Kings

How Buddy Hield-Kings situation is impacted by Pascal Siakam contract

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USATSI

How Buddy Hield-Kings situation is impacted by Pascal Siakam contract

The Toronto Raptors made a huge commitment to power forward Pascal Siakam on Saturday morning, locking up the 25-year-old big on a four-year, $130 million max money contract. 

Taken with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Siakam is just the fourth first-round pick from the 2016 class to garner an extension.

That’s a lot of money for a player who worked his way through the G League to become an NBA champion, although it’s well deserved. Siakam was an integral part of the Raptors squad, and with Kawhi Leonard bolting for the Clippers in free agency, he is now the centerpiece of Toronto’s title defense.

The Raptors have their man, but what does this mean for Buddy Hield, another 2016 alum, and the Sacramento Kings team he has been playing hardball with over the last two weeks?

Hield has made it his mission to get an extension before the clock strikes 2 p.m. PT on Oct. 21. He wants a four-year, $110 million contract, which he has been aggressive in trying to obtain. He has even taken a step or two out of bounds while trying to plead his case.

When Siakam’s deal was announced, Hield’s camp likely gave a silent fist pump. Another of Hield’s class got paid handsomely for his skills as a basketball player. But when the dust settles, Toronto’s decision might not be in Hield’s favor.

Sure, Siakam got a truckload of cash. That is what Hield is looking for, which he made sure general manager Vlade Divac understood Saturday afternoon at the team’s Fan Fest.

But the reality of Hield’s situation might begin to sink in very soon. Sacramento holds all the cards with regards to the restricted free agent. The Kings are setting their price now, and next summer might not hold any relief for Hield and his negotiating team.

With Toronto paying out Siakam, there are now just four teams with $20 million or more to offer next summer. That number could adjust slightly at the trade deadline, but it could also shrink, especially if the situation in China becomes more of an issue for the NBA.

If Hield is looking at the group of teams with money, Memphis, Atlanta, Charlotte and Cleveland are it. If that is what he wants, he’s taking a substantial step back when it comes to the win column, and that is if one of those teams deems him worthy of a long-term contract offer.

Maybe money is more important than wins, but that is not what the Bahamian-born shooter has spent the last two seasons promoting.

If he decides to hit the free-agent market, he’ll do so with the understanding that the Kings can (and in all likelihood will) match any offer. They’ll also likely get a discount, because any offer comes with a 5 percent raise, instead of the 8 percent that Sacramento can offer. 

Divac is willing to sit down at the table, but he’s playing with a royal flush, and he knows it. He would prefer an amicable conclusion to what has become a debacle. He would prefer to finish this saga by hugging Hield and welcoming him back into the fray with no hurt feelings.

Hield has an out. He can just play out this season and the 2020-21 campaign as well under a $6.5 million qualifying offer. He would then become an unrestricted free agent and the Kings would no longer have a hold over him, outside of his Larry Bird rights.

Hield would also give up anywhere from $16 to 21 million in salary during the 2020-21 season and enter free agency as a 28-, going on 29-year-old free agent. The chance of him recouping his lost wages would be minimal at best, but he could write his own ticket.

[RELATED: Lillard not a fan of Hield's negotiating tactics]

Siakam is a feel-good story. Hield could be as well. Like Siakam, he has made himself into a bonafide player in the NBA by working hard and finding his niche. But finding common ground with the Kings, instead of practicing a scorched-earth policy, might be his path to salvation.

In a Kings season focused on snapping a 13-year playoff drought, Hield’s situation is quickly becoming an unwanted distraction. There is still a chance for an amicable resolution. There is also a chance that he is creating a toxic situation. 

The two sides have a little over 24 hours to work things out. If not, this could drag on into the season and potentially beyond. There is common ground somewhere, and someone needs to find it quickly.

Kings decided to take leap of faith by betting future on young core

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USATSI

Kings decided to take leap of faith by betting future on young core

A season ago, the Kings shocked the NBA when they finished the year 39-43. Las Vegas oddsmakers predicted the team would win 25.5 games. Many around the league thought the win total might be lower than that.

With an increase in wins, expectations are on the rise in Sacramento. The Kings have focused heavily on player development and their young core, but it’s about to get very complex.

“You are grooming young men, young kids actually, into young men, to be better players and better people off the court,” assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic said on the latest edition of the Purple Talk podcast. “At the same time, you are investing a lot of money in them. So there’s a plan for everything in place.”

The team already locked up Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield on two of the richest contracts in team history, but they can’t stop there.

Bogdan Bogdanovic will be a restricted free agent over the summer and De’Aaron Fox is eligible for an extension as well. They can extend Marvin Bagley in the summer of 2021, which would keep the core five together for the long haul.

None of this sounds unreasonable. It’s the dynamics of contracts, player growth and economics in the NBA.

But what if this group for one reason or another isn’t good enough? What if general manager Vlade Divac and his front office team spend the required $120-130 million to see this through and the team plateaus earlier than expected?

The Kings want to keep the young core together, but in order to do so, they are going to have to extend themselves financially into a very uncomfortable place, and ask themselves a very difficult question -- how much can you pay without knowing if you have a playoff-caliber team?

It’s complicated, but the Kings have game planned for multiple scenarios that could play out.

“I think you always prepare for both options - you always have a Plan A or Plan B,” Stojakovic said. “Obviously, every move so far has been strategically made, with the thinking to have flexibility moving forward and also understanding that our young guys, our young core, is going through the period of developing an understanding of what it takes to win, but never putting, economically, this organization in jeopardy.”

In a perfect world, the Kings either would make the playoffs or at least get close this season. There was hope that the franchise would have a measuring stick to predict what might be next.

An 0-5 start complicated this issue, but the Kings have a handful of new players and they are learning an entirely new offense from an entirely new coaching staff.

“We kind of understood going into this season that there was going to be a transition period of having a new coaching staff, having our young guys in different roles, where you are going to expect more from De’Aaron Fox, from Bagley, and it will take some time,” Stojakovic said. “It’s getting slowly there.”

Fox’s role as the team’s starting point guard was beginning to expand. The talented 21-year-old had a breakout second season and looked strong before an ankle injury Monday likely wiped out a huge chunk of the first half of the season.

Bagley didn’t even have a chance to enjoy his time as the Kings' starting power forward. He broke his thumb in the opener and still is a week or two away from a return.

“Unfortunately, injuries are part of our game, but we believe in our group, we believe in what we are doing and good things are going to happen,” Stojakovic added.

Injuries happen. Both players are hard workers and the injuries they sustained are just bad luck. Fox is just 21 years old and Bagley is 20. They both are years away from their prime and have plenty of time to recover from their current bumps and bruises and continue their development.

Is it possible the Kings tread water until Fox and Bagley return? Sure, the Kings aren’t 100 percent reliant on any one player yet and the front office added depth to the roster that wasn’t there in past seasons.

“It’s not a one or two or three guys basketball team, it’s 15 guys on a roster and it’s next man up and it’s next opportunity for someone else to showcase their talent,” Stojakovic said.

This isn’t a short play for the Kings. They are in it for the long haul with what they believe is an intriguing group of young players and they have done their best to put the right support staff around them.

[RELATED: Hield blames headband for missing six 3-pointers]

None of this changes the fact that the Kings will have to continue to make major decisions with regard to this roster long before they are positive they have a winner.

The Kings aren't the first team to face this dilemma and they won’t be the last. They have no choice but to take a leap of faith with this group and stay the course.

Kings have no timetable for De'Aaron Fox's return from ankle sprain

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AP

Kings have no timetable for De'Aaron Fox's return from ankle sprain

Sacramento was hit with a gut punch when MRI results on point guard De’Aaron Fox revealed a Grade 3 ankle sprain that will keep the talented 21-year-old off the court for the foreseeable future. Fox will be re-evaluated in 3-4 weeks, but that time frame isn’t realistic for a return.

Before the Kings ventured to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Friday evening, Fox hobbled out on crutches to speak to the media.

“After I got the MRI and the X-ray, before I got the results, I knew I was going to be out for a while,” Fox said media members. “It wasn’t like any ankle sprain I had before.”

The injury happened at the end of practice Monday. Head coach Luke Walton had the team going through a halfcourt drill and Fox rolled the ankle and limped off the court early.

Initially, Walton and the rest of the team didn’t think much of the injury, until they checked back in with Fox in the training room a little while later. Despite leaving the court on his own, the Kings starting point guard knew something wasn’t right instantly.

“When it happened, I tried to walk and couldn’t walk and I was like, something’s wrong,” Fox told media members in Sacramento on Thursday. “I heard it pop. It happened so quickly that no one saw it until we watched the film and we saw what happened. Things like this happen.”

This is the first major injury for Fox in his career. He started 81 out of 82 games last season for Sacramento and the one game he missed was a decision made by the team after he had logged substantial minutes over a tough stretch in the schedule.

Fox went home Monday and braced for the news, knowing that it wasn’t likely going to be good.

“I kind of expected it, but at the same time, my heart dropped,” Fox said. “I’d never missed time like this. This will be more time than I’ve missed in my first two seasons combined.”

There is no timetable for Fox’s return, although he is not expected to need surgery. A Grade 3 sprain is the most severe of the sprains and includes a full tear of the ligament. Recovery time can take 6-12 weeks and it’s unlikely Fox will see the court again before the new calendar year hits.

“I’m not going to get back out there until I know I can play and I know I’m 100 percent and I’m able to help the team,” Fox said.

“I’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks, it could take six weeks, some players have been out for months, so you never know with a sprained ankle,” Fox added. “I’m just taking it day-by-day and taking my time with it.”

[RELATED: Hield blames headband after missing six threes in Kings' win]

Walton is now tasked with filling the void left by Fox, who is averaging 18.2 points, seven assists and four rebounds in 32 minutes per game this season.

Cory Joseph started in the Kings’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday and likely will continue to get the call with the starting unit. Bogdan Bogdanovic, who led the Kings with 25 points and 10 assists against Portland, likely will play plenty of point guard as well in the coming weeks as the team attempts to survive in Fox’s absence.