Kings

Luke Walton has 'hell of an opportunity' with Kings, Steve Kerr believes

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USATSI

Luke Walton has 'hell of an opportunity' with Kings, Steve Kerr believes

On Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr advised Luke Walton to take a vacation and figure out what he wanted to do next.

That "vacation" lasted roughly 24 hours, as Walton agreed to a four-year contract to be the next Kings coach, a source confirmed to NBC Sports California's James Ham.

"Happy for Luke," Kerr told reporters Saturday before the NBA first-round playoff series opener between the Warriors and Clippers. "That was quick."

Walton will take over a Kings team that surprised many by winning 39 games this season. De'Aaron Fox is a budding superstar, Buddy Hield had a breakout third season, and Marvin Bagley had an excellent rookie campaign.

"Great opportunity," Kerr said. "Really nice, young team. I thought Dave Joerger did a tremendous job there the last few years, and they've established a really good foundation, so it's a hell of an opportunity for him."

[RELATED: How Walton, Kings could be a good fit together]

The Kings surprisingly fired Joerger on Thursday, one day after their regular-season finale.

Walton served as a Warriors assistant for two years, and went 39-4 as the interim head coach in 2015-16 while Kerr recovered from back surgery, before taking the Lakers' head-coaching job three seasons ago. The Lakers, who missed the playoffs in a season where they had high expectations, agreed to part ways with Walton on Friday.

Walton went 98-148 in his three seasons in LA.

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are not accepting condolence cards.

Despite an atrocious 0-5 start to the season and major injuries to both forward Marvin Bagley and point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings refuse to give up on the final 70-plus games of the season. The Portland Trail Blazers learned that lesson on Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center.

It took a full 48 minutes, but the Kings staved off the Blazers late to come away with a 107-99 victory in front of an appreciative home crowd.

With two of their top scorers on the shelf, the Kings need more from every member of the rotation. Against a Portland team that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, it was a pair of Serbian national team teammates that came to play.

Nemanja Bjelica was the only Kings player that could find the bottom of the net in the first 8:41 of the first quarter. The 31-year-old forward scored seven of the team’s first eight points, with Richaun Holmes putting in a lone free throw as Sacramento fell behind 18-8 early.

“Bjeli started off well and everybody is staying together as a group and just connecting with each other and supporting each other,” Buddy Hield said.

Bjelica posted his first double-double of the season, finishing the evening with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes.

The veteran big started the game well and then came to the rescue late with a 26-foot three-pointer to give Sacramento an eight-point lead with 2:37 remaining in the fourth.

“Great win, especially in front of our fans,” Bjelica said. “I mean, we’re always talking about is we want to make the playoffs, we need to win every game at home, so it is very important for us.”

Needing a spark to wake up the offense, coach Luke Walton turned to the Kings’ other Serbian-born player, Bogdan Bogdanovic. The third-year wing changed the entire momentum of the game with his defense, scoring ability and playmaking.

Bogdanovic picked up three steals in just under six minutes of play in the first quarter and matched his career-high with four steals on the night.

On the offensive end, Bogdanovic hit Portland with a team-high 25 points, including 15 in the first half while the Kings were struggling to keep up.

“He’s fun to watch, man,” Hield said of Bogdanovic. “Playing with him, he’s such a good passer. He’s a good playmaker and he’s always about team. You see him making shots and scoring, but he’s always a team-first guy.”

With Fox sidelined, Bogdanovic took the reigns of the offense. He finished with 10 assists in 32 minutes of action and during crunch time, he made the right plays when it mattered.

“I think I’m an experienced player and I can adjust to any role here,” Bogdanovic said. “I’m just trying to help the team to get these wins and tonight it was 10 assists. I’m more happy with the win.”

It was Bogdanovic who fed Bjelica for the open three in the fourth. He had another pass to Cory Joseph for a three at the 2:01 mark of the fourth and he found a cutting Harrison Barnes with 1:30 remaining to help seal the win.

Bjelica and Bogdanovic put up the big numbers, but it was a team effort for Sacramento.

Hield struggled with his shot, but still managed to post 20 points on the evening. Barnes went scoreless in the first half but finished with 16 after a strong final 24 minutes. Joseph played solid defense on Damian Lillard and Richaun Holmes chipped in the team’s third double-double with an 11-point, 10-rebound, two-block performance.

[RELATED: What we learned as Kings take down Blazers without Fox]

The Kings have a long road in front of them, but they are playing a better brand of basketball after a tough start and they are starting to show improvements on both ends of the court. With the win, Sacramento is now 4-1 over their previous five games and they’ve climbed to 4-6 on the season.

They’ll have a much tougher test on Friday when they fly to Los Angeles to face LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the 8-2 Lakers.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in balanced 107-99 win over Blazers

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AP

Kings takeaways: What we learned in balanced 107-99 win over Blazers

BOX SCORE

No Fox? No problem.

Playing the first of what could be many games without their star young point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings were the aggressor Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center in a matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum put up big numbers for Portland, but the Kings received huge baskets late from Nemanja Bjelica and Cory Joseph late to come away with a 107-99 victory over the Blazers. 

Here are three takeaways as the Kings picked up their fourth win in five games to improve to 4-6 on the season.  

Active

With De’Aaron Fox on the shelf, the Kings need everyone to step up if they hope to compete. Against the Blazers, that player that shined the brightest was Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Sacramento’s super-sub put on a show from the moment he stepped on the floor. He wreaked havoc on the defensive end, coming away with four steals. 

On the offensive end, he scored 15 of his 25 points in the first quarter, when very few of his teammates could buy a bucket. Bogdanovic shot 8-for-19 from the field on the evening, including 3-of-8 from long range. He also chipped in a team-high 10 assists. 

If the Kings are going to survive the Fox injury, Bogdanovic needs to play like this every night.

Double-Doubles

When the season started, Bjelica and Richaun Holmes were supposed to be the Kings’ two bigs off the bench. We're a few weeks into the season, and the duo now is doing damage for Sacramento’s starting unit.

Bjelica was active early, hitting a pair of shots to get the Kings’ scoring going. He played well for stretches throughout the game, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.

With Bjelica working the perimeter, Holmes went to work in the paint, dropping in 11 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes. 

The two bigs complement each other well on the court. 

[RELATED: Kings rise in latest NBA power rankings]

If at first you don’t succeed, keep chucking

The basket looked extra small when Buddy Hield took shots in the first half against the Blazers. The Kings’ sharpshooter missed his first two 3-point attempts so badly it was as if he was aiming at the wrong basket.

Eventually, Hield settled in, hitting a pair of 3-balls in the third quarter to get going. He finished the night with 20 points on 7-for-21 shooting from the field and just 2-of-11 from 3-point range.

With Fox out, the Kings need Hield to shoot. It helps when it goes in, but just the threat of one of the game’s best shooters is enough to help the team on some nights.