Kings

Notes: Great practice preps Kings for Rondo-less night

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Notes: Great practice preps Kings for Rondo-less night

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are in the middle of a mid-December break. After a brutal schedule to start the season, including very little practice or recovery time, the Kings have four days to lick their wounds and get some much needed floor time together.

By all accounts, Saturday’s practice was one of the team’s best. It finished with a halfcourt shot by veteran forward Caron Butler as time expired on the clock. The second team celebrated like they had just won the championship which captured the mood in the room perfectly.

“There’s always heavy moments in a season,” George Karl said Saturday following practice. “And our heaviness started the year out and it’s kind of lingered on.”

The heaviness Karl speaks of is not just in the volume of games, but the quality of the team’s opponents. The Kings played plenty of home games early, but their schedule was filled with top-end Western Conference teams. They’ve already played their season-long five game road trip and traveled to Mexico City for a contest with the Boston Celtics.

Sacramento has tried desperately to get their bearings after a 1-7 start. They have had bounce-back moments, but they are always tempered by slip-ups. After clawing back to 7-12, the team stumbled again last week with an 0-3 road trip.  

The break in action is giving the team time to hit a reset button of sorts. Sacramento has had plenty of early season injuries to deal with. It’s hard to implement changes on either side of the ball while missing pieces almost on a nightly basis.

“It’s about tune-up, recovery, a little maintenance work, whatever we need to do to get ready for Tuesday night’s game,” Darren Collison said. “I think we’re doing a good job of that. Coach is giving us the time that we need for our bodies to fully recover.”

At 9-15, it feels like the Kings are finally building momentum. After solid wins against the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks on Tuesday and Thursday, Sacramento finishes their three-game home stand next week opposite the Houston Rockets.

[RELATED: Rondo's dunk 'golden moment,' Kings stave off Knicks] 

Unfortunately, they will be without the services of point guard Rajon Rondo, who was suspended by the league for comments made to official Bill Kennedy more than a week ago.

“It’s not the hand I would like to be dealt, but in an 82-game season, there’s a lot of curve balls sent your way,” Karl said. “We have a good enough team to figure out the ‘next man up’ mentality.”

According to Karl, Collison will start in Rondo’s place, but he also expects Seth Curry to get a good look as well.

“D.C. is very capable of helping us win a game, and Seth actually deserves more minutes than he’s been getting,” Karl said. "For that one game, we’ll see what happens.”

With the two-game win streak, the team is finally in a good place. The league’s announcement of the suspension nearly 10 days after the incident in question in Mexico City came as a shock to everyone involved, but there is little recourse.

“It surprised me and disappointed me ... again, we’ve got to move on,” Karl said. “This is a great stretch for us. Today was one of our best practices since I’ve been here.”

Rondo is playing at an All-Star level and his presence will be missed greatly by his teammates. Collison has started plenty of games in his career and the team is in capable hands. More than anything else, the Kings will have to adjust to a change in style and hope that Curry can replace some of what Collison has brought off the bench this season.

 

Kings begin search for 2019 NBA Draft steal, work out six prospects

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USATSI

Kings begin search for 2019 NBA Draft steal, work out six prospects

The search for a diamond in the rough has begun in Sacramento. With head coach Luke Walton looking on, the Kings held their first predraft workout Monday.

It won’t be an easy search for Kings general manager Vlade Divac. Sacramento doesn’t have a first round pick in this year’s draft, although the Kings own three second-round selections: Nos. 40, 47 and 60 overall.

NBC Sports California confirmed that Stockton Kings head coach Ty Ellis and player development coach Bobby Jackson helped run the six-man workout. On Monday, ABC 10's Sean Cunningham reported that no new staff members conducted the workout.

Houston guard Armoni Brooks was a late addition to the group Monday, as he most likely tests the draft waters prior returning to college for his senior season. At 6-foot-3, 196 pounds, Brooks improved in each of his first three seasons at the NCAA level. He posted 13.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and made 39 percent of his 3-point shots this season.

“Everytime you come to one of these workouts, we’re all really good players,” Brooks told reporters at the Kings facility (via ABC 10). “You’ve just got to find a way to impact the game in little ways - defense, rebounding, just doing the little things to separate yourself.”

Icelandic guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson is an intriguing prospect. Standing 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, he stuffed the stat sheet in his junior season at Davidson and posted 16.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He had a down shooting year from distance, hitting just 35.3 percent from 3-point range. But he shot 40.6 percent a year prior, so there is room for growth.

Despite growing up overseas, Gudmundsson has watched plenty of NBA games and even knows a little about the Kings.

“This year I feel like it was kind of their rising year,” Gudmundsson told reporters Monday. “I feel like they’re coming up, and I feel like next year is going to be a playoff team and they’ve got a bright future ahead of them.”

Kansas State small forward Xavier Sneed matched up with BYU's Yoeli Childs in the workout. Sneed posted modest numbers as a junior and is undersized for a three. Childs, meanwhile, averaged 21.2 points and 9.7 rebounds in his third college season.

“It’s awesome,” Childs told reporters Monday in Sacramento about the pre-draft process. “It’s so much fun. You’re so close to living the dream that you’ve had your whole life. I really try to not take a single moment for granted. I’m really feel just blessed to be here.”

Reggie Perry from Mississippi State and Kevin Samuels out of TCU provided the post play. Perry is the youngest of the lot at just 19 years old. He averaged 9.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in his lone NCAA season.

Samuels, 21, was the big body. Measuring in at 6-foot-11, 250 pounds, the Horned Frogs center posted a modest 7.4 points and 6.9 rebounds in 24.9 minutes per game this season.

[RELATED: Ex-King Labissiere learning from bench in Blazers' run]

Perry is the only player from the current group who was invited to the NBA Combine in Chicago. None of the six prospects are currently listed on most two-round mock drafts, but plenty can change in the next few weeks.

This is only the beginning for Sacramento. The Kings likely will hold multiple workouts like this over the next month while they build up to the NBA draft June 20 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. 

NBA odds: Kings' 2019-20 title odds increase following 39-43 season

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USATSI

NBA odds: Kings' 2019-20 title odds increase following 39-43 season

For the first time in a long time, the Sacramento Kings are moving in the right direction.

Coming off a 27-win season in 2017-18, the Kings made a push to finish at the .500 mark this past season, but fell short, ending up with a 39-43 record.

The Kings missed the playoffs for a 13th straight season, but considering most projections have them winning 25 games, it was a successful year.

With the emergence of point guard De'Aaron Fox, shooting guard Buddy Hield, forward Marvin Bagley III, and the addition of forward Harrison Barnes, Las Vegas has increased the Kings' chances of winning the NBA title to +7500 during the 2019-20 season.

[RELATED: Labissiere learning on Blazers' bench]

Now, granted, their odds aren't great, but they are better than what they entered the 2018-19 season with, when Caesers had them at +100000, according to Kings.com.

The Kings have high hopes entering next season. They desperately want to end their playoff drought and believe they have the team that can do it.