Kings

George Hill will play a major role as he mentors Kings rookies

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USATI

George Hill will play a major role as he mentors Kings rookies

On draft night 2017, the Sacramento Kings tested the old proverb, “patience is a virtue.” Instead of giving up gold to move into the top three of the draft, guaranteeing a shot at selecting De’Aaron Fox, they sat back and let the talented 19-year-old point guard fall to them at the fifth pick.

They backed that selection up by drafting Frank Mason, another point guard, in the early second round. The message was clear - veterans Darren Collison and Ty Lawson were not coming back for the 2017-18 season.

It appeared that Vlade Divac and his group were ready to head into the season with rookies manning one of the most important positions on the floor, and then the team went on a July 4th spending spree. Vince Carter and Zach Randolph were added for veteran leadership at the wing and in the post and George Hill inked a three-year, $57 million deal to stabilize the backcourt.

Hill, 31, has plenty left in the tank. He spent last season with the Utah Jazz, helping the team improve from 40 wins during the 2015-16 season, to 51 wins in 2016-17. He averaged a career-best 16.9 points for coach Quin Snyder while posting 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per game.

The nine-year NBA vet might not see the same type of minutes in his first season in Sacramento, but Dave Joerger is going to give plenty of time to his veterans while the young core finds its sea legs.

Sacramento is very high on Fox. They also know that Mason can play solid minutes in year one, but Hill will play a major role while he mentors the rookies.

Both Fox and Hill can also shift to the shooting guard position for short stints and play alongside each other. The Kings already have plenty of bodies at the two, but Fox’s development will be a high priority as they groom him for the seasons to come.

On the downside, Hill has missed plenty of games over his career, including 33 last season due to toe and groin issues. He’s never played a full 82 games, but in this scenario, that might not be a negative.

Sacramento hedged their bet with Hill, giving themselves a $1 million buyout for year three of the deal. If Fox is ready to take over full-time or Hill begins to decline as a player, the Kings can clear a mountain of cap space off the books for the summer of 2019.

For now, Hill will start at the point and act as a veteran advisor for Fox and Mason. There is no question that he knew what he was buying into when he signed his contract with the Kings. He’ll eat plenty of minutes as the rookies learn the ropes at the NBA level and then he will pass the torch when the time is right.

The Kings have talent, depth and a future at point guard. Minutes will be earned, not handed out, which is the way it should be.

2020 NBA season restart: Teams, format, schedule, location and odds

2020 NBA season restart: Teams, format, schedule, location and odds

Welcome to the unknown.

The Kings and 21 other NBA teams are about to venture down a path of complete uncertainty. Even the all-powerful commissioner Adam Silver has no idea how the league restart in Orlando will fare, but the league has done its best to put safety measures in place.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the United States, basketball is coming back. While the uncertainty is real, we’ll try to keep you updated as best we can. Here are some of the questions that we now know the answer to.

When does the NBA season resume?

The NBA is now ready to restart the season. It all begins July 30 in Orlando on the Disney campus, but Kings fans will have to wait an extra day before seeing their squad take the court.

After nearly four months away, the Kings and Spurs are scheduled to tip off on July 31 at 5 p.m. PT. Over a two week period, the Kings will face a difficult schedule, including two games against the Pelicans, run-ins with both the Mavericks and Rockets and a game against the top-seeded Lakers to close out the season on Aug. 13. 

Once the seeding round concludes on Aug. 14 and the play-in games (if necessary) are finished on Aug. 15-16, the opening round of the playoffs start on Aug. 17. The conference semifinals are scheduled to begin Aug. 31, with the conference finals starting Sept. 15.

The NBA Finals fire up on Sept. 30.

What is the return to play format?

The overall format is the same as a standard regular season, although the NBA made some adjustments to the schedule. Instead of finishing an entire 82 game schedule, teams will play a total of eight games, which will be added to their current standings. 

All 22 teams were allowed to max out their roster at 15 players and bring up to two two-way players as well for a total of 17 players. Teams are also allowed to replace players who are opting out of the NBA bubble. 

The Kings are one of five Western Conference teams chasing the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot -- but there’s a twist.

All 22 teams in the Orlando bubble will play eight regular-season games to finish off the 2019-20 season. If the eighth seed has a four-game lead in the standings, they advance directly to the playoffs, where they’ll face the No. 1 overall seed. If the ninth-place team is within three and a half games, there is a play-in tournament of sorts between the eighth and ninth-place team.

Under the rules for this season, the eighth seed has a double-elimination, while the ninth seed has a single elimination. If No. 8 wins game one, they advance. If No. 9 wins Game 1, they’ll play a second game, with the winner moving on to face the No. 1 overall seed on Aug. 15-16.

All playoff series are scheduled for seven games, with single days of rest between each game.

Which teams will be in the playoffs?

In the Western Conference, the top seven seeds are basically locks to make the playoffs. They can move up and down in the seeding, but it would take a catastrophic finish to the season for the Dallas Mavericks to fall to the No. 8 seed and have to play in the play-in game.

Memphis holds the No. 8 seed when the restart begins. If they had to play out the entire 82 game schedule, their chance of making the playoffs was slim with five teams chasing them for No. 8. But in the abbreviated restart, 3 1/2 games is a lot of ground to make up over an eight-game stretch.

Barring a complete collapse, the Grizzlies will be the team with double elimination for the play-in game(s). Of the remaining teams, the Pelicans have the easiest road to the playoffs, but the Blazers have the additional advantage of being slightly ahead in the standings because they’ve played two additional games.

Sacramento is in the running, but the league’s decision to add the Lakers to the end of their schedule was brutal. San Antonio is a half-game behind the pack, but they are at a disadvantage due to playing one less game on the season and the fact that LaMarcus Aldridge is on the shelf.

Phoenix is two and a half games behind the three teams tied for ninth place and six games back of the Grizzlies. They would need to jump over four teams and make up 2 1/2 games on the Grizzlies to have a shot.

The Eastern Conference is much simpler. Washington trails the Magic by 5 1/2 games and the Nets by six games. Brooklyn is without all of their star power, and will be lucky to crawl to the finish line in 8th place. The Wizards would need a lot of luck to get within 3 1/2 games of No. 8, especially since Davis Bertans decided not to join the bubble.

Coming into the seeding tournament, the Kings face +1200 odds to come away with the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference (meaning a $100 bet would win you $1200). They have three players currently who have tested positive for the coronavirus, but all three are expected to make their way to Orlando

2020 NBA League Schedule

The schedule is pretty simple. All teams play a total of eight games beginning around July 30, which is called the "seeding round." Teams will play every other day, except for one set of back-to-backs.

Sacramento has a 10:30 a.m PT game against the Pelicans on Aug. 6 and a back-to-back against the Nets at 2 p.m. on Aug. 7. In a normal setting, that would be a difficult stretch, but Brooklyn is depleted coming into the tournament.

Following the seeding round, there is a short two-day window for potential play-in games on Aug. 15-16. After the 16 playoff teams are established, the first round of the playoffs begin on Aug. 17.

All rounds remain a best of seven series.

Odds to win the 2020 NBA Championship

The Lakers are favored to win it all, but the swap out of Avery Bradley for J.R. Smith, and the uncertainty surrounding Dwight Howard, makes the chase for a ring close. Oddsmakers have the Bucks slightly behind LA. Sacramento is a middle of the road bet to make it in as an eighth seed, but come in as +50000 to win it all ($100 bet wins you $50,000).  

Lakers +240

Bucks +250

Clippers +333

Rockets +1300

Celtics +2000

Raptors +2200

Nuggets +2500

76ers +2800

Heat +3000

Jazz +3300

Mavericks +4000

Pacers +10000

Thunder +10000

Pelicans +12500

Trail Blazers +15000

Grizzlies +25000

Nets +30000

Magic +30000

Wizards +30000

Suns +50000

Kings +50000

Spurs +50000

Kings' De'Aaron Fox has new hairstyle, same contract extension desire

Kings' De'Aaron Fox has new hairstyle, same contract extension desire

New hairstyle. Same De’Aaron Fox.

When the new “Brady Bunch” version of media availability started Wednesday afternoon, the Kings point guard looked like a new man. Hiding in the top corner of the video conference call window was Fox without his signature spiked hairstyle.

Sorry folks, the spikes are gone for good.

“That was years of doing that, I’m not doing that again,” Fox said.

Not surprisingly, the look was a common topic during the 20-minute session. So much so that the real juice of the conversation was almost missed.

Towards the end of the call, Fox was asked if the season's shutdown as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic had changed his thoughts on his future with the Kings. His answer was music to the ears of both general manager Vlade Divac and Kings fans everywhere.

“It’s all the same, it’s all the same, I don’t think there’s much to say about that,” Fox said. “I see myself being here. I want to be here. Obviously, you know we want to win and right now, I think last year, we put ourselves in a good position. This year, we’re sort of in the same position to still make the playoffs. So that’s what we all want and then continue to take the next step forward.”

Fox is finishing the third of four years on his rookie-scale contract. Following the season, he’ll be eligible for a massive extension that could add as many as five additional years to his remaining season in Sacramento.

The Kings and Fox already have had conversations regarding an extension, according to a league source. There is no word on the specifics, but salary-cap uncertainty due to the pandemic could make things a little crazy.

Sacramento has two “Designated Player” rookie-scale extensions to use. If the Kings choose to extend one to Fox, it would allow them to go beyond the league’s rule of a four-year extension and add a fifth year. With a remaining year on his current deal, that would potentially keep Fox in a Kings uniform for another six seasons beyond this one.

[RELATED: Fox, Kings feel disrespected by national media coverage]

The Kings made Fox the face of the franchise after drafting him No. 5 overall, and he is living up to the hype in his third season. The 22-year-old point guard is averaging 20.4 points, 6.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds in 31.7 minutes per game under coach Luke Walton.

Regardless of his haircut, the Kings would love to keep Fox in the fold as long as possible.