Kings

Kings have gone young, but haven't given in late in the season

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AP

Kings have gone young, but haven't given in late in the season

SACRAMENTO -- The tank is on. All around the league, teams are shutting it down and making a mockery of the NBA’s stretch run. That’s not the case in Sacramento. They’ve gone young, but they haven’t given in.

Over the last 13 games, the Kings are a game under .500 at 6-7. It’s frustrating for fans who are hoping for a lottery victory for Sacramento, but the Kings are focused on building a culture.

Head coach Dave Joerger has stated plenty of times that there is a spirit to the Kings. A fight that you can see everyday in practice. It’s not lip service.

“It’s been that way, wins and losses, we’re all competitive and want to win,” Joerger said Monday afternoon. “But to come to practice and get better everyday and keep it fresh and do different things, it’s all in the guys and the energy that they bring.”

As the season wanes, the Kings have allowed the media to see more and more of what is happening behind the scenes. Monday afternoon was a prime example of the energy that the Kings are bringing, whether it’s in a game or in practice.

JaKarr Sampson is the player breaking away for the hammer, but he’s not the only one bringing energy to the practice. The team has pulled up their two-way players and rookie redshirt Harry Giles is seeing time on the practice court as well.

“I think both have infectious charisma about them,” Joerger said of Giles and Sampson. “You look at them in the eye and they smile and they’re going to go a hundred miles per hour and try to do what you ask them to do.”

In the final moments of practice, Team White and Team Black were all tied up on Monday. With the clock winding down, De’Aaron Fox made a spectacular pass to Jack Cooley in the post. Cooley went for the win, but both Sampson and Giles attacked the shot.

Following the attempt, players huddled around my iPhone, watching the replay frame by frame to see if the shot hit the glass before Giles made contact or not. Eventually, the shot was ruled a goaltend, which Cooley turned to Twitter to confirm.

This is not normal 74 games into an NBA season. Playoff teams are resting bodies, trying to preserve for the NBA’s second season. Basement dwellers are walking through the motions, maybe even canceling practice late in the year.

Not only are the Kings not shutting it down, they are going at it. Following the session, players sat with assistant coaches to watch film. There is no tank in this club.

24-50 isn’t a good season. But the Kings are building toward something. This is about development and assessing what the team has moving forward. It’s hard not to like what you are seeing.

Source: Kings in recruiting phase with forward Nemanja Bjelica

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USATSI

Source: Kings in recruiting phase with forward Nemanja Bjelica

After a slow start to free agency, a source has confirmed to NBC Sports California that the Kings are in the recruiting phase with unrestricted free agent Nemanja Bjelica. 

No contract has been discussed, but the team is attempting to convince the Serbian forward that there is value in staying in the NBA.

News of potential interest between the parties first broke Wednesday afternoon.

Bjelica agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers on July 5, but he never signed on the dotted line and informed the team earlier this week of his decision to return to Europe this season.

The 6-foot-10 combo forward spent the last three seasons coming off the bench for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He posted 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game under coach Tom Thibodeau, but his opportunities were limited in the T-Wolves' system.

At 30, Bjelica is older than most of the Kings’ recent targets, but he potentially could fill a glaring hole in the roster as a shooter at both the three and the four. Bjelica split his minutes between both forward positions in Minnesota last season, knocking down a career-best 41.5 percent on 2.7 attempts per game from behind the arc. 

There is no word yet on the exact dollar figure offered by the Kings. Sacramento has a whopping $20.5 million in salary-cap space to work with, and the free agent market is nearly dried up. 

While four years older, Bjelica compares favorably as a player to the Spurs’ Davis Bertans, who signed a two-year, $14.5 million contract to return to San Antonio earlier this month as a restricted free agent. 

According to a source, Sacramento likes Bjelica’s versatility and believes he can eat minutes at small forward this season, as well as shifting over to play the four.

It will be a surprise if Ben McLemore or Deyonta Davis actually wear a Kings uniform

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AP

It will be a surprise if Ben McLemore or Deyonta Davis actually wear a Kings uniform

We have a trade. Garrett Temple is on his way to the Memphis Grizzlies. In return, the Sacramento Kings receive former King Ben McLemore, along with big man Deyonta Davis, cash considerations and a 2021 second round draft pick.

Temple opted in to the final year of his 3-year, $24 million deal in late June and was due $8 million this season. Lost in the shuffle of young players at shooting guard, Sacramento made it clear to the 32-year-old wing that he was not part of the plan for the 2018-19 season before he picked up his option.

Known for his work in the community and presence in the locker room, the eight-year NBA veteran posted 8.4 points on 39.2 percent shooting from long range in 65 games last season in Sacramento. 

After being drafted with the seventh overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft by Sacramento, McLemore spent the first four seasons of his career in a Kings uniform. He signed a two-year deal with the Grizzlies last season and will make $5.4 million this season. 

Davis struggled to find court time with the Grizzlies in his first two seasons out of Michigan State. The 6-foot-11, 237 pound center has potential, but he’ll join a crowded frontcourt in Sacramento. He averaged 5.8 points and four rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game in his sophomore season in Memphis. 

Why Temple?

Sacramento has struggled to find strong veteran leadership over the last decade, but Temple fit the bill. After working his way into the league on 10-day contracts and trips overseas, the LSU grad seemed to find a home with the Kings.

But the emergence of shooting guards Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield made Temple the odd man out in the rotation this season. The Kings were able to break his contract up into smaller pieces in this deal, which opens the door for more transactions. 

In a perfect world, the Kings may have looked to move Iman Shumpert instead of Temple, but his injury history and $11.4 million contract for this season is a tough sell in a cash strapped market.

Why McLemore and Davis?

It’s hard to see either of these players sticking around for very long. McLemore struggled to find playing time in his final two seasons in Sacramento and that’s before they had emerging players at his position. It’s unlikely he’ll get another shot at competing for minutes. He makes $5.4 million this season, which can be bought out and either stretched over three years to open more space or paid out in one lump sum this season.  

Davis is owed $1.5 million this season, making him an affordable reserve option if the Kings choose to keep him around. He’s on the final year of his rookie contract and is a restricted free agent after this season.

What’s next?

The Kings saved roughly $1 million in cap space with the deal, pushing their available total to approximately $20.5 million. 

This deal was more about adding another second round pick and clearing Temple’s $8 million off the books, while finding the veteran a soft landing spot. While the team has yet make their plans known, it would be a surprise to see either McLemore or Davis in a Kings uniform this season.