Kings

How the Kings can help T'Wolves and themselves in Jimmy Butler trade

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USATSI/AP

How the Kings can help T'Wolves and themselves in Jimmy Butler trade

The Sacramento Kings have positioned themselves well coming into the 2018-19 season. They likely still are a year or two away from competing for a potential playoff spot, but financially, they are doing just fine. In fact, they are the lone NBA team with any type of real salary cap space to speak of right now. 

Over the next few days, rumors will continue to build as the Minnesota Timberwolves work to find a trade partner for disgruntled All-Star Jimmy Butler. It’s very possible that a trade involving Butler also will include the Kings and their $11 million in cap room.

These are treacherous trade waters facing the Kings. What we know is Butler isn’t walking through the Golden 1 Center doors and donning purple and black. 

The 29-year-old wing has given the T-Wolves a list of teams with which he would consider signing a contract extension. The Kings weren't on that list, and they're only mentioned in this deal as a potential third partner to help facilitate the transaction.

Butler certainly fits one of the Kings’ biggest needs and would provide them with a legitimate star, but he doesn’t fit the player arc of the team, and Minnesota is looking for a king-size ransom in any deal. 

The Kings have plenty of young players, but after the Timberwolves ended their long playoff drought last season, they want veteran, star-level players in return with the hopes of salvaging this season. 

The Kings are open to being a partner in a potential deal, not a dumping ground. Sacramento is willing to play ball. Banking cap space was one of the team’s plans once the Bulls matched the offer sheet for Zach LaVine.

Sacramento is in a position of power on the trade market, but what it won’t do is damage its future to help another franchise get better. 

If the deal improves the Kings today and down the road, they have no problems helping out. They’ll want young players and/or draft picks in return for swallowing short-term contracts. 

The Kings also fully understand that a first-round draft pick in the 20’s does very little to move the needle in their rebuild. Taking back a contract like Gorgui Dieng’s three-year, $42 million deal also makes no sense for Sacramento unless it's receiving a bonafide starter that fits the long-term and short-term goals of the team. 

Miami has jumped into the Butler conversation as a potential trade partner. The Heat have a bevy of veterans, and almost all of them are on extremely unfriendly contracts. A deal that lands Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Dion Waiters or Kelly Olynyk in Sacramento should be a non-starter for Vlade Divac and Brandon Williams.

The Heat have a couple of young players who might entice the Kings to listen. Bam Adebayo likely is off the table, and the Kings already have a surplus of bigs. If Josh Richardson, 25, or Justise Winslow, 22, become part of the conversation, Sacramento would have to at least be intrigued. 

In his third NBA season, Richardson posted solid numbers for the Heat, averaging 12.9 points and shooting 37.8 percent from behind the arc. At 6-foot-6, he is considered a small forward and would compete for a starting job with the Kings.

Winslow took a step back in his third season out of Duke, but the 10th overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft is built like a tank and might need a change of scenery to reach his potential. Like Richardson, he plays the wing and would challenge for starter minutes. 

It’s possible that other teams will jump into the conversation and that the Kings still are needed to push the deal through. It’s also possible that the deal gets too expensive for Sacramento and it leaves the other teams involved to figure things out on their own. 

Sacramento has plenty of time to use its cap space. The Kings shouldn’t rush into any deal that doesn’t help the franchise, and they should avoid anything that has the team taking on long-term money for an average NBA player. 

The Kings worked hard to create this opportunity, and this won’t be the last deal that will come along this season needing a third team. If they play their cards right, this is an opportunity for the Kings to improve the talent on the roster. 

Kings positioned well at start of NBA trade season, but will they buy?

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AP

Kings positioned well at start of NBA trade season, but will they buy?

SACRAMENTO -– December 15 is a big day in the NBA. It’s the date that the league’s moratorium is lifted for trading players who were acquired during the previous offseason. It officially kicks off Stage 1 of trade season for the league.

The magic started early, with the Wizards, Suns and Grizzlies engaging in a potential three-way deal that would have sent veteran Trevor Ariza back to the Washington Wizards for a second tour of duty.

After some crazy finger pointing and misinformation, Memphis was removed from the transaction, and Ariza reportedly is on his way to Washington in exchange for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers.

This is the first of many deals that will go down between now and the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline.  

The Kings have gone from a potential salary dump site to possible buyers in what should be an active market. Sacramento is the only team in the league with measurable salary-cap space, sitting roughly $11 million under the cap.

Vlade Divac and his group also have four expiring contracts in Iman Shumpert ($11 million), Zach Randolph ($11.7 million), Kosta Koufos ($8.7 million) and Ben McLemore ($5.5 million). That's nearly $37 million in moveable assets.

Of those four, Shumpert is the only player seeing regular minutes in the rotation. He has been a big part of the Kings' culture this season. According to sources, moving him would be on the bottom of the team’s priority list when it comes to expiring deals.

Koufos has played limited minutes for the Kings this season. He’s the team’s best post defender, but with a glut of bigs, he’s played in just 14 games this season and should have value around the league.

With so many other options at the power forward position, Randolph hasn’t stepped foot on the floor for Sacramento this season, and McLemore has totaled just 41 minutes through 28 games.

Sacramento has little interest in shopping its two free-agent acquisitions from this past offseason. Nemanja Bjelica is starting at power forward and playing major rotational minutes for coach Dave Joerger.

Yogi Ferrell was out of the Kings’ rotation for much of the season, but he’s found himself back in the mix over the last two games and is scheduled to get a 10-game look at the backup point guard spot. He is inexpensive, and the Kings have a team option on the 25-year-old for next season as well.

The list of players who now have become available for trade is lackluster. No one jumps off the page as a “must have” for Sacramento, but Dec. 15 usually starts the barrage of conversations.

According to reports, the Suns might look to find another home for Oubre. He is a restricted free agent following the season and a potential target for the Kings when they walk into the summer with an estimated $60 million in cap space.

[RELATED: Why KD can see Kings attracting big names in NBA free agency]

The Kings like the former Wizards forward and could make an early run at the 23-year-old, which would then give them the option to match any offer for him during the summer.

Sacramento also kicked the tires on James Ennis (Rockets) and Mario Hezonja (Knicks) during free agency last summer.

Ennis was starting until recently when a hamstring injury put him on the shelf. He’s played solid basketball for Houston and isn’t likely to be moved.

Hezonja has been a bust in New York, averaging 7.3 points on 37.6 percent shooting from the field and 29.1 percent from 3-point range.

Neither of these players present an upgrade over what the Kings currently have at small forward.

Sacramento could use a player or two to fortify its rotation. The Kings are off to a very good start to the season at 15-13. They don’t have a first-round draft pick to offer until 2021, but they have multiple second-round selections in each of the next three drafts to sweeten a deal.

Expect the Kings to come up in lots of rumors over the next two months. They’ve positioned themselves well with regards to the cap, and they look like buyers -- not sellers -- for the first time in a while.

Charles Barkley's moving friendship with Lin Wang started in Sacramento

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USATSI

Charles Barkley's moving friendship with Lin Wang started in Sacramento

One of the greatest stories of friendship ever told started four years ago in Sacramento.

Only two people were sitting at the hotel bar. One was Charles Barkley, NBA legend. The other was Lin Wang, a cat litter scientist from Iowa.

Lin, like many people, wanted to say hi and take a picture with Sir Charles. That turned into a lengthy conversation and a dinner, and then meet-ups the next two nights.

Barkley gave Lin his phone number and told him to call if he ever was in New York, Atlanta or Phoenix. And call Lin did.

Lin’s daughter, Shirley, tells the entire beautiful story of her father’s friendship with Barkley on WBUR’s “Only A Game,” and with insight from the Basketball Hall of Famer himself. It includes visits to the TNT “Inside the NBA” set, Lin surprisingly Barkley by attending his mother’s funeral in 2016, and sadly, Lin’s death during the 2018 NBA Finals.

Lin was a Warriors fan, and his funeral was the day after those Finals. Barkley wasn’t about to miss it: He flew to Iowa to say goodbye to his good friend and delivered some touching words.

Barkley later told Shirley Wang: "It gives me great memories and great joy to know that I was a friend of his. Just hearing about him at the funeral — what he had accomplished and what he was trying to help other people accomplish, just made me even — I wished he bragged more about himself."

Barkley added that he was impressed by Lin. The sports world will be impressed – and moved – by this story of two people who, on the surface, couldn’t be more different but became one dynamic duo.