Kings

Kings' Buddy Hield continues to show improvement in breakout season

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AP

Kings' Buddy Hield continues to show improvement in breakout season

The light bulb is going on. In his third NBA season, Buddy Hield is refining his ability to put up points and the Kings are reaping the benefits.

Hield came into the league as a pure scorer. It’s taken time for him to acclimate to the quickness and length of NBA players, but he’s rolling now and coach Dave Joerger is giving him the green light.

After averaging over 21 points per game in both December and January, Hield is finishing strong. He posted 24.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in the month of February and the numbers continue to climb in March.

Although the sample size is small, Hield is averaging 24.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 36.2 minutes through three games in March.

Joerger has slowly increased Hield's minutes and it’s likely that he’ll play even more down the stretch as the Kings attempt to contend for a postseason berth.

There are two key areas where Hield has improved as a scorer. First, Hield is getting to the line and secondly, he continues to hoist 3-pointers at a record-breaking pace.

Last season, Hield shot 81 free throw attempts in 80 games. He had 43 games where he didn’t attempt a single free throw. For a player with elite scoring ability, that is completely unacceptable.

Hield showed improvement through the first four months of the season, but for a player averaging over 20 points per game, the numbers still weren't where they should be.

In the month of January, Hield averaged just 1.2 free throw attempts per game, but that number has jumped in both February and early March. Hield made it to the line for 4.5 attempts in February and he’s already attempted 25 free throws through three games in March.

Hield is 27-for-27 over his last four games for an average of a little less than seven attempts per game and he has a streak of 28 consecutive makes.

While Hield is getting to the rim and drawing fouls in the lane, he’s made the most strides on the perimeter. Over the Kings previous four games, Hield has been fouled shooting a 3-pointer five times.

Hield is looking for the foul. He’s getting his defender out of position and making sure the officials see the contact. In previous seasons, Hield has shied away from contact in these situations, but not anymore.

The former Oklahoma Sooner star can continue to improve in this area. He’s pushed his season average to 2.5 free throws per game, where he’s shooting an outstanding 87.6 percent.

In addition to getting to the line, Hield has become a juggernaut from behind the arc.

He has increased his volume of 3-pointers from 5.1 attempts last year to 7.6 this season, he has also improved his percentage from 43.1 percent to 44.2 percent.

Hield is now on pace to hit nearly 277 3-pointers this season. If he continues at his current clip,  he still has a shot at surpassing Damian Lillard’s NBA record of 599 made 3-pointers through the first three years of his career.

[RELATED: Here's how the Kings still have path to the NBA playoffs]

At 216 3-point makes this season, Hield is just 24 away from the Kings’ franchise record of 240, set by Peja Stojakovic during the 2003-04 season.

Coming into the season, there were questions as to whether Hield had hit his ceiling. Through 64 games, Sacramento’s starting shooting guard has not only crushed expectations; he continues to improve in crucial areas and the numbers suggest there is still room for improvement.

Kings GM Vlade Divac reportedly didn't know of Luke Walton assault accusations

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USATSI

Kings GM Vlade Divac reportedly didn't know of Luke Walton assault accusations

The Sacramento Kings apparently were as surprised as anyone by Monday's reports that coach Luke Walton has been accused of sexual assault. And the team won't make any quick decisions because of it.

The Athletic's Sam Amick cited a source in reporting that Kings general manager Vlade Divac, who hired Walton last week on a four-year contract, didn't know about the accusations before they became public. Amick also reported that "it was too early in this fact-finding process to explore the possibility of terminating Walton’s contract." So, Walton will stay in Sacramento while the facts come out.

The Kings issued this statement after the news broke: "We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time."

Sports broadcaster Kelli Tennant, formerly of Spectrum SportsNet, filed a lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accusing Walton of sexually assaulting her in his Santa Monica hotel room when he was an assistant coach for the Warriors. Tennant also cited further incidents, which the suit called a “pattern of mistreatment,” including when Walton was the Lakers' coach, starting in 2016.

Walton has retained attorney Mark Baute, who represented Minnesota Timberwolves star Derrick Rose in a rape lawsuit in which he was cleared, to defend him in the case.

Walton and the Lakers parted ways on April 12, but the team reportedly was open to keeping the coach. Walton was offered the chance to stay in LA after president Magic Johnson abruptly resigned on April 9, but he was ready to leave for various reasons, Amick reported. Just days later, he had a new job in Sacramento.

Kings coach Luke Walton reportedly sued over alleged sexual assault

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USATSI

Kings coach Luke Walton reportedly sued over alleged sexual assault

Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton is being accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit filed by sports broadcaster Kelli Tennant, according to court documents first obtained Monday by TMZ and confirmed by the Los Angeles Times.

TMZ, which originally reported that the incident occurred in May 2017, later corrected the timing to "sometime before Walton became head coach of the Lakers." The Times' Tania Ganguli reported the alleged assault happened when Walton was a Warriors assistant coach, a position he held from 2014 to 2016 before leaving for LA.

Walton's lawyer denied the allegations against his client in a statement released late Monday night.

"Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations," said Mark Baute, whom the Times noted also represented Minnesota Timberwolves star Derrick Rose in a lawsuit in which he was accused of raping a woman. "The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom."

KCRA-TV's Michelle Dapper tweeted four pages from the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, which outlined Tennant's relationship with Walton and detailed the alleged sexual assault, although it didn't provide the exact date of the incident.

According to the suit, Tennant knew Walton and his wife through the competitive volleyball circuit, as both women played in college. Tennant also worked with Walton when he was a Lakers analyst on Spectrum SportsNet and later covered him when he started coaching. Tennant, according to the suit, received "mentorship and advice" from Walton, whom she viewed as "a trusted colleague, mentor and even friend."

Tennant asked Walton to write the foreword to her book, "The Transition: Every Athlete's Guide to Life After Sports," which he did. The book was published July 8, 2014, just before Walton's first season as a Warriors assistant coach, and she later wanted to give him a copy when he was in Los Angeles for a Warriors-Lakers game.

Tennant met Walton at his Santa Monica hotel, where he told her to park her car so they could "catch up." Tennant did, but she was surprised, the suit says, when Walton went to the elevators to the rooms instead of the lobby, and told her: "It's fine. Come on up. It's me." 

Once in Walton's hotel room, Tennant and Walton talked about the book, his job with the Warriors and their families (Tennant knew Walton was married and had children). Then, the suit alleges, Walton "suddenly and out-of-nowhere" assaulted Tennant, pinning her to the bed, groping her and forcibly kissing her.

Tennant told Walton to stop, but he "laughed at her pleas," the suit alleges. Walton eventually let go, and after being restrained again, Tennant left the room once he finally released his grasp.

Tennant did not report the incident, though "she confided in certain people," the suit says. She also still had to interact with Walton because of her job, and he "would impose him" on Tennant with "with a big hug or kiss," instead of a handshake, according to the document.

Ganguli and ESPN's Ramona Shelburne confirmed via sources that Tennant's allegations never were reported to the Lakers. The team later said in a statement that the incident occurred before Walton was an employee and it indeed wasn't reported to them.

Tennant worked for Spectrum SportsNet in Los Angeles for five years, and covering the Lakers was among her many duties. An August 2018 profile of Tennant in The Press-Enterprise noted she had left Spectrum after the Dodgers' 2017 season ended and "shut down her social media accounts for a few months, and regrouped even as viewers wonder[ed] where she went."

The Times cites a second incident, months before Tennant's departure from the TV network, in the suit. According to the paper, Tennant spoke at a May 24, 2017, charity event in which Walton and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss were honored, and the then-LA coach "made lewd noises and looked at her suggestively before hugging her in an unwanted way." The Times said the suit used that incident as an example of a “pattern of mistreatment.”

[RELATED: Kings reportedly didn't know about accusations against Walton]

The Kings, who hired Walton last weekissued a statement after the news broke: "We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time."

The Warriors also provided a statement: "We became aware of the alleged incident and story this evening and are in the process of seeking more information. We’ll have no further comment at this time."

ESPN cited sources in reporting that the NBA opened an investigation into the case, although the league hasn't officially commented.