Kings anticipating a 'healthy competition' at crowded center position

Kings anticipating a 'healthy competition' at crowded center position

SACRAMENTO — 48 minutes. Three players vying for time.

The Sacramento Kings aggressively chased Dewayne Dedmon on the opening day of free agency to fill the void at their center position. A day later, they continued their spending spree, signing Richaun Holmes to a 2-year, $10 million deal.

Dedmon and Holmes will join second-year big man Harry Giles in what should be a spirited battle for who plays and who sits at the center position.

“We can go with Dedmon who can space the floor for us, which can allow De’Aaron (Fox) to have that funnel right to the paint as often as we need him to,” Walton told NBC Sports California. “We’ve got Holmes, who is one of the most dynamic rollers in-game to play at the five. We have Harry, who is one of the best playmakers on our team from what I can tell from last year.”

Dedmon is the seasoned veteran. He’s bounced around the league over his six seasons in the NBA, but his ability to stretch the floor with the 3-point shot played heavily into the 3-year, $40 million contract he signed with Sacramento.

“Before Atlanta, coach didn’t want me to shoot threes,” Dedmon said during the Kings’ annual media day. “That didn’t stop me from working on it. Just working on craft every summer, every opportunity I had, and when the opportunity came, I was ready for it.”

The former USC star pivot 38.2 percent from long range with the Hawks last season and on paper, he looks like a perfect fit next to power forward Marvin Bagley. He’s also excited about the pace the Kings’ play at.

“This definitely fits my style of play,” Dedmon said of the Kings. “Fast, get up and down, run, it’s going to be fun.”

While Dedmon is known for his ability to shoot from downtown, Homes is a pick-n-roll specialist that loves to finish above the rim. An exceptional athlete, Holmes also posted tremendous defensive statistics last season in Phoenix.

“It’s going to be fun, we’re going to get better, we’re going to push each other every day,” Holmes said. “We’re a deep team and we knew that coming into it. There’s a lot of talented guys and I’m looking forward to throwing my hat in the ring and just getting a chance to compete.”

In addition to the two newcomers, Walton is going to have to evaluate Giles as well. He overcame a series of injuries to play 58 games in his rookie season last year.

“I’m just confident in my game and I know how I play,” Giles said. “I do what I do and I don’t think anybody else does it, so it just depends on what you want for whatever situation it is.”

A favorite of the front office, the former Duke Blue Devil has tons of potential and began to settle into his role with Sacramento last season before a quad injury shut him down late in the season.

Dedmon is the shooter, Holmes is the rim runner and Giles is an enforcer with soft hands and advanced passing skills.

“I think we all just bring different things to the table,” Giles said. “I’m ready to compete. That’s what it’s all about. You’ve got to bring different guys in, it’s the NBA, so it can’t be easy. At the same time, you have to keep it a challenge and you have to have depth too.”

When opening night tips off on Oct. 23, it’s likely one of these players is going to be out of the rotation, at least initially. Both Dedmon and Giles have a history of injuries, so depth at the position is welcome.

With only three days of training camp before the team ventures to India to open the preseason, Walton has his hands full trying to see who deserves time and which player combinations work best.

“Healthy competition, healthy competition,” Walton said. “I’ve been on great teams that are deep and they support each other. You try to go at each other every single day in practice. By doing that, you make the team better, you make yourself better and then at the end of the day, it’s up to me to make the choice on who’s earned those minutes.”

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Walton said position battles will likely run all the way through the preseason schedule and they might even spill into the regular season.

The Kings paid Dedmon big money to be the starter, but he played 25 minutes last season in Atlanta and is likely going to see something similar in Sacramento early in the year. Holmes and Giles will battle for the backup spot, but they are a hungry duo and Walton is going to have a tough time keeping them off the court.

Harrison Barnes places Kings' flameout in Orlando on himself, veterans

Harrison Barnes places Kings' flameout in Orlando on himself, veterans

The team that began the Orlando bubble saying “we want all of that smoke” just learned that smoke usually is accompanied by fire.

At 1-4 in the NBA restart, the Kings have shown they aren’t ready for the fire and they might not be ready for prime time.

“I think it starts with individual accountability, just in terms of the effort we are putting out there on a consistent basis,” veteran Harrison Barnes said following the Kings’ 119-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. “It’s hard to win in this league and to be consistent, you have to do that every single night.”

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The Kings have talent. But rarely is that enough at the NBA level.

You have to play together. You have to play for one another. In the end, you have to bring energy and effort every night or a team of no-names, like the squad the Nets threw on the court Friday, will embarrass you.

It’s a common theme with the Kings. They played a tremendous game in a 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, scoring 49 points in the first quarter

Just over 24 hours later, they looked like a collection of players that had never played together. There was no chemistry. No passing. No rotations on defense.

Just forced and ineffective basketball.

“Frustration is high,” Barnes admitted. “I don’t know if it’s disappointing, but it’s frustrating. Coming into this game, we knew it was more mental than physical. It was meeting force with force. It was being disciplined. It didn’t matter what scheme we had or what game plan we had if we didn’t have any effort.”

Who's to blame for the Kings’ flame out in Orlando? Coach Luke Walton has already drawn plenty of criticism, but at some point the players themselves have to take ownership for the things they can control on the court.

Following the loss to the Nets, Barnes fell on his sword as one of the leaders of the team. He placed the blame on himself and the rest of the veterans.

“I’ll be the first to say it’s definitely on us as veteran players -- guys like myself," Barnes said. "I’ll take responsibility for that because I’ve been to the playoffs, I’ve been to the Finals. I know the energy and effort it takes to win games and if you don’t bring that, you lose.”

“As a group, we have to learn that you can’t just turn it on,” he added.

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The Kings have a choice. They can pout and get their lunch handed to them for the next three games. They can also play spoiler and leave the bubble on as high of a note as possible.

Either way, this isn’t the outcome the Kings were hoping for. They have had a few bright spots, like the play of De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic, so the experience isn’t a total wash. But after five games, any talk of playoffs is over and changes likely are coming during the abbreviated offseason.

Kings takeaways: What you might've missed in 119-106 loss vs. Nets

Kings takeaways: What you might've missed in 119-106 loss vs. Nets


Consistently inconsistent.

After coming away with a huge win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, the Kings failed to show up Friday on the second night of a back-to-back against the completely depleted Brooklyn Nets.

Sacramento looked stagnant on offense and a step slow in its rotations on the defensive end. The result was an embarrassing 119-106 loss that all but extinguished the Kings' remaining playoff hopes.

Here are three takeaways from the Kings getting out-hustled and fell to 1-4 in the Orlando bubble.

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Loud Thud

The Kings came into the restarted NBA season talking a big game. They played well enough to win against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, but couldn’t close out games. Their win over the Pelicans gave folks a glimmer of hope, but blowout losses to the Orlando Magic and Nets were completely unacceptable.

With Friday's loss, Sacramento has completely fallen out of the race for the No. 8 seed and would need a miracle to finish ninth and force a play-in series.

The Kings still have three games remaining in the restart, but general manager Vlade Divac has to take a long look at his roster this summer and make some difficult decisions. Everything outside of trading De’Aaron Fox should be on the table.

Bogi puts up a fight

Bogdan Bogdanovic posted a career-high 35 points in the Kings’ win over the Pelicans, and he was back at it again against the Nets.

One of the few Kings players to stand out, Bogdanovic finished with a team-high 27 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including 4-of-8 on 3-pointers.

A restricted free agent at the end of the season, Bogdanovic has been really solid in four of the Kings’ five games. Unfortunately for Sacramento, it just wasn't enough Friday.

[RELATED: NBA puts money where its mouth is for racial, social justice]

Star still shining

Since the beginning of the restart, De'Aaron Fox has come out aggressive and put on a show. He didn’t match his 27.5 points per game average from the first four games on Friday, but he was effective in his time on the court.

The Kings' starting point guard finished with 21 points and seven assists. There is the outline of a star, but he needs another really strong offseason to take that next step.