SACRAMENTO -- Is Buddy Hield back?
The Kings have been waiting for their shooting guard to wake up from his slumber through the first 11 games of the season.
It started in the Kings’ win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday, but he continued the trend in Wednesday’s 132-126 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Hield finished with 26 points on 8-of-18 shooting from long range. While he hasn’t looked like himself, his teammates have confidence that he will snap out of his early season malaise.
“Buddy’s going to come out of any slump he’s in, all he has to do is keep shooting,” Richaun Holmes said. “We have the utmost confidence in him and we wanted to make sure we got him some better screens, get him some more open looks and we’ve been able to do that the last couple of games.”
Despite the loss to Portland, Hield finding his range is an important development for the Kings. The 28-year-old extended his league leading streak to 78 consecutive games with a triple in the first quarter and you could see his confidence building.
“We’re clearly a much more dangerous team when he’s shooting the 3-ball well,” coach Luke Walton said.
On the downside, he missed his final six attempts from 3-point range in the fourth quarter, as the Kings stumbled.
“The game comes down to making shots, I had some good looks and I didn’t make the shots,” Hield said. “Whatever it is, I feel like I have to make those shots that were given to me that were pretty good looks.”
Over his last two games, Hield has now hit 14-of-29 from deep, which has raised his 3-point shooting percentage from 33.7 percent to 37 percent. He’s still below his career average of 40.8 percent, but he’s back on the right path.
Hield is an integral part of what the Kings are trying to do. His ability to stretch the floor opens up everything for his teammates, but when he’s struggling, the Kings’ offense struggles.
“It was great having him out there hitting shots, that’s something we need,” De’Aaron Fox said. “He’s one of the best shooters in the league, so getting him going will always help us and put us in a better position to win.”
Where the Kings need growth from Hield is in his ability to impact the game in other ways. Against Portland, he was active on the defensive end. He also grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists, while failing to register a turnover in 38 minutes of action.
“The teaching point for him would be, let’s play everything else you did tonight -- steady with the ball, zero turnovers, five assists,” coach Luke Walton said. “He played a steady game, which means whether he’s shooting the ball well or not, we’re going to give ourselves a chance.”
Hield has focused on being a more well rounded player. He’s making better decisions as a distributor and he’s even working with Kings defensive coordinator Rex Kalamian to improve on the defensive side of the ball.
“I’m a scorer, I’m going to think score first, but I also know I have teammates and I have to get them the ball too and I also know I’ve got to be better on the defensive end,” Hield said.
Hield is listening to the coaching staff. He even admitted to reading media critiques of his game. He seems to be taking some accountability for his play on the court and he’s working to improve.
This is one of 72 games this season and not only did Hield miss some crucial buckets, but the Kings lost. That doesn’t change the fact that he looked more like himself, which could pay huge dividends for his team in the coming games.