Kings

Kings set new goal of finishing season over .500, with playoff hopes over

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USATSI

Kings set new goal of finishing season over .500, with playoff hopes over

DALLAS -- Nothing to lose for. It’s an odd statement, but the Sacramento Kings know it’s meaning. Without a 2019 draft pick, there is no incentive for the Kings to drop games down the stretch like a few teams are doing around this time of year.

Sacramento had that incentive last season. Needing more talent on the roster, they easily could have waved the white flag down the stretch with the hopes of improving their draft stock.

Instead, a decision was made to value winning with the pretense that it might help set the stage for a cultural shift in the 2018-19 season. Over the final 20 games of last season, the Kings finished 9-11.

The basketball gods shined brightly down on the Kings for their efforts. Sacramento moved from the eighth spot in the lottery to the second overall selection where they drafted Marvin Bagley III.

After a quick start to this season, the upstart Kings set their sights on breaking the franchise’s 12-year playoff drought. They were in the race until a few weeks ago when a series of setbacks, in conjunction with some strong play from both the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs, ended Sacramento’s hopes.

Since the All-Star break, the Kings are just 6-10. They’ve had some stumbles against less than stellar opponents and the weight of the playoff chase, mixed with the frustration of falling short, has put the team in a bad place.

“Guys don’t like losing, I don’t think as a competitor anyone would like losing,” De’Aaron Fox told NBC Sports California. “We’re still coming out playing the way we play and just trying to continue to get better, grow through every game and just try to take the momentum into next season.”

With nine games remaining on the schedule, Sacramento has two choices. They can let the events of the last few weeks push them down a path of self-pity or they can show the resilience that they displayed last year which helped set them up for a surprising season.

There was a common theme amongst the players when they were asked how they would like to finish the season, despite coming up empty on their playoff dreams.

“We’ve got to finish the season in a good way and try to be over .500,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said Tuesday following shootaround in Dallas. “That’s our main goal right now.”

“I would like to finish over .500,” Buddy Hield added. “Whether it’s two games, three games, even one game. That belief that we can win over 40 games and show that the franchise is moving in the right direction.”

“It’s been a long time since the Kings have had a winning record and that’s what we’re shooting for right now,” said Fox.

41-41 is just a number at this point, but it’s a mark Sacramento hasn’t seen since the 2005-06 season, coach Rick Adelman’s final season with the club.

A look at the schedule has the Kings with five or six more winnable games. At 36-37, they’ll need to go 5-4 to finish at 41-41.

One things is clear, the Kings aren’t satisfied with how this season is ending, even if it was unexpected from the outside. No one else in the league had them anywhere near this record coming into the year. Even Vegas had them winning just over 25 games.

“We’re trying to keep going beyond the expectations that people had for us this year and just trying to get as many wins as possible and get better,” Fox said.

One of the goals coming in was to surpass last season’s win total by 5-10 games. The Kings are one victory away from the 10 game improvement mark of 37.

“It’s better than last year, but still, it’s that taste inside of you which is not good when you don’t make the playoffs and finish the season early,” Bogdanovic said. “It’s okay. We are still a young group and we are on our way.”

The expectations are rising and it starts with shaking off the disappointment of falling short and keeping the train on the tracks to conclude the season.

“We’ve got to finish strong and end the season on a good note so everybody, from the coaching staff, management and fans can have something to look forward to next season,” Hield said.

[RELATED: Kings passing on Doncic spoke volumes on trust in Fox]

After a disappointing loss to the Lakers Sunday in LA, the Kings need a bounce back game against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday evening to get back to the .500 mark on the season. They beat this team less than a week ago at Golden 1 Center, but winning on the road is never easy.

Success at the NBA is typically a process. The Kings jump started their progression with a strong showing to finish last season. A repeat of those results might set them up for even more success in next year.

Harrison Barnes all smiles as last Kings player on Team USA roster

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USATSI

Harrison Barnes all smiles as last Kings player on Team USA roster

And then there was one.

Harrison Barnes is the last Kings player left on the Team USA roster after point guard De'Aaron Fox decided to withdraw Saturday, one week after big man Marvin Bagley did the same.

Fox was scheduled to travel with the team this week to Australia for two friendlies, but he’ll now stay home to focus on helping the Kings end their 13-year NBA playoff drought.

Fox's choice was a bit shocking and confusing, considering what he had said in recent days, but in the end, it's the right thing to do based on all the travel that would come along with playing another two weeks until the FIBA World Cup in China.

Barnes, on the other hand, is one of the sage veterans on the team, and it appears he plans to stick it out.

The 13 remaining players on the Team USA roster got together for a photo shoot in Marina del Rey on Saturday, and Barnes was all smiles.

Fox impressed his coaches and teammates during Team USA's training camp, but he never found a consistent role. Barnes, though, started the friendly against Spain on Friday, and finished with two points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.

[RELATED: Why Fox likely decided to leave Team USA]

With the Kings traveling to India for two preseason games in October, Barnes could have three long trips in his future if he also goes to China with Team USA.

Hope you're able to sleep on planes, Harrison.

Why Kings' De'Aaron Fox likely walked away from Team USA opportunity

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Why Kings' De'Aaron Fox likely walked away from Team USA opportunity

After two weeks of build-up, Saturday’s news that De’Aaron Fox had removed himself from the Team USA World Cup roster came as a shock.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, the Kings point guard made the decision so he could “focus on [the] upcoming season with [the] goal of making [the] playoffs," which is great for Sacramento but also slightly confusing.

Fox had been nothing but all in on the experience throughout Team USA camp in Las Vegas two weeks ago and again this week in Los Angeles. Both on and off the record, Fox expressed excitement about the process and the potential of playing for Team USA.

Fox turned heads with his speed and shooting ability, and up until halftime of Friday night’s game against Spain, he looked like Team USA’s backup point guard behind Kemba Walker.

Following the 90-81 win over Spain at Honda Center, NBC Sports California spoke to Fox, and he said was honored to wear the Team USA uniform.

“It was definitely great to play against a different country. This was my first time doing it,” Fox said. “I definitely had a blast doing it.”

When asked if he was boarding a plane for Australia the next day, Fox, like the rest of the team, had yet to be notified of they were making the squad, and said, “We’ll find out.”

Team USA Gregg Popovich announced after the game that all 14 finalists vying for 12 roster spots would make the trip to Australia, to prepare for the tournament, which starts Aug. 31 in China.

After playing just six minutes against Spain, Fox had to have some apprehension over his situation with Team USA. Dropping everything and boarding the team plane means spending a minimum of 12 days in Australia, with the potential for another 17 days in China after that.

You need to be sure about what the commitment means before jumping in with both feet. Venturing on the road with no assurances of making the squad is a tall ask, but that’s exactly what Popovich and Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo asked of Fox and others Friday night. 

While the experience could help with Fox’s development — and likely already has — it also would put a tremendous amount of wear and tear on the 21-year-old. Just in airline flights alone, he’d be looking at close to 20,000 miles with Team USA.

With the Kings already booked on an October preseason trip to India, Fox would be committing himself to nearly 40,000 miles in the air over an eight-week period leading up to an 82-game regular-season schedule. Adding to the equation, the Kings will travel the third-most miles in the NBA this upcoming season, including two trips to both New York and Florida.

Kings swingman Harrison Barnes decided to stay with Team USA, but he also started the game against Spain, and has all but secured a roster spot as one of the longest-tenured players. Barnes also is a seasoned veteran who has been through this process before and knows what lies ahead.

[RELATED: Why Fox isn't upset at one national TV game]

In the end, it’s disappointing that Fox won’t be fighting for a gold medal with the national team, but he likely made the best decision for himself and the Kings.

The NBA schedule is a brutal, and Fox is expected to carry a huge load for his team this season as it attempts to end a 13-year playoff drought. Having fresh legs and a fresh mind when training camp opens in late September is a must.