Kings

Kings G League team opens inaugural season in Stockton with lively crowd

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Stockton Kings

Kings G League team opens inaugural season in Stockton with lively crowd

STOCKTON -- With the Sacramento Kings cruising through their four-game road trip on the east coast, the team’s G League affiliate opened their inaugural season in Stockton, Calif., Friday evening. 

After spending the last decade as the Reno Bighorns, the Kings relocated their affiliate 40 minutes down the road over the summer and rebranded the team as the Stockton Kings.

All of the team’s brass were in attendance and sitting courtside, including owner Vivek Ranadivé, COO Matina Kolokotronis, president John Reinhart, general manager Vlade Divac and all three of his assistant GMs, Brandon Williams, Ken Catanella and Peja Stojakovic.

Before the game tipped off, Ranadivé joined Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs at center court to welcome in the new crowd. Tubbs, 28, is one of the youngest mayors of a major city in the United States.

Purple towels adorned the seats of the Stockton Arena, that also houses the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League. More than 5,000 fans turned out to watch the Kings take on the Oklahoma City Blues on opening night.

The roster is a mixed bag of veterans, local kids and a few NBA hopefuls. Wenyen Gabriel, one of the team’s two, two-way players, started on the frontline. Troy Williams, the Kings’ second two-way player is currently traveling with the parent club as they prepare to take on the Milwaukee Sunday afternoon.

While the team will play games in Stockton, they are headquartered out of the Kings’ former practice facility on the Arco property in Natomas. The current roster was assembled by general manager, Anthony McClish, as well as Drake U’u, the team’s assistant GM.

The move to Stockton allows for the better synergy between the parent club and the affiliate with players being able to transfer back and forth between the two teams in minutes.

It was a lively evening, but the game didn’t go as planned in the opener. The home team fell by a final of 124-89, but the crowd seemed to enjoy having basketball in their city for the first time.

How Kings' Nemanja Bjelica has filled gaps, according to Zach Lowe

How Kings' Nemanja Bjelica has filled gaps, according to Zach Lowe

Ever since the Kings signed forward Nemanja Bjelica to a three-year, $20.5 million contract in the 2018 offseason, it quietly has been a great deal for Sacramento. 

Bjelica averaged career highs in points (9.6) and rebounds (5.8) for the Kings last season, and he has been ever better in Year 2 with the Kings. 

The 31-year-old is averaging 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over 54 games this season. He also is shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from 3-point range, both career-bests. 

For his ability to give the Kings quality minutes at center, Bjelica landed on Zach Lowe of ESPN's latest "Ten things I like and don't like." 

"The Kings needed something to fill the void after injuries to Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes -- who had been killing it as their starter -- and whatever the hell happened with Dewayne Dedmon," Lowe wrote. "Credit Bjelica for stepping up.

Lowe notes that per Cleaning The Glass, the Kings have outscored opponents by almost 10 points per 100 possessions with Bjelica as a small-ball center. 

Holmes has missed 17 straight contests with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He attempted to return to the court last week but had a setback after one practice. Bagley, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, has only played 13 games this season and isn't sure if he will suit up again this year after aggravating his sprained left foot

[RELATED: Kings' Holmes 'definitely ready to get back' after setback]

The Kings traded Dedmon back to the Atlanta Hawks months after signing him to a three-year, $40 million contract this past offseason. 

In what feels like yet another lost season in Sacramento, Bjelica has been a bright spot the Kings can count on.

Kings' Buddy Hield admits he went out night before 3-Point Contest win

Kings' Buddy Hield admits he went out night before 3-Point Contest win

Buddy Hield played a different kind of "flu game" in his NBA 3-Point Contest win Saturday night. 

The Kings sharpshooter admitted to reporters in Chicago for All-Star Saturday Night that he enjoyed all the Windy City had to offer the night before his victory. 

"I had no routine this morning. I went out last night," Hield said after his down-to-the-wire win over Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker on Saturday. "So I was just chilling. It was All-Star Weekend. You got to have fun, too. So it was cool. I was just relaxing. I came in, and I just locked in."

Hield diligently reported to his 9:15 a.m. CT media availability Saturday morning "clearly hurting," according to The Athletic's Joe Vardon. 

Whatever Hield did to recover between then and the 3-Point Contest worked. Hield posted back-to-back 27-point rounds, nailing each of his last six shots in the first and seven of his last eight as he tried to surpass Booker. 

The 27-year-old needed to make his final shot -- worth two points from his "money ball" rack -- to beat Booker, and he was ice-cold from the left corner. 

"I think I heard the guy on the PA, the announcer, and I had [25 or] something like that," Hield told reporters in Chicago. "I know Devin had 26, so I knew I had to make one more to top him. I was focused. I was locked in on that part."

[RELATED: Hield's dramatic 3-point contest win had fellow Kings hyped]

Hield enjoyed the win Saturday night and what it would mean to people in his hometown, using his press conference to dedicate his win to those affected by Hurricane Dorian. The storm struck his native Bahamas over the summer with sustained winds of over 185 mph, officially killing 70. Over 600 others might have drowned and been washed out to sea, officials said. 

"I dedicate it to them because, like I say, I represent my country to the fullest," Hield said. "When I say that, I really mean it because without my upbringing, I'm nothing. I know what it's like to be in a hurricane. I haven't been in a Category 5, but, no, this goes to them for sure.