Kings

Kings' Jabari Parker ready for Sacramento debut; Alex Len getting closer

Kings' Jabari Parker ready for Sacramento debut; Alex Len getting closer

SACRAMENTO -- With 28 games remaining in the 2019-20 season, the Kings hit the practice court for one last workout before starting the stretch run Thursday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

It was a lively practice, with Bogdan Bogdanovic hitting 90 consecutive free-throw attempts, a couple of new faces hitting the practice facility floor and the reigning 3-point champ speaking to the media.

Here are a few notes and quotes coming out of Wednesday’s practice.

Jabari Parker is ready

After sitting out since Jan. 3 with a shoulder impingement issue, and playing just once since Dec. 23, Parker is confident he’ll play Thursday night when the Kings face the Grizzlies.

“Yeah, I’ve been expecting to play the last couple of games,” Parker said following practice. “Hopefully I’ll get out tomorrow, keep my hopes high.”

Any enthusiasm regarding Parker should be tempered slightly. The 24-year-old forward has played just one game in almost two months. He isn’t in basketball shape and will take time to get up to speed with Sacramento. That doesn’t mean he won’t score the ball, he might just have to be used in short bursts.

“Hopefully just be that guy that can score, be that guy that can create on the offensive end, be uptempo on both sides of the floor,” Parker said, of what Kings fans should expect when he makes his debut.

Alex Len is getting closer

Len fully participated in practice, but he still needs more time before jumping back in the rotation. Acquired along with Parker at the deadline for Dewayne Dedmon, the 7-footer hasn’t played since Jan. 24 due to a strained right hip flexor.

Atlanta updated his condition on Jan. 31, putting him out of action for another 7-10 days. With the Kings short-handed in the post, they could use the former No. 5 overall pick from the 2013 NBA Draft.

"Last night's practice he did full contact, everything else he was in," Walton said. "Today he was a full go and he looked good out there. He was moving well and hopefully, we'll get him back this weekend if not early next week -- depending on how he feels in the morning."

Len is averaging 8.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and .8 blocks in 18.6 minutes per game for the Hawks. The only healthy and available center on the Kings’ roster heading into the stretch run is Harry Giles.

[RELATED: What Kings must do down stretch to make NBA playoff push]

Congrats

While it has nothing to do with the current state of the franchise, a heartfelt congratulations go out to former Kings coach Dave Joerger, who recently exchanged wedding vows with Kimberly Irons in Paso Robles.

Joerger spent three seasons as the Kings' coach from 2016 to 2019, compiling a 98-148 record.

Five things to watch from Marvin Bagley's breakout game vs. Spurs

bagleyusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Five things to watch from Marvin Bagley's breakout game vs. Spurs

Programming note: Watch the re-air of the Kings’ victory over the San Antonio Spurs from Feb. 4, 2019 tonight at 6 p.m. PT on NBC Sports California.

To pass the time while the NBA figures out it’s next moves, NBC Sports California is bringing fans some of the best games from the last few seasons.

In our eighth installment, we go back to last season when the upstart Kings were riding high heading towards the NBA All-Star break. 

While we know the final outcome, sometimes the details become murky over time. Here are five things to watch from the Kings’ 127-112 win over the San Antonio Spurs at Golden 1 Center.

Marvelous Marvin

Marvin Bagley has played in just 13 games this season, so it might be easy for some fans to forget how talented he is. This game is a reminder of the potential hiding in the 21-year-old power forward.

While Bagley already has posted a string of double-doubles, this was his breakout game. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft posted 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go with 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 31 minutes off the bench. 

Bagley came up huge on both ends of the court against veteran LaMarcus Aldridge and his four assists are a career-high. 

Put them away early

The Kings have a bad habit of letting teams stick around in games, but not in this one. Sacramento got off to a fast start, dropping 37 points in the first quarter on the Spurs. 

They let San Antonio back in during the second quarter, but still took a four-point lead into the break. In the third quarter, De’Aaron Fox put on the jets, scoring 11 of his 20 points.

Fox played well enough in the third that coach Dave Joerger needed him for fewer than three minutes in the final frame. 

Yo-Gi ...Fer-rell

In his first season with the Kings, Yogi Ferrell not only played spark plug off the bench, but he became a fan favorite. Against the Spurs, Ferrell was lights out.

Ferrell scored 19 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the field, including four makes from long range, in just 17 minutes off the bench.

Ferrell has seen his role reduced in Year 2 with the addition of Cory Joseph, but he has had a few moments here and there. When the Kings need a bump off the bench, he has the ability to score quickly.

Value the ball

The Kings played at a crazy pace during the 2018-19 season, but that didn’t mean they were sloppy with the ball. This game is a prime example of the team valuing the possession against a solid veteran club. Sacramento turned the ball over just eight times on the evening and posted a 26-to-8 assists to turnover ratio. 

Sacramento was efficient in their offense, shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from behind the arc in the 15-point win.

Listen and subscribe to the Purple Talk Podcast:

Second team blows up

Bagley broke out, Ferrell was perfect from the field and Harry Giles and Bogdan Bogdanovic were solid as well. Overall, the Kings’ second unit was terrific in this game.

The Kings’ reserves dominated the Spurs, coming away with a 60-32 advantage in bench scoring. Those are numbers you would expect to see in a complete blowout, which this was not. 

Sacramento’s bench ranked fifth in the league last season, averaging 42.7 points per game. They were solid all season long, but this game was over the top.

De'Aaron Fox stepping into Kings leadership role as his game grows

De'Aaron Fox stepping into Kings leadership role as his game grows

The talk started before the 2016-17 NBA season ended. While the Kings were gearing up for another early summer, they were already out scouting players and one name continued to come up.

Sacramento was in rebuild mode and they tabbed Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox as their centerpiece long before they jumped to the third pick in the draft and slid back to five due to an earlier trade that didn’t work out as planned.

When Fox fell to the Kings at No. 5, general manager Vlade Divac couldn’t get his selection to commissioner Adam Silver quickly enough. 

In Year 1, Fox looked out of sorts. Long and athletic with elite speed, the 6-foot-3 New Orleans native needed to bulk up and find his confidence at the NBA level.

When he returned to the court before his sophomore season, Fox turned heads in camp. He added 12 to 15 pounds of muscle, but he came into camp with a swagger that wasn’t there just a few months earlier.

The added muscle and moxie helped earn him a top-three finish in the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and gave the Kings a glimmer of hope that they had found a star to build around.

In Year 3, Fox has taken another step forward. He’s averaging a team-high 20.4 points and 6.8 assists. An early-season ankle injury cost him 17 games and also slowed his progress, but since Jan. 1, Fox has been on a tear.

If and when the NBA season returns amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Kings' chances of snapping their 13-year postseason drought likely begin and end with their 22-year-old leader. 

How good can De’Aaron Fox be as a player? 

This is the $150 million question for the Kings, with all likelihood, the team will offer him a five-year, max contract extension later this summer. Fox likely will sign on the dotted line.

And then the real work begins.

The good news for Kings fans is that Fox might be ahead of the curve. In a recent conversation on the Purple Talk podcast, NBA lifer Jerry Reynolds had some thoughts on where Fox’s career path is heading. 

“He’s better in almost every phase of the game, but he knows he’s the leader,” Reynolds said. “He clearly didn’t his first year.”

The Kings brought in veteran George Hill to help tutor Fox in his first season and that didn’t exactly work. Hill struggled with splitting time and the Kings were lucky to get out from underneath his contract midway through the season. 

Last summer, Divac and his group brought in Cory Joseph, a high quality player, but a career reserve, to support Fox. The pair work well together and it has been a much better fit.

“This year, there is no doubt that De’Aaron knows it’s his team, he’s the point guard, he’s supposed to make things happen and he seems to be releshing that role,” Reynolds said. “Having said that, I think he can get better. I would like to see him be even more of a leader -- get on guys a little bit, be a little harder edge to him like a [John] Stockton, like a Chris Paul.”

Fox is developing this aspect of the game. You can see that he has the talent to be one of the best the league has to offer at his position. The question is, can he translate all of that into not only points and rebounds, but wins for his team. 

Developing as an NBA point guard takes time. Very few walk right into the league and instantly dominate in every aspect of the game

Fox is ahead of where players like Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry were at the same point in their careers and right on par with All-Star players like Damian Lillard, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook. He’s even well beyond where Hall of Famers like Stockton, Gary Payton and Steve Nash were through three seasons.

But that doesn’t always point to future success. 

“What does that mean?" Reynolds asked when comparing Fox to players like Curry or Nash. “Well, it doesn’t mean anything actually. It means he’s on the right track and you don’t know where it’s going to go.”

For every player like Lillard, Stockton, Nash and Curry, there are other players who peaked after their third season and for one reason or another never continued to improve, or ever regressed. 

Injuries robbed Derrick Rose of his star potential early in his career. Players like Tyreke Evans and Steve Francis fell apart after success coming into league. Predicting future success or a player’s arc is extremely difficult.

[RELATED: Kings launch 'In this Together' campaign]

“There is no assurance that anyone is always going to keep getting better,” Reynolds said. “That’s what you’re hoping for though.”

Fox has all the talent in the world. That is why the Kings selected him with the No. 5 overall pick and he would probably go even higher than that if the league were to redraft the 2017 NBA Draft. 

With the Kings, he will be given every opportunity to grow into his role. Be it Dave Joerger or Luke Walton, the coaching staff has had a strong grasp that this team will go as far as Fox can take them. 

“The potential is almost unlimited,” Reynolds added. “Here again, that doesn’t mean it will be reached. I’m hopeful, but also, I’ve been to the county fair and realistic that it isn’t always the case.”

There will come a moment when you know what Fox will bring to the table every night as an NBA player. We haven’t really come close to that moment. What year will we see it? Is the player we see now as good as it gets? Only time will tell.

If there is a saving grace for the Kings, they have the opportunity to get it right with Fox. They can bring him along in a way that he can grow into the player they hope he can become.