Kings

Source: Kings mulling options with disgruntled Willie Cauley-Stein

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AP

Source: Kings mulling options with disgruntled Willie Cauley-Stein

Willie wants out. The feeling with the Sacramento Kings likely is mutual, but it's complicated.

In case you missed the news, Cauley-Stein, the Kings’ starting center over the last few seasons, went public Saturday, via his agent, with his wishes to leave the team this summer.

“I really think Willie needs a fresh start,” Roger Montgomery of Roc Nation told The Sacramento Bee on Saturday. “Based on how things have gone for him there in Sacramento, I just think it’s time for Willie to move on, and we’d really like him to move on.”

Montgomery went to say that he hopes the Kings don’t extend a qualifying offer to their No. 6 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Vlade Divac and his team aren’t going to respond to the report with anything of substance, nor should they. They have until June 29 to make a decision on the 25-year-old big and his $6.3 million qualifying offer, and according to a league source, they're still mulling their options.

Cauley-Stein, like every other first-round pick to come into the league, is under team control for his first four seasons and can become a restricted free agent in Year 5. By failing to extend a qualifying offer, Divac would walk away from an asset without any hope of compensation.

This is par for the course with Cauley-Stein. He’s often out over his skis, be it comparing himself to Kristaps Porzingis, raving about Karl-Anthony Towns after being destroyed by his former college teammate, or talking about being “ready to get paid.”

The 7-footer often has waxed about what could be, instead of focusing on consistency and developing the skills that fit his incredible talent.

After four seasons in the league, Cauley-Stein still believes he can be a star. Judging by the statements from his representation, they do as well.

There is nothing wrong with being a star role player at the NBA level. If Cauley-Stein could embrace this idea, he likely would have excelled and grown into a player like Clint Capela.

Playing alongside superstars, Capela’s numbers jump off the page. He averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game this season for the Houston Rockets. It’s numbers like this that earned the 25th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft a five-year, $90 million contract.

Cauley-Stein isn’t going to receive that type of offer this summer or next, whether the Kings extend a qualifying offer or not. If he somehow does, the Kings would turn down the offer sheet so fast that someone might get a paper cut.

Sacramento’s focus coming into the offseason was to improve the center position, and for good reason. The Kings can’t walk into another year with a starter who ranks in the bottom half of the league in rebounding for bigs and refuses to protect the rim.

Cauley-Stein registered 22 double-doubles this season, which ranked just ahead of rookie Marvin Bagley for the team lead. Bagley finished with 19, although he missed 20 games because of knee injuries.

As a starter for 81 games, Cauley-Stein averaged just 0.6 blocks per game, including 50 games during the 2018-19 season in which he failed to swat a single shot.

There are plenty of things that Cauley-Stein does well. He’s versatile as a defender, and posted 1.2 steals per game. He also runs the floor and finishes well on the lob.

[RELATED: Kings add shooters in draft]

He has positives, and the Kings haven’t given up hope completely on him. But there's also room for growth at the position, and the Kings are right to look at other options.

It appears a divorce is inevitable, but the Kings need to do what is right for their franchise. If that means extending the qualifying offer and playing the wait-and-see game with Cauley-Stein, so be it.

Frustrated Kings enduring most disappointing season in over a decade

Frustrated Kings enduring most disappointing season in over a decade

SACRAMENTO -- The last thing the Kings needed Wednesday evening was a visit from Luka Doncic. The budding superstar, who the team passed on during the 2018 NBA Draft, ran over Sacramento on the way to his NBA leading 12th triple-double of the season. 

Adding to the frustration of the night, with a 127-123 loss, Sacramento fell 11 games under .500 and finished the first half of the season at 15-26. They currently sit five games behind last season’s 20-21 record at the midway point and they are in 14th place in the Western Conference standings.

The Kings are lost. They are 3-12 over their last 15 games and they are about to hit their longest road trip of the season, beginning Saturday in Utah. 

If ever there were a soft spot in an NBA schedule, the Kings just went through one. They played 10 out of 12 at home with seven of those games against sub-.500 teams. They went just 2-8 at home over the stretch in front of near-sellout crowds. 

Fans booed during Monday’s loss against the Mavericks. It’s not the first time they’ve made their displeasure known this season and the way things are heading, it won’t be the last.

“Everybody is frustrated, it’s not even them, we’re trying to figure it out too,” Buddy Hield said following the loss. “But it’s the home team and we get booed...we don’t agree with it, but they’re going to voice their opinion.

“I understand their frustration, but like I said, I’m going to keep shooting the ball,” Hield continued. “When I make a three they like me, when I don’t, they hate you. That’s how Sacramento fans are, man, so you’ve got to embrace it.”

Hield is wrong. This is not how Sacramento fans are. They are loyal to a fault and at this point, they are being tested. 

Fans are voicing their angst because they feel like they were sold a “Super Team, just young” and now the Kings are neither super, nor young.  

After watching one of the most exciting teams in basketball last season, management made the decision to fire their coaching staff and start over. Instead of building on the success, the players were forced to learn a new system and terminology during an abbreviated training camp due to a trip to India. 

On Opening Night, the injury bug hit the Kings and hasn’t let up the entire season. The team looks disjointed and out of sync, although they have enough talent to make every game close.

This isn’t a Luke Walton issue, despite the fan rhetoric. Yes, he has an over-reliance on a few veterans, but he’s also had his core of Hield, De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes and Bogdan Bogdanovic healthy for just one game this season. 

Not only has this group of players missed a combined 59 games, they rarely have practiced together or had time to build any continuity in a new system. Getting everyone healthy is only going to create its own set of issues.  

We can talk about the 19 games decided by five points or less. We can talk about the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report. We can talk about missed draft picks or bad free agent signings. There is a litany of issues that are either reasons or excuses for the Sacramento Kings.

The fact is, this is the most disappointing first half to any season since 2006-07 when the Kings’ streak of missing the postseason began. Watching Doncic tear through the team was just salt in an open wound.

[RELATED: Holmes back at practice, but weeks away from Kings return]

These are the questions facing a Kings franchise in complete disarray. 

Is it too late to turn the season around? 

No, but the clock is ticking.

How does this situation get better? 

Luck, better health, and an epiphany moment where the core players understand the system, play extended minutes together and find a rhythm.

Is it possible that moment comes this season? 

Yes, but a lot of damage has been done. The record is one issue, but the confidence of the team would have to completely change. They may not have the leader behind the scenes to fight through the adversity they are currently facing.

Were expectations too high?

Absolutely not. This is the most talented roster the Kings have had in over a decade. They have four top-seven draft picks in their starting lineup and enough role players to fill in the gaps. They won 39 games last season and that number would have been closer to 42 if they didn’t collapse in the final week of the season.

When do people start losing their jobs over this?

It doesn’t sound like that’s happening anytime soon.

This isn’t how anyone saw the first half going for the Kings. They are on pace to win 30 games this season and finish outside the postseason picture for a 14th consecutive season. They have not only lost massive amounts of time due to injury, but also major development time for some of their young players.

The team needs a solid second half to the season to assess where they are moving forward. If they post one similar to what we’re seen through the first 41 games, someone needs to be held accountable.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in annoying 127-123 loss to Mavericks

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AP

Kings takeaways: What we learned in annoying 127-123 loss to Mavericks

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- Anger. Disappointment. Envy. 

Kings fans got an up-close look at budding superstar Luka Doncic Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. It was another reminder of what Sacramento missed out on when the team passed on the Slovenian guard in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Led by Doncic’s tremendous play, the Dallas Mavericks built a big third-quarter lead and then coasted down the stretch for the 127-123 win.

Doncic led the way with a big-time triple-double, but he was one of six Mavericks to score in double-figures.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings fell a season-high 11 games under .500 at 15-26 on the season.  

Star

Doncic and the Kings will be linked throughout the superstar’s career and likely a lot longer than that. Kings general manager Vlade Divac selected Marvin Bagley III with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft instead of Doncic.

Bagley has plenty of time to grow into who he is going to be as a player, but Doncic already is an elite star that looks like a generational talent.

The Mavericks’ star posted a 25-point, 17-assist, 15-rebound triple-double. The Kings threw the kitchen sink at the second-year guard and he picked them apart with his incredible court vision.

Playing angry

De’Aaron Fox had enough. He wasn’t happy with his teammates. He wasn’t happy with Mavericks. He wasn’t happy with the officials and he wasn’t happy with losing. 

Fox attacked the Mavericks' defense almost every time he had the ball in his hands. He forced the issue on a few occasions, but this is the player the Kings need. He finished the night with 27 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, although he shot just 3-of-9 from the free-throw line.

In the third quarter, Fox picked up a technical while pleading his own case. It’s probably time for head coach Luke Walton and a few of Fox’s teammates to start paying out some fines and stand up for their leader. 

[RELATED: Holmes back at practice, but weeks away from Kings return]

Remember me?

Harrison Barnes had a little bit of an edge to him from the opening tip Wednesday evening at Golden 1 Center. On the first possession of the game, Barnes went at Doncic and scored over his former teammate for the first two points of the game.

Barnes continued his assault on the team that traded him to Sacramento last season. He finished with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in the loss.

In addition to Barnes’ ties to Dallas, there were a pair of Mavericks that used to play for the Kings. Seth Curry hit 5-of-8 from long range to finish with 21 points and Justin Jackson chipped in seven points.