Kings notes: Six players who stood out in preseason win over Maccabi Haifa


Kings notes: Six players who stood out in preseason win over Maccabi Haifa

SACRAMENTO -- You play the team on the schedule. On Monday night at Golden 1 Center, the team standing opposite the Sacramento Kings was Maccabi Haifa, an Israeli squad playing an exhibition game.

The Kings did exactly what was expected of them. They dominated Maccabi, coming away with a 132-100 victory to improve to 2-2 for the preseason.

It wasn’t the greatest display of hoops. Sacramento trailed early and went into the second quarter tied at 25. The team continued to struggle on the defensive end, yielding 100 points for the fourth consecutive game, this time to a professional team from Israel.

The game also wasn’t a disaster. The Kings took care of the ball, shot well from the field and turned over the ball just 12 times as a team despite running a new starting five out on the court.

Here are a few notes from the blowout win:

Buddy got hot

Hield is an electric scorer, but he’d had a quiet first three games. Then Kings coach Dave Joerger moved him back to the second unit against Maccabi Haifa, and Hield looked like a different player.

The third-year guard knocked down 9 of 11 shots from the field and hit all four of his 3-point attempts on his way to 22 points. In addition, he dished out five assists, including a couple of drop passes to his bigs.

With Hield pairing with Yogi Ferrell off the bench, someone is going to have to pass.

Harry and Marv are playing together

Sacramento has a talented young duo of bigs. So far in the preseason, Joerger hasn’t shied away from using rookies Harry Giles III and Marvin Bagley III together.

On Monday, Giles went for 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists and blocked four shots. Bagley countered with 12 points, six rebounds and one block in 18 minutes.

They make mistakes and play out of control at times, but they bring a different feel to the game.

Frank Mason starts, draws praise

Mason, who's likely a placeholder for the injured Bogdan Bogdanovic, picked up a start next to De’Aaron Fox, giving Sacramento an undersized but quick backcourt.

Against Maccabi Haifa, it worked.

Mason finished the evening with 13 points, eight assists and five steals. He over turned the ball only once in 28 minutes and now has a 23-to-3 assist-to-turnover ratio through four preseason games.

“Frank does what Frank does,” Joerger said about Mason. “He’s hard-nosed, and he’s a good guy that the coach always knows he can go to and you’re going to get 110 percent from him.”

Nemanja Bjelica shows something different

When the Kings signed Bjelica to a three-year deal late in the summer, it primarily was for his ability to hit the 3-pointer from the stretch-four position. Against Maccabi, he showed he's more than just a shooter.

The 30-year-old forward out of Serbia scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and grabbed five rebounds in 18 minutes during his Kings debut. He also blocked three shots and showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

“The first couple of minutes weren’t pretty, and I think after that, he was very effective for us,” Joerger said. “He came out of nowhere to block a couple of shots and I did not think he was going to get it. Impressive, team guy, high IQ, spaces the floor and gives out guys room to play.”

Justin Jackson gets it going

Jackson struggled through the first three games of the preseason, but Monday night, he looked like an entirely different player. Maybe it was the competition level or maybe he just came out more aggressively.

The end result was an 18-point, three-assist game in 24 minutes. Jackson shot 7 of 12 from the field and 4 of 8 from long range, and he helped space the floor well by hitting the corner three.

If Jackson can continue this trend, he can add a much needed element at the three.

Numbers game

Sacramento shot 53.1 percent from the field and an impressive 44.8 percent from long range on 29 attempts. The plan to add shooters around Fox and the rest of the guards is paying off early and creating plenty of lanes to run.

The Kings dished out 36 assists and turned over the ball just 12 times as a team. They also hit the hustle board hard, finishing the game with 16 steals, 14 blocks and a 47-36 rebounding advantage.

The numbers look solid, but the talent level of the opponent was not very high.

Kings positioned well at start of NBA trade season, but will they buy?


Kings positioned well at start of NBA trade season, but will they buy?

SACRAMENTO -– December 15 is a big day in the NBA. It’s the date that the league’s moratorium is lifted for trading players who were acquired during the previous offseason. It officially kicks off Stage 1 of trade season for the league.

The magic started early, with the Wizards, Suns and Grizzlies engaging in a potential three-way deal that would have sent veteran Trevor Ariza back to the Washington Wizards for a second tour of duty.

After some crazy finger pointing and misinformation, Memphis was removed from the transaction, and Ariza reportedly is on his way to Washington in exchange for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers.

This is the first of many deals that will go down between now and the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline.  

The Kings have gone from a potential salary dump site to possible buyers in what should be an active market. Sacramento is the only team in the league with measurable salary-cap space, sitting roughly $11 million under the cap.

Vlade Divac and his group also have four expiring contracts in Iman Shumpert ($11 million), Zach Randolph ($11.7 million), Kosta Koufos ($8.7 million) and Ben McLemore ($5.5 million). That's nearly $37 million in moveable assets.

Of those four, Shumpert is the only player seeing regular minutes in the rotation. He has been a big part of the Kings' culture this season. According to sources, moving him would be on the bottom of the team’s priority list when it comes to expiring deals.

Koufos has played limited minutes for the Kings this season. He’s the team’s best post defender, but with a glut of bigs, he’s played in just 14 games this season and should have value around the league.

With so many other options at the power forward position, Randolph hasn’t stepped foot on the floor for Sacramento this season, and McLemore has totaled just 41 minutes through 28 games.

Sacramento has little interest in shopping its two free-agent acquisitions from this past offseason. Nemanja Bjelica is starting at power forward and playing major rotational minutes for coach Dave Joerger.

Yogi Ferrell was out of the Kings’ rotation for much of the season, but he’s found himself back in the mix over the last two games and is scheduled to get a 10-game look at the backup point guard spot. He is inexpensive, and the Kings have a team option on the 25-year-old for next season as well.

The list of players who now have become available for trade is lackluster. No one jumps off the page as a “must have” for Sacramento, but Dec. 15 usually starts the barrage of conversations.

According to reports, the Suns might look to find another home for Oubre. He is a restricted free agent following the season and a potential target for the Kings when they walk into the summer with an estimated $60 million in cap space.

[RELATED: Why KD can see Kings attracting big names in NBA free agency]

The Kings like the former Wizards forward and could make an early run at the 23-year-old, which would then give them the option to match any offer for him during the summer.

Sacramento also kicked the tires on James Ennis (Rockets) and Mario Hezonja (Knicks) during free agency last summer.

Ennis was starting until recently when a hamstring injury put him on the shelf. He’s played solid basketball for Houston and isn’t likely to be moved.

Hezonja has been a bust in New York, averaging 7.3 points on 37.6 percent shooting from the field and 29.1 percent from 3-point range.

Neither of these players present an upgrade over what the Kings currently have at small forward.

Sacramento could use a player or two to fortify its rotation. The Kings are off to a very good start to the season at 15-13. They don’t have a first-round draft pick to offer until 2021, but they have multiple second-round selections in each of the next three drafts to sweeten a deal.

Expect the Kings to come up in lots of rumors over the next two months. They’ve positioned themselves well with regards to the cap, and they look like buyers -- not sellers -- for the first time in a while.

Charles Barkley's moving friendship with Lin Wang started in Sacramento


Charles Barkley's moving friendship with Lin Wang started in Sacramento

One of the greatest stories of friendship ever told started four years ago in Sacramento.

Only two people were sitting at the hotel bar. One was Charles Barkley, NBA legend. The other was Lin Wang, a cat litter scientist from Iowa.

Lin, like many people, wanted to say hi and take a picture with Sir Charles. That turned into a lengthy conversation and a dinner, and then meet-ups the next two nights.

Barkley gave Lin his phone number and told him to call if he ever was in New York, Atlanta or Phoenix. And call Lin did.

Lin’s daughter, Shirley, tells the entire beautiful story of her father’s friendship with Barkley on WBUR’s “Only A Game,” and with insight from the Basketball Hall of Famer himself. It includes visits to the TNT “Inside the NBA” set, Lin surprisingly Barkley by attending his mother’s funeral in 2016, and sadly, Lin’s death during the 2018 NBA Finals.

Lin was a Warriors fan, and his funeral was the day after those Finals. Barkley wasn’t about to miss it: He flew to Iowa to say goodbye to his good friend and delivered some touching words.

Barkley later told Shirley Wang: "It gives me great memories and great joy to know that I was a friend of his. Just hearing about him at the funeral — what he had accomplished and what he was trying to help other people accomplish, just made me even — I wished he bragged more about himself."

Barkley added that he was impressed by Lin. The sports world will be impressed – and moved – by this story of two people who, on the surface, couldn’t be more different but became one dynamic duo.