Kings

Kings head into All-Star break in dire need of mental, physical reset

Kings head into All-Star break in dire need of mental, physical reset

The 2019-20 season isn’t over for the Sacramento Kings, but it hasn’t gone how anyone expected. Missteps in free agency, injuries, close losses and Last Two Minute reports have led to a 21-33 record for a team that came into the campaign with high hopes.

Before the Kings headed in different directions for the All-Star break, they had one last game to play. If the final score is any indication, the Kings might have missed the memo.            
                   
“Not how we wanted to go into the break,” head coach Luke Walton told reporters following the 130-111 loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s going to make it tough to enjoy ourselves, but give them credit. They played well.”

Luka Doncic barely missed a triple-double, finishing the night with 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Kristaps Porzingis dropped in a 27-point, 13-rebound double-double as Dallas' two stars took turns pounding on the Kings.

“For some reason, we didn’t feel the need to try to play much defense tonight,” Walton added. “We had a handful of guys that did. We couldn’t stop their top guys, and when we did it just didn’t feel like we had the passion and desire that it takes to win – especially on the road in this league. So that’s a good team and a frustrating loss – well, the loss we can live with, [but] the effort is frustrating.”

The defensive effort was one of the worst of the season for Sacramento. They allowed Dallas to shoot 56.5 percent from the field, including 17-of-40 from long range. The game tape won’t be pretty when the team sits down and dissects the action.
               
“I think we are just giving up dribble penetration too much, guys are getting to the lane and being able to shoot a layup or spread it out for an open three,” De’Aaron Fox told media members. “Obviously, that is something that we would have to address team-wise after the break.”

It’s called a getaway game for a reason. Buddy Hield is off to Chicago to compete in the 3-point shootout at All-Star weekend. The rest of the group will scatter around the globe for some much-needed rest and relaxation before returning for the final 28 games of the season.

The All-Star break is an important respite for the players. For a team like the Kings, who have struggled with consistency all season long, it’s a moment to get a mental and physical break from the game.
                   
“I have needed a few days for a while, but I feel like we have been playing good basketball as of late,” Fox said. “We have dropped the last two but before that, I think that we were playing pretty good basketball – so to each their own as to that.”

[RELATED: Kings' Holmes has labral tear, re-evaluated in 2 to 3 weeks]

Sacramento won’t return to the court until Feb. 20 when they’ll host Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies at Golden 1 Center. Following that game, they’ll hit the road for four games beginning Feb. 22 against Clippers at Staples Center.

The Kings are in no position to have a letdown game where they don’t really compete like the one they just had in Dallas. They walk into the break seven games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies in the standings.

If they have any hope of turning the season around they have to come out of the break with fresh legs and a new mindset.

Kings' Marvin Bagley defends Harrison Barnes over NBA Finals criticism

Kings' Marvin Bagley defends Harrison Barnes over NBA Finals criticism

It wasn’t the greatest performance by any stretch of the imagination.

Harrison Barnes, then the starting small forward for the Warriors, put together a few disastrous outings in the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, particularly in Warriors’ losses in Games 5 and 7.

During the re-air of those games last week on ESPN, Barnes became a Twitter trend due to how many people were criticizing the forward’s performance.

One person who came to his defense was Kings teammate Marvin Bagley.

Barnes went 2-for-14 from the field and scored just five points in that Game 5, and he proceeded to score just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting in Game 7.

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Golden State replaced Barnes with Kevin Durant that offseason, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Barnes spent almost three seasons with the Dallas Mavericks after signing in free agency, before coming over to Sacramento in a midseason trade in 2019. The forward signed a lucrative four-year extension with the Kings in July, and was averaging 14.7 points and 4.8 rebounds prior to the NBA’s coronavirus suspension in March.

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The criticism only added to what was a rough week for Barnes on social media. He also took a beating in the NBA 2K Players Tournament from Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young.

Sports week in coronavirus: Kings step up with facilities, donations

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AP

Sports week in coronavirus: Kings step up with facilities, donations

Editor's note: Each Monday during the coronavirus pandemic, Monte Poole will examine the virus within the scope of the sports world.

Though greater Sacramento was creeping toward 500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Sunday afternoon -- a fraction of the total cases in the more heavily populated Bay Area -- the Kings literally are opening their doors to provide assistance.

The former Arco Arena, hard by I-5 and where the Kings played for 28 years, is being converted to a temporary remote hospital in which it is anticipated about 360 beds will be available to coronavirus and trauma care patients, perhaps early next week.

The Kings didn’t stop there. They then donated their former practice facility, adjacent to the arena in the Natomas area of northwest Sacramento, to be utilized as a surge field hospital.

For their next move, the Kings donated $250,000 to community groups that provide food and other essentials to those in the area that have been afflicted. They’ve also pledged to donate 100,000 masks to state and local agencies.

At the behest of Kings CEO Vivek Ranadive, the team’s COO, Matina Kolokotronis, offered the facilities to Gov. Gavin Newson, who accepted almost immediately.

It took a few weeks for the Kings' franchise to confront the crisis, but this is a massive and very welcome contribution.

Wealthy man donates paychecks

As a finely tuned athlete who has earned a quarter-billion dollars, owns an MVP award, two Cy Young awards and is married to one of the world’s most famous models, Justin Verlander already was the envy of millions of men around the world.

Now he’s climbing another rung of respect. The Astros pitcher has pledged to forward every paycheck he receives during MLB’s shutdown toward relief efforts. With all veteran players receiving $4,775 per day, for at least 60 days, the donation comes to almost $300,000.

The donations will go to a different organization each week in the hope of touching healthcare workers, first responders and those jobless as a result of the global pandemic.

Though Verlander is in the first season of a two-year, $66 million extension signed last year, those funds won’t start coming his way until the games begin.

Though the decision did not shield Verlander from the social-media venom directed at the Astros after their sign-stealing scandal was exposed, his cause is bigger than their snark. Besides, his wife, Kate Upton, is there to comfort him.

Sports Humanitarian of the Week: Kubrat Pulev

Unless you’re a native Bulgarian or a devoted fan of boxing, you might not be familiar with Kubrat Pulev. That’s OK. You don’t have to know him to thank him for donating about 25 percent of his estimated $8 million net worth.

There are plenty of worthy candidates for our weekly honor, but “a split-decision” goes to Pulev because his pledge is as unexpected as it is generous. He’s signed to challenge IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, but the original date, June 20 in London, is postponed because of coronavirus.

Pulev, 38, announced over the weekend that he will donate “50 percent” of the money he earns from the fight, whenever it takes place. He is expected to earn roughly $5 million.

“I will give doctors, nurses and hospitals the necessary equipment to deal with this devilish virus,” he told German newspaper Bild.

On the scale of personal sacrifice, Pulev’s pledge blows away those of anyone else to go public.

Big man, bigger money, biggest donation

Steve Ballmer is the wealthiest team owner in American sports. He’s 16th on the global wealth list. So, it’s reasonable and fair that he would make the largest donation from the sports world.

The man who in 2014 bought the Clippers for $2 billion -- and recently purchased the Inglewood Forum property for $400 million cash -- is the first individual to offer an eight-figure donation: $25 million.

He won’t feel the slightest pinch from his donation, but it’s enough to buy a lot of masks, meals and ventilators.

Power brokers unite

Steph Curry and younger brother Seth are among more than 130 sports figures coming together to raise funds through donating various items to be raffled off under the banner “Athletes for Relief.”

The list of figures -- current athletes, retired athletes, coaches, TV personalities etc. -- is growing each day.

The running total stood at $154,000 late Sunday night, with the most valuable item being a football signed by former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski that fetched $41,375.

Million-mask man

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is wealthy enough to have a Boeing 767 jet at his disposal. In an effort to contribute to the cause, he decided to gas it up.

Kraft sent the team plane to China to pick up 1.2 million N95 masks and bring them to Boston to be distributed to health-care workers in Massachusetts and New York.

Kraft and his son, Jonathan, collaborated with Gov. Charlie Baker to cover the costs. They came to the rescue after Baker expressed his frustrations with the federal government essentially stepping in to reroute equipment initially earmarked for Massachusetts.

As happens so often, the Patriots found a way to win.

Among others standing tall

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie donated $1 million to Penn Medicine for Immunology Defense Fund.

International soccer star Neymar pledged a $1 million donation to fight coronavirus in his native Brazil.

Philadelphia 76ers forward Al Horford pledges $500,000 to cities he has represented from college to the NBA, including Atlanta, Boston and Gainesville, Fla.

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper and his wife, Kayla, are pledging $500,000 to the relief effort.

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, having cleared coronavirus danger zone after testing positive, is donating blood in an effort to aid coronavirus research.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is donating 10,000 N95 masks to the Indiana Department of Health.

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum pledges $170,000 to communities in Portland and Akron-Canton (his home region).

New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole and his wife, Amy, (sister of Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford) are making an undisclosed but “significant” contribution.

Tested positive, in isolation

Former MLB star Jim Edmonds and tennis-player-turned-analyst Patrick McEnroe announced their status via social media.

Sad farewell

Former NFL kicker Tom Dempsey died due to the effects of coronavirus. Born without toes on his right foot, he lasted 11 years in the NFL and his 63-yard field goal -- off a special boot -- stood as a record for 43 years. He was 73.

Items compiled through reporting, research and collected from various sources.