Kings

Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years'

Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years'

On Jan. 22, the Sacramento Kings were absolutely embarrassed on the road by a less-than-stellar Detroit Pistons team by a final of 127-106. You could tell that changes were coming before the final horn sounded.

That was the sixth straight loss for the Kings and their season looked like it was over.

When the team came out for the next contest in Chicago, Bogdan Bogdanovic had replaced Buddy Hield in the starting lineup and Kent Bazemore became a bigger piece to the rotation.

Acquired just days earlier in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, Bazemore instantly became the high-energy catalyst off the bench the Kings hoped they were getting when they signed Trevor Ariza to a two-year, $25 million contract.

Sacramento responded to the changes in the rotation and finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 13 of its final 20 games.

In 21 total games with the Kings, Bazemore, 31, averaged 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 23.5 minutes per game. He was a disruptive force on the defensive end and his energy on the court was contagious.

A free agent at the end of the season, Bazemore will have plenty of options on the open market. His ability to defend multiple positions and provide an offensive spark when needed earned him a massive four-year, $70 million deal in the summer of 2016.

It’s unlikely that Bazemore comes anywhere near that figure again this offseason, but he believes he has found a new home in Sacramento and this isn't the first time the veteran has voiced that opinion.

“This is definitely a place that I can see myself play for the next couple of years,” Bazemore said during a Zoom call with the media on Friday. “With a team with so much promise, I definitely want to be a part of that.”

General manager Vlade Divac has plenty of decisions to make during the upcoming offseason, but bringing Bazemore back for another tour of duty makes too much sense. He’s still young enough to play substantial minutes and his ability to play both the two and three allows coach Luke Walton to slide Harrison Barnes to power forward for long stretches.

[RELATED: Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500]

The NBA’s salary structure is bound to take a big hit with the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world. Sacramento likely will have to take a wait-and-see approach to the offseason, which includes decisions on free agents Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harry Giles and Alex Len.

In just a quarter of the season, Bazemore has proven his worth and the Kings aren’t done quite yet. Sacramento has eight games remaining to try and earn a shot at the playoffs. If Bazemore hadn’t come along when he did, it’s very unlikely the Kings would be in this position.

Kings' future is uncertain after 14th straight NBA playoff absence

Kings' future is uncertain after 14th straight NBA playoff absence

The writing was on the wall when the Kings dropped an overtime thriller to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. When Sacramento fell flat on their face against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, elimination was just a matter of time.

Before the Kings could get to halftime in Sunday’s matchup against the Houston Rockets, the news hit that the Portland Trail Blazers had officially knocked both Sacramento and the New Orleans Pelicans out of NBA playoff contention.

This is what happens when you don’t come out and play with intensity and force in each and every game. The Kings stumbled out of the gate against a beatable Spurs team to open the NBA restart. They didn’t show up at all in Game 2 against the Orlando Magic.

By the time the Kings found their rhythm in their lone victory against the Pelicans, they were already teetering on the edge of elimination.

Fans are angry over their team’s performance. They have been turning to social media calling for the replacement of both general manager Vlade Divac and head coach Luke Walton.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Is an overhaul in the works? Not the last time we checked in, but that was before a complete collapse in Orlando. 

Divac signed an extension last summer, which coincides with the four-year contract the team signed with Walton. In a normal summer, there would be time to potentially replace both, but this isn’t normal.

The NBA Draft lottery, where the Kings currently sit in 12th place, is set for August 20. Teams will have less than two months to prepare for the Oct. 16 NBA draft, but also free agency, which begins on Oct. 18.  

Teams will have to assemble their rosters on the fly because training camps start in early November for a December 1 2020-21 season start.

In addition to a tight time frame, there is also the issue that the Kings, like every other franchise in the NBA, is hemorrhaging money. It’s not just that fans aren’t allowed in for games. There hasn’t been a concert at Golden 1 Center since March 11. The losses are in the tens, if not, hundreds of millions at this point.

Should the Kings pay out three plus years on both Divac and Walton’s contracts? That’s a heavy question. 

The team was playing very well when the season went on hiatus. While the performance in the bubble has been nothing short of embarrassing, Sacramento isn’t the only team to struggle. 

Can you trust Divac to handle extensions for Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox? Can he retain Kent Bazemore, Alex Len or Harry Giles in free agency? Can he pull off a trade that makes the team better and clears up some of the contract log jam the Kings now created?

Will Walton’s system look better with a regular training camp and his team already understanding not only his terminology, but his playbook after a second year on the job?

[RELATED: Fox developing into star in NBA bubble]

There are no easy answer to these questions, just like there are no quick fixes that magically make this team considerably better between now and December 1. 

Sacramento has chosen a path. Deviating from that path with so little time is a huge gamble. Staying the course might be as well. 

The future is uncertain. The only thing we know for sure is that the Sacramento Kings will miss the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season. 

Kings takeaways: What you might have missed in 129-112 loss to Rockets

Kings takeaways: What you might have missed in 129-112 loss to Rockets

BOX SCORE

With elimination staring them in the face, the Sacramento Kings wilted once again Sunday night in the Orlando bubble.

The Kings were the aggressor early, but once the Rockets started hitting their perimeter shots, it was lights out. 

Led by a career night from Austin Rivers and a typical big game from James Harden, Houston pulled away in the second half to come away with the 129-112 victory.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings couldn’t keep up once again and fall to 1-5 in the Orlando bubble.

Fox finishing strong

Regardless of the final score or the disappointing 14th straight season without an NBA playoff appearance, De’Aaron Fox has been impressive in the bubble.

The third-year guard came into the night averaging 26.2 points and seven assists in the five games in Orlando. Against the Rockets, he managed to lead the Kings with 26 points and nine assists, although it came in another loss.

If the Kings are going to turn the franchise around, their hopes depend on this type of play from Fox for a full 82 games. He has the talent, now he just needs to find consistency.

DaQuan earns a spot

Outside of Fox and maybe the play of Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Kings have looked off. With starters and rotational players underperforming all over the court, rookie two-way player DaQuan Jeffries has taken advantage of the opportunity and likely earned a roster spot for next season.

Built like the Rockets’ P.J. Tucker, the 6-foot-5 Jeffries plays hard every time he steps on the floor and he plays with a force that the Kings desperately need.

With the Kings short-handed, Jeffries played 30 minutes off the bench and finished with a career-high 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting. The rookie out of Tulsa is a restricted free agent heading into the summer and he’s earned a chance to make the opening day roster next season.

[RELATED: Ex-Kings coach Paul Westphal batting cancer]

Benny Mac

Ben McLemore spent two tours of duty with the Kings and was almost out of the league before finding a home as a perimeter shooter for Houston.

Taken by Sacramento with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, McLemore showed his former squad what they were missing. The 27-year-old wing hit 6-for-14 from 3-point range on his way to 20 points as a starter for Houston.

Sometimes a player finds the right fit at the right time in their career. It’s good to see McLemore find success after a rocky couple of years both on and off the court.