NBA Gameday: Kings kick off five-game road trip in Atlanta

NBA Gameday: Kings kick off five-game road trip in Atlanta

The Sacramento Kings begin their early season five-game road trip on Monday in Atlanta. They face a retooled Hawks team that looks dramatically different than the 48-win team Mike Budenholzer ran out on the floor a season ago. 

Gone are Jeff Teague and Al Horford, but Atlanta has replaced the duo with Dennis Schroeder, a home-grown product, and eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard. 

Sacramento is coming off an exciting 106-103 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night. After trailing by as many as 18 in the first half, the Kings jumped all over the T'Wolves in the second half and held on for their first win in the newly opened Golden 1 Center. 

DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay have led the way for coach Dave Joerger early in the 2016-17 campaign, but 36-year-old veteran Matt Barnes has brought a toughness and tenacity to the team that was much needed. 


Hawks by 7


Kings: 2-1, second place in the Pacific

Hawks: 2-0, first place in the Southeast


Matt Barnes vs. Paul Millsap -- Barnes won’t start the game and he’s dealing with rib issues, but expect Joerger to turn to his swiss army knife forward early and often to combat Millsap. The 31-year-old Millsap is posting a career-high 22.5 points per game in the Hawks’ first two contests. 


Kings: G Darren Collison (league suspension) out.

Hawks: F Mike Scott (knee) out, C Tiago Splitter (hamstring) out.


The Kings have lost nine straight at Philips Arena, but they split the season series with the Hawks last year with a 91-88 win at Sleep Train Arena. Atlanta holds a 157-153 advantage over the Kings all-time and a 41-18 lead during the Sacramento-era. 


“You find yourself. You don’t have the crowd to lean on, you’ve only got these guys in this locker room. You grow closer. You learn your teammates better. You learn who’s in the fight with you and who’s not. You learn a lot on the road, so I’m looking forward to it.” -DeMarcus Cousins on heading out on the Kings’ first road trip

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

It was a track meet from the opening tip Saturday night in Houston. The Rockets looked like an inspired team after a rough start to the season, running over the Kings over for a 132-112 win

Houston rained down 3-pointers at a startling clip, and when it wasn't burying the 3-ball, it was finishing at the rim. James Harden dropped in a game-high 34 points, and Chris Paul added 24 points and nine assists in the Rockets' win.

The Kings had plenty of chances, but their inability to slow the Rockets' offense cost them any chance at a win.

Here are six notes as the Kings fell back to .500 on the season at 8-8.

Buddy scores

After failing to reach the 20-point plateau for four consecutive games, Buddy Hield found the basket against Houston. The third-year guard posted 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists.

Hield has taken a few games to adjust to Bogdan Bogdanovic's return, but the Kings' second-leading scorer should be just fine.

How good is Fox? 

In his second season, De’Aaron Fox has put the NBA on notice. Not only is he a Most Improved Player candidate, he should be in the discussion for an All-Star bid.

Against a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul, Fox finished with 19 points and three assists in 25 minutes of play. He can’t control whether his teammates hit open jumpers, but if he’s playing 36 minutes per night, the Kentucky product is putting up nearly 21 points and eight assists.

Bogdan impactful

Bogdanovic completed the second biggest step in his recovery from offseason knee issues. First, he made his way back to the court. On Saturday, he completed his first back-to-back and should be cleared for regular duty ASAP.

The Serbian-born wing finished Saturday's game with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and added five assists in the loss. He’s ready for stage three, which is returning to the Kings' starting lineup.

Play me

Marvin Bagley struggled against the Grizzlies and clearly was outplayed by fellow rookie Jaren Jackson. Bagley had a bounce-back game in Houston, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.

[RELATED: Kings deny report that coach Joerger, front office have disconnect]

Bagley is a talent, but he needs time to figure out the defensive end. There will be a point this season when he jumps ahead of Nemanja Bjelica in the Kings' starting rotation, but he first needs to show activity on both ends of the floor.  

The disappearance of Willie Cauley-Stein 

If nothing else, Cauley-Stein has been consistent this season. Often times, he’s been extraordinary. Against Clint Capela, Cauley-Stein was less than serviceable.

Cauley-Stein shot 1 of 9 from the field and finished with three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. It’s possible he was winded on the second night of a back-to-back, but he can’t have nights like this if he hopes to cash in this summer.

Play some D 

The Kings struggled to contain the Rockets from the early stages of the game. In the end, Sacramento couldn’t stop penetration, struggled with the pick-and-roll and allowed Houston to shoot as many 3-pointers as it could muster.

The Kings gave up 132 points on 56.8 percent shooting, and allowed the Rockets to hit 20 of 47 from long range. It’s hard to stay in a game when your opponent outscores you 60-33 on 3-pointers. Sacramento's defense has to get better, especially against top-tier teams.

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status


Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status

Dave Joerger wasn't in a mood to talk about his job status moments after his Kings lost to the Rockets on Saturday night.

Asked by reporters about a Yahoo Sports story claiming "substantial disconnect" between him and the Kings' front office, Joerger tried to deflect the question back to basketball.

"Well, usually, I would say, 'I'd be happy to answer all your questions about tonight's game,' but in this case, I'm going to tell you that my focus is with our team," Joerger said. "And coaching our team and getting better every single night. And we've got young guys, and they're mixed with older guys, and go in there and rally them up.

“This is a tough five-game stretch for us, so I want to make sure we stick together, grab onto each other ..."

Pressed on the reported disconnect, Joerger refused to address it.

"I'm not going to get into that stuff," the coach said before exiting the scrum after no other questions were asked.

The Yahoo story came out about 30 minutes before the Kings and Rockets tipped off in Houston. During the game, Kings general manager Vlade Divac issued a statement to NBC Sports California's James Ham and denied there was any issues between Joerger and the front office.

"Dave has our full support and confidence,” Divac said in the statement. “We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.”