Kings

NBA veteran Trevor Ariza ready for any role to help young Kings win

NBA veteran Trevor Ariza ready for any role to help young Kings win

Last season, the Kings walked into game one without a natural starter at the small forward position. Shooting guard Buddy Hield opened the year at the wing position, with De’Aaron Fox and Yogi Ferrell getting the start in the backcourt.

Vlade Divac added a major piece in Harrison Barnes at the trade deadline and then bolstered the small forward spot with veteran Trevor Ariza during his free-agent spending spree.

A proven NBA starter, Ariza signed with the Kings with the understanding that he might not come close to the 34 minutes per game he averaged last season between the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards.

“As a player, as a competitor, you always believe you can compete at any level, against anybody and I’m one of those players that feels that way,” Ariza told NBC Sports California. “But I also understand that this is a team sport and a team game and whatever works best for the team is the road that you have to play.”

The Kings didn’t have a single-player average 34 minutes per game last season, although Barnes came close. Unfortunately for Ariza, the two play the same position, which means something has to give.

“I believe I’m a team player and whatever role is asked of me, that’s what I’ll try to do to the best of my ability,” Ariza added.

Barnes, 27, can play both forward positions, but there is a log jam at the four as well with second-year phenom Marvin Bagley needing major time. Walton will have some tough decisions to make on a nightly basis as he doles out time.

While minutes are at a premium, shots won’t be. With the Kings’ pace of play, there are opportunities for anyone and everyone to fire away. Ariza has been a low usage rate player throughout his career and he’s averaged over 12 shots per game in a season just once in his 15 years in the league.

“My whole career has never been about how many shots I get or how long I’m on the court, it’s about how I can help the team win,” Ariza said. “If I can help the team win, whatever it is, I will try to do it.”

That is music to the Kings’ ears. Mired in a 13-year playoff drought, they need all hands on deck if they hope to improve on their 39-43 record from last season. Ariza will be asked to play reserve minutes, but will also use his decade and a half of NBA knowledge to work with the team’s younger players.

Two seasons ago, Ariza was a starting forward on a 65-win Houston Rockets team. Now he’s projected as a backup on an up and coming Kings squad.

“The main reason I chose Sacramento is because it’s closer to home for me, I’m familiar with the coaching staff and I believe in what Luke (Walton) has to offer and what he’s doing,” Ariza said.

Raised in Los Angeles, Ariza is just a short plane ride from home. While he’s never played for Walton, he did suit up alongside him with the Lakers during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. Walton isn’t Ariza’s only connection to the team’s coaching staff.

Ariza opened last season as the starting small forward for the Suns under head coach Igor Kokoskov, who is now the lead assistant in Sacramento. He’s also trained with Rico Hines, one of the Kings’ player development coaches since he was 18. 

[RELATED: Kings' Barnes already has leg up on Walton's defense]

The Kings invested heavily in Ariza, handing the 34-year-old a two-year, $25 million contract. Only the first season is guaranteed at $12.2 million with a $1.8 million team buyout for year two.

While it’s a lot to spend on a player a few years north of 30, Ariza has a wealth of experience to offer the Kings’ young core and he proved last year with his play that age is just a number.

NBA admits LeBron James fouled Harrison Barnes on decisive Lakers-Kings play

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AP

NBA admits LeBron James fouled Harrison Barnes on decisive Lakers-Kings play

The Kings' 99-97 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night was too close for comfort. It also created a controversial call -- a call in which we recently received some clarity.

With 5.5 seconds remaining in the game, Harrison Barnes was called for blocking a foul against LeBron James. This allowed LeBron to sink a couple of free throws to get the Lakers to 99 points.

Barnes would later say contact was made but was waiting for the replay to decide.

The NBA Officiating Last Two Minute Report would confirm James did indeed foul Barnes with 5.5 seconds remaining. 

"James (LAL) extends his elbow into Barnes's (SAC) chin before any contact is initiated by Barnes on the perimeter," the report stated.

“Who initiated that, that’s for replays to decide," Barnes said after the game. " And they chose to call that a foul on me and that’s something you have to live with."

[RELATED: No timetable for De'Aaron Fox return]

Buddy Hield spoke to NBC Sports California's James Ham about the play and said it was a game-changer.

“One call changed the whole game, it could have gone either way,” Hield said. “It be like that sometimes. When the home team is favored, especially you know, in LA.”

In a game that close, he could be right.

Kings not happy with two questionable calls late in loss to Lakers

Kings not happy with two questionable calls late in loss to Lakers

Losing never feels good, but the Sacramento Kings were definitely not happy about the way things went Friday evening at the Staples Center. With the game on the line late, not one, but two plays went against Sacramento, and the Los Angeles Lakers came away with a 99-97 victory.

With 5.5 seconds remaining, Harrison Barnes was called for a blocking foul against LeBron James, which allowed the one of the game’s greats to step to the line and knock down a pair of free throws to give his club a 99-97 lead.

“Contact was made,” Barnes said. “Who initiated that, that’s for replays to decide. And they chose to call that a foul on me and that’s something you have to live with.”

At least one Kings player was willing to voice his displeasure at the chain of events following the loss.

“One call changed the whole game, it could have gone either way,” an angry Buddy Hield said. “It be like that sometimes. When the home team is favored, especially you know, in LA.”

The replay is difficult to parse out and is up for interpretation. It was clear that Barnes made a move on the ball, but it was also obvious that James made contact with the defender and cleared space.

“Sometimes you have to let the situation play out,” Hield said. “I don’t think it was a foul. It was the other way. Ask Rodney what he thinks.”

By “ask Rodney,” Hield was referring to official Rodney Mott, who called the game along with Sean Wright and Natalie Sago.

Sacramento had another opportunity to either tie or go ahead in the final moments, but this time, the officiating crew allowed the players to continue after contact.

Barnes took an inbounds pass, saw an opening and broke for the basket. It appeared that while trying to recover defensively, James clipped the back of Barnes right heel, which knocked him off balance and sent him careening towards the key.

Barnes continued to stumble towards the basket where he was met by All-Star center Anthony Davis in the lane. The 6-foot-11 big managed to absorb contact from Barnes and swat a last-second shot attempt away to preserve the Lakers win.

It turns out that Barnes going to the paint was the Lakers gameplan all along.

“The one thing we wanted to do was force them inside the 3-point line,” James told reporters following the game. “A two doesn’t hurt us. They make a two, we call a timeout, see if we can win the game, if not go into overtime. We played it to perfection making them go inside the line and then when you have a shot blocker with the caliber of AD protecting the rim, it just made it a lot tougher on Harrison.”

While James saw perfection, the Kings saw an offensive foul or no-call, followed by a second no-call. They’ll point to a disparity in free throw attempts on the evening, where they went 9-of-9 from the line, including seven attempts in the fourth quarter, while the Lakers finished 20-for-22.

“It’s always the referee’s decision to call or not call (a foul),” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “Sometimes you get calls, sometimes not. Homecourt advantage maybe? Sometimes it goes like that, you know? But it’s over, we lost this game and we have to be locked in for Boston.”

[RELATED: Kings take leap of faith on young core]

Sacramento will wait anxiously for the league’s Last Two Minute report to drop on Saturday afternoon, although the officials report has zero value when it comes to wins and losses. The league may admit a mistake or two, but there is no recourse. They could also side with the officiating crew at the arena.

A loss is a loss, but the Kings played solid ball against the best the Western Conference has to offer. They played short-handed with De’Aaron Fox (left ankle), Marvin Bagley (right thumb) and Trevor Ariza (right groin) missing the game and they still managed to keep it close with a chance to win late.