will be remembered for a while.

While we know the final outcome of the game, sometimes the details become murky over time. Here are five things to watch from the Kings’ 116-109 come-from-behind win over the New Orleans Pelicans from the Smoothie King Center.

Bullies get bullied ...

Z-Bo wasn’t about to let his young teammates get pushed around.

With the Kings trailing 100-91 with 3:19 remaining in regulation Sacramento’s Frank Mason III attacked the rim and was fouled. When his teammates went to pick him up off the floor, former King DeMarcus Cousins started chirping.

When the two teams lined up for Mason to shoot free throws, the NBC Sports California cameras caught an exchange between Randolph and Cousins that quickly went viral.

“Where we’re from, bullies get bullied,” Randolph first said to the official. Then looking directly at Cousins, Randolph continued, “In my hood, bullies get bullied.”

Randolph put up his best game as a King that evening, finishing with 35 points and 13 rebounds. Cousins posted 38 points and 11 rebounds to lead New Orleans, but he also turned the ball over eight times and lost the game.

Mason shines

The Kings went all-in on blue-chippers during the 2017 NBA Draft. They selected De’Aaron Fox with the No. 5 overall pick and then added Justin Jackson at No. 15 and Harry Giles at No. 20. In the early second round, they went for another big-time NCAA name in Frank Mason.

Mason never quite found his niche in Sacramento, but in this win over the Pelicans, he was clutch. The former Kansas star scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in 26 minutes of play, but 10 of those points came in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Revenge game

Buddy Hield was selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Pelicans, but his tenure in the Big Easy lasted all of 57 games before they sent him to Sacramento as part of the trade for Cousins.

Hield scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as the Kings erased a 10-point deficit. He hit 4-of-5 from behind the arc and chipped in seven rebounds off Dave Joerger’s bench.

Young buck

This was just the 25th game of De’Aaron Fox’s career and his 13th start for Sacramento. He played well, finishing the game with 14 points, four assists and two steals in 36 minutes of action.

While Fox holds his own, it is interesting to watch the Kings’ franchise player as a 19-year-old trying to make his way in the league. He’s bigger, stronger and a lot more confident now.

It’s good to be reminded about how far he’s come in a short period of time.

[RELATED: Reynolds reveals Kings nearly traded for Schrempf in 1993]

How the times have changed

In this game, George Hill started at the shooting guard spot alongside Fox. The starting forwards were Garrett Temple and JaKarr Sampson, with Z-Bo at the five.

Hield, Mason, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Vince Carter, Kosta Koufos and Georgios Papagiannis made up the second unit and two-way big, Jack Cooley was in uniform, but didn’t see any time. Justin Jackson was on assignment to the Reno Bighorns and Harry Giles was redshirting his rookie season.

Two seasons later, the coaching staff is all new and only Fox, Hield, Bogdanovic and Giles remain from this team. By any standard, that is a crazy amount of turnover.

Key Kings dates for NBA draft, free agency, extensions as offseason begins

Key Kings dates for NBA draft, free agency, extensions as offseason begins

The bubble experience is over.

For the 14th consecutive season, the Kings have missed the NBA playoffs. Following Thursday morning’s season finale 136-122 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Kings head directly to the airport and abandon the Disney World campus. That has been their home for the last five weeks and fly home to begin the offseason.

What lies ahead is the unknown. Will the Kings make an adjustment to their front office or coaching staff? Will they be active on the trade front and what do they do with all of their own free agents?

While there are plenty of questions hanging over the franchise, here is a quick rundown of the important dates that are just on the horizon.

Aug. 15-16: NBA play-in game(s).

Aug. 17: Early entry deadline for draft eligible prospects. This is the last day for prospects to enter the NBA Draft.

Aug. 17: NBA playoffs begin from the Orlando bubble.

Aug. 20: NBA Draft Lottery.

The NBA moved the draft lottery up to Aug. 20, which should give teams a window to really dig into the draft portion of the offseason. The league will revert records back to March 11 for the 14 lottery bound teams.

The Kings are currently tied with the Pelicans for the No. 12/13 spot in the lottery. The two teams will have almost the same lottery odds, but a coin flip will be held to determine who gets the higher of the two lottery positions.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Aug. 31: Conference Semifinals begin.

Sept. 15: Conference Finals begin.

Sept. 30: NBA Finals begin.

Oct. 6: Last day to withdraw from the NBA Draft.

Oct. 13: NBA Finals conclude (If Game 7 is necessary).

Oct. 16: NBA Draft.

Oct. 17 (3 PM PT): Final day for player/team options to be exercised.

Oct. 17: Final day for teams to extend Qualifying Offer to eligible players.

Oct. 17: Nemanja Bjelica’s $7.2 million contract with Kings becomes guaranteed.

Oct. 18 (3 PM PT) - NBA Free Agent negotiation period begins.

Oct. 18 - De’Aaron Fox becomes eligible for rookie scale extension.

Oct. 19-23 - NBA Free Agent moratorium period.

Oct. 23 (9 AM PT) - NBA Free Agency officially begins. Players can sign contracts, trades can be completed, offer sheets can be submitted.

Dec. 1 - Start of 2020-21 season. This is a tentative date that is likely to move back, at least a few weeks and as much as a month or two depending on a myriad of coronavirus related concerns.

This is all a whirlwind of action that could still have some adjustments. If the season start date holds at Dec. 1, Media Day will likely happen in the first week of November with training camp starting the next day. Preseason might be condensed slightly to allow teams more recovery time, but then it’s right back to the grind, whether that’s in Orlando or back to home arenas, with or without fans.

Kings facing major decisions now that NBA bubble experience is over

Kings facing major decisions now that NBA bubble experience is over

The bubble has burst. The 2019-20 season is officially over for the Sacramento Kings and 14 other teams. While the Kings didn’t have the success they hoped for in the eight game seeding tournament, matched with the 64 game regular season, we have plenty of information to walk into the summer with.

Most of what we saw wasn’t pretty. The coronavirus took its toll on the Kings roster early, which once again led to a slow start. The team didn’t play defense at all in the bubble. There were chemistry issues, injury issues and an overall malaise as the team got off to a slow start and fell out of contention.

How does it get better? Do the Kings need a total overhaul? Here is a look at some of the pressing issues facing Sacramento as they venture into the offseason.

The Star

If nothing else, the eight game seeding tournament cemented the fact that the Kings were right to build their team around De’Aaron Fox. Through the first six games of the restart, Fox averaged 26.2 points, 7.3 assists and 1.7 steals in 34.7 minutes per game.

This team will go as far as Fox can take them. The focus of the offseason should be to further add pieces that fit with Fox. That means more shooters, more length at the forward positions and a true rim protector.

The Big Question

The mid-season switch from Buddy Hield to Bogdan Bogdanovic at the shooting guard position has set the Kings on a dangerous course. Hield is about to enter the first season of a new 4-year, $86 million deal and his play in the bubble has been nothing short of baffling.

Can the Kings enter next season with Hield as their sixth man making nearly $25 million? Will they look to move Hield for a potential starting level small forward or long term fix at the four? Hield is an elite 3-point shooter and has been a valuable member of the squad, but he makes high-end starter money. All options should be on the table at this point.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Does Someone Pay for Bubble Struggle

Vlade Divac landed his man in the summer of 2019, inking former teammate Luke Walton to a four-year deal to run the Kings. Walton’s first year in Sacramento started off on the wrong foot with an 0-5 start to the season, but the team was playing much better when the season went on hiatus on March 11.

The team’s slow pace and 3-5 record in the bubble creates some issues, but Divac and Walton are a package deal at this point. With the franchise losses in the tens, if not hundreds of millions due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to see the Kings pulling the plug on the pair, but stranger things have happened in Sacramento.

An early prediction would be that Divac and Walton are given another season to fix the situation, but the next 48 hours will be telling. The team finished with a 31-41 record for a win percentage of .430. That equates to a 35-47 record, which is four games off of last season's total under Dave Joerger.

Free Agents Abound

The Kings walk into the offseason with a stack of free agents. Bogdanovic is the lone restricted free agent and the Kings are likely to match any offer he receives in the offseason. The remaining group of Harry Giles, Alex Len, Kent Bazemore, Yogi Ferrell and Corey Brewer are all unrestricted moving forward and can sign with any of the league’s 30 teams.

Expect Bogdanovic back, but the rest of the group is completely up in the air. Bazemore was an impact player for the Kings after joining the squad at the deadline. After Bogdanovic, he should be a priority for the Kings. Len made an impact as well as a big body in the post. If the Kings can retain him on a budget deal, he could provide plenty of depth in the paint. Ferrell has likely played his last game in a Kings uniform after two seasons in Sacramento and Brewer is always an option down the road as veteran depth.

Giles is a tough one. His passing ability and raw potential are intriguing. Does he fit with the roster moving forward? Did the Kings burn a bridge when they didn’t pick up his fourth year option? It’s very likely that Giles has played his last game in a Kings uniform.

[RELATED: How Spurs, Suns can help Kings' lottery chances with bubble victories]

Power Decision

Sacramento has a stack of power forwards, but all come with question marks. The team has until Oct. 17 to guarantee Nemanja Bjelica’s final year at $7.15 million. He’s played extremely well in stretches for the Kings over the last two seasons and his 3-point shooting gives Fox room to run.

Jabari Parker, who joined the Kings at the deadline, has a player option at $6.5 million. Parker has hardly played since coming over from the Hawks, but he’s looked good in limited time in the bubble. Walton has used him primarily at the five in the restart, but if he comes back in good shape, he can easily help out at the four as well.

The Kings also have Marvin Bagley at the four, but after playing just 13 games in his second NBA season with three separate injuries, the team can’t bank on the talented young big. That means they need depth at the positions and then hope that Bagley can stay on the court. There is also a chance that the Kings search for an impact player at the wing, move Harrison Barnes to the four and shift Bagley to the center position full time. There is a lot to consider at this spot.

The Concern

The Kings missed the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season and the league is only getting tougher around them. The Golden State Warriors should be back in the mix for the postseason next year, New Orleans and Phoenix are both improving and the Memphis Grizzlies have a nice young squad as well.

Sacramento has to find a way to improve dramatically over a short period of time. That means that nothing, outside of dealing Fox, should be off the table. They have to take that mindset into the offseason and be aggressive or the team will be in a similar position next summer.