Kings

Kings take trip to Folsom Prison, Luke Walton suits up for justice reform

Kings take trip to Folsom Prison, Luke Walton suits up for justice reform

SACRAMENTO -- It wasn’t your typical Thursday evening. Instead of sitting at home and taking in a few extra minutes of NBA basketball, I dressed in a mandated all black outfit and headed to Folsom Prison to watch Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton play basketball with and against a group of incarcerated men.

The basketball was sloppy but entertaining. The emcee of the event wandered around the court making up nicknames for the players like “Skilz," “The ponytailed gangsta” and everyone’s personal favorite, “white shadow.”

There were no fights or risk of danger. A few hundred of the estimated 2,400 residents of the prison sat in the stands eating popcorn and cotton candy and cheering everything from dunks, to the tap dancers at halftime to Vivek Ranadivé, Vlade Divac, Marvin Bagley, Trevor Ariza and Nemanja Bjelica, who were in attendance. 

Before taking the court, players and management met with individuals in a closed-door session. Media members were not allowed in, but Bagley gave a glimpse into what the conversation was about.

“We had a round table discussion earlier before we got to the court, we were sitting in a circle and one of the things I was saying was that basketball isn’t going to be forever it’s something that I do right now, but I’m a person first, just like everybody here,” Bagley said. “To be able to share love, show love, no matter what you’re doing or what you did in the past, no matter what you’re in here for, everybody has an opportunity to move forward and love. I think if we all continue to love one another and have positivity in the world, we’ll get to a place where there’s not as much silly, craziness going on.”

The Kings’ 20-year-old power forward is just starting out on his NBA journey, which will include all kinds of opportunities to get involved and use his platform in unique ways. He was on the sidelines dancing and greeting players coming off the court. He even went over to the stands after the event and took pictures.

“I can’t even really put it into words, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Bagley said. “Coming in, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never been to a prison before. You always hear about it and see it movies, but to walk through and see what it’s like, it was definitely eye-opening and something I’ll remember.”


Photo via Sacramento Kings

Opened in 1880, Folsom is a level 2-3 prison. While there are lifers mixed amongst the population, many of the residents will someday find their way back into society, which was the focus of the event.

“Through art, storytelling, and values-based conversations focused on redemption, mercy, and the possibility of a second chance, the REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign, in partnership with One Community, will aim to humanize incarcerated individuals in the media and public opinion,” the team’s official press release said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Kings, the Milwaukee Bucks and the REPRESENT JUSTICE campaign and it won’t be the last event like this that the Kings will be involved with.

“We're proud to be the first participant in the Play for Justice initiative, which is shining a bright light on the unique issues facing incarcerated people in communities around the country,” Ranadivé said in a prepared statement. “Sports franchises have a unique opportunity to bring about positive change, which is why in the past year, the Kings and the Bucks brought together leaders from across two cities to share best practices and find new solutions to social injustices. This collaboration with REPRESENT JUSTICE is another example of how we can use our platforms for good.”

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According to the team’s press release, “The games are part of the Campaign’s efforts to engage audiences and spark collective action to demand a fair legal system, dignity for system-impacted communities, and an end to extreme sentencing.”

The game was played outdoors under a makeshift tent brought in by the Kings. Walton’s team came away with the victory, but he was too winded to speak to the media after the game. He had a few dunks, but he looked every bit the part of a 39-year-old who retired from the game six years ago.

Kings rookie Kyle Guy scores his first NBA points in win over Bulls

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USATSI

Kings rookie Kyle Guy scores his first NBA points in win over Bulls

Since being picked No. 55 overall in last year’s NBA draft, Kings two-way guard Kyle Guy has spent most of his season in the G League.

In 23 games down in Stockton, Guy has averaged 20.9 points and 4.4 assists per game. Before Friday night’s win over the Chicago Bulls, Guy had just one shot attempt in an NBA game under his belt, a missed 3-pointer in a Jan. 12 blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Guy came in late during the victory in Chicago, finally adding “scoring in an NBA game” to his resume.

The Kings understandably were excited for Guy, especially forward Harry Giles, who got the assist on the jumper.

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Buddy Hield made sure to secure the game ball after the win, ensuring that his teammate can cherish the memory forever.

As Giles mentioned, Kings fans can look forward to seeing a lot more buckets in the future from Guy.

Buddy Hield embraces bench role, puts Kings on his back in win vs. Bulls

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Buddy Hield embraces bench role, puts Kings on his back in win vs. Bulls

Something had to change. The Sacramento Kings were in a tailspin of epic proportions and head coach Luke Walton made the difficult decision to move Buddy Hield out of his starting lineup for Bogdan Bogdanovic.

This wasn’t necessarily a Hield issue and Bogdanovic isn’t the savior that will turn the entire season around, but the chemistry on the floor with the starting unit wasn’t working.

The swap seemed to work early. The spacing was better with Bogdanovic playing alongside De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica and Dewayne Dedmon.

When Walton went to the bench, Hield instantly took off. There was no hesitation on his 3-point shot and he was active on the defensive side of the ball as well.

“You’ve got to come in, be ready and when coach call your number, go out there and hoop,” Hield told Grant Napear on the NBC Sports California telecast following the Kings’ 98-81 win.

Hield scored a quick 10 points in the first half to help the Kings take a double-digit lead into the intermission. After the break, Chicago’s Zach LaVine caught fire and wiped out the Kings’ lead in the first two minutes of the period.

“Today I was just locked in and more confident,” Hield said. “I’m just trying to be myself and do what I do best, which is score the basketball.”

Walton called a timeout and turned back to Hield and a few reserves to spark the team. Hield once again let it fly from the perimeter and helped his team get some separation.

“When they made that run in the third and we kind of looked like we got shook a little but, Buddy put us on his back and knocked down some big shots and really kind of got us going again,” Walton told media members following the game. “I’m really pleased with him.”

Hield finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds in just 23 minutes of action. He hit 7-for-12 from the field, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

“For him to be all about the team after we took him out of the starting lineup says a lot about him and the group,” Walton added.

Hield had started 126 straight games for the Kings before Friday evening and he’s been the teams leading scorer for the last two seasons. Going to the bench was an unexpected move, but with the team dropping six straight and 14 of their previous 17 games, something had to give.

“He was ready,” Fox told reporters. “He came out, he made shots, he defended well. Everybody was fine with it. He was fine with it. There was nothing big made of it. We all still came to the game ready to play basketball.”

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It will take time for the players to adjust to the new situation. Bogdanovic posted a modest 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting. He missed some open looks, but his ability to handle the ball took pressure off of Fox for stretches.

The Bulls aren’t exactly a playoff contender, but you play then schedule in front of you. Saramento faces another struggling franchise in the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. There is no word on if Walton will stick with the starting lineup we saw Friday in Chicago, but he can’t really argue with the results.