SACRAMENTO -- They don’t call it a process for nothing. The Sacramento Kings attempted to skip a few steps in the evolution of a young team Sunday night against the Washington Wizards. It didn’t go well.
The decision was made to sit veterans George Hill and Zach Randolph, allowing the duo to rest just six games into an 82-game schedule. The idea was to allow the club’s young players to experience something different. The test went poorly and probably won’t be repeated anytime soon.
“I disagree with the mindset that you go out and do this every night and that’s how you learn to play in the league,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I think competing and competing for minutes and earning and deserving them, which is what we’ve been trying to do, is the best way to learn how to win.”
But with Hill and Randolph both off to slow starts and so many young players needing an opportunity, the Kings went young.
Rookies De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic made their first career starts. Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere have a combined 78 starts under their belt and Willie Cauley-Stein was the seasoned vet with just two full seasons of NBA experience.
The Wizards came in prepared. They jumped all over the young Kings, rattling off 13 straight points before Sacramento could find the bottom of the net in their own gym. They led by 19 at the end of the first quarter and 31 before the half, ending the game before Sacramento could get an ounce of momentum behind them.
“Obviously, we started bad again,” Bogdanovic said following the game. “We’ve got to work on it - better start, better opening to the game. It’s tough when you play against these teams. They are consecutive playoff teams and they play high IQ basketball.”
Washington knows where the Kings are at. It wasn’t that long ago that John Wall and Bradley Beal were a young core struggling to build something. They won 29 games in their first season together during 2012-13 season, which helped yield Otto Porter with the third overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.
The Wizards have built around these three players for the last four seasons, adding pieces when necessary, but with the idea that this is their core. They went 49-33 last season, good enough for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. It’s a model that gives the Kings another possible blueprint to follow.
“We’re still young,” Skal Labissiere said following the Kings 110-83 to the Wizards. “The Wizards basically started like us if you look at it and look at where they are now. It’s just going to take time.”
Joerger took a cautious approach to player development last season and through the first few weeks of the season, it appeared that would be the plan again. But the Kings are off to a slow start and the young players have outshined the veterans. They took a gamble on Sunday and it didn’t pan out.
“You can see the talent here,” Bogdanovic said. “We have many talented guys here. It’s about time and experience.”
Sacramento is in search of a core. Fox and Bogdanovic are showing signs that they are building blocks. Hield, Labissiere and Cauley-Stein have thrown their names in the hat as well. Justin Jackson, Frank Mason, Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis need developing and Harry Giles hasn’t even stepped on the floor. So many young bodies, so few minutes to go around.
There are going to be plenty of nights like Sunday, especially if the Kings try to run before learning how to crawl. Patience is more than a tagline as the Kings start at the beginning.