Kings

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich praises Kings' drastically changed culture

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich praises Kings' drastically changed culture

SACRAMENTO -- At 8-6, questions in the Kings’ locker room are changing. It’s no longer about moral victories or searching for shiny pennies in a sea of murkiness. The tide has shifted to more important issues, like culture and winning.

On Monday, the quote of the night regarding the state of the Kings didn’t even come from someone employed by the home team. It came from one of the most powerful voices in the game.

“I was really impressed, their culture is changing — it’s changed drastically,” legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “Guys are committed, guys are physical, taking some pride in defense.

“I think Vlade [Divac] and the team have made some good moves, and I think Dave [Joerger]’s done a great job of bringing that group together. They look really good. It’s impressive.”

Sacramento will take the compliment. After dropping 14 consecutive games to the Spurs, the Kings pulled out a wild 104-99 win over San Antonio. They ran the floor, pushed the tempo, and they got the stops when they needed them. It was a team effort and a team win.

“It’s a totally different approach in this season,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “It’s tough to go in a season, what was it, like 1-8, 1-9 last year. It’s totally different when after 14 games you have 8-6. We [are] really trying to make the playoffs this year, and I know that sounds crazy for somebody, but that’s our motivation.”

The vibe is completely different around the team. During pregame, almost all of the players sit in their locker stall conversing. It’s a light and fun atmosphere, and the players genuinely get along and like one another. 

It wasn’t a bad locker room last season, but the team had no identity. It was 10 players with very little NBA experience and a couple of veterans trying to guide the ship.

This season, the youth of the team has taken ownership of the program. They have found what works for them, and they are feeding off the positive energy.

“I think the culture was changed before our first game, through the guys,” a passionate Willie Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve been here for four years, and this is the first time that everybody is on one page, that everybody likes playing with each other and everybody like really cares if you do well.”

“In the past, it was like, these two dudes need to get their numbers, and if we win, it’s cool,” Cauley-Stein continued. “Now it’s like, we’re playing for everybody else to play good. We’re helping each other to play good. It’s more fun that way.”

Winning cures all. That’s not a new a thing in professional sports, but after 12 years of futility, it was a forgotten idea in Sacramento. 

Teams around the NBA are noticing there is something different happening with the Kings. More importantly, the players inside the walls of Golden 1 Center feel the change, and that’s refreshing. 

Kings set regular-season roster by waiving Tyler Ulis, Hollis Thompson

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Kings set regular-season roster by waiving Tyler Ulis, Hollis Thompson

SACRAMENTO -- The drama is over and the Kings’ roster is now set at 15, along with a pair of two-way players.

According to the team, both Tyler Ulis and Hollis Thompson have been waived, bring the team’s roster down to the league maximum before the Oct. 21 2 p.m. PST deadline.

After a promising start to his career with the Phoenix Suns, Ulis struggled with hip injuries last season and then spent most of training camp on the sidelines with a groin injury.

The Kings are hoping he can get his career back on the right track and barring a waiver claim, they expect the 23-year-old point guard to join the team’s G League affiliate in Stockton.

The former Kentucky product has averaged 7.5 points, 4.0 assists, 0.9 steals and 20.9 minutes per game in 133 career games over three seasons with the Suns and Bulls.

Thompson was a late add to the roster. He played for the Kings during the California Classic, and like Ulis, he is likely headed to Stockton for the upcoming season.

The 28-year-old forward has seen action in 265 NBA games over his career, posting 7.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in over 6400 minutes of action. His G League rights were acquired by Stockton for a first-round selection over the summer.

A surprise addition to the roster is Tyler Lydon. The 6-foot-10 forward has played in just 25 NBA games since being selected with the 24th overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. He was limited in camp due to a hip injury and played just one eight minute stretch for the team.

The former Syracuse Orangeman spent time in the G League in each of the last two seasons and is likely headed to Stockton once he’s healthy.

General manager Vlade Divac has until Monday to finalize the roster, but here is how it looks as of Sunday afternoon.

[RELATED: How Siakam contract impacts Hield]

Unofficial 2019-20 Sacramento Kings roster:

De'Aaron Fox
Cory Joseph
Yogi Ferrell
Buddy Hield
Bogdan Bogdanovic
Justin James
Harrison Barnes
Trevor Ariza
Marvin Bagley
Nemanja Bjelica
Tyler Lydon
Dewayne Dedmon
Richaun Holmes
Harry Giles
Caleb Swanigan

Two-Way Players

Wenyen Gabriel
Kyle Guy

How Buddy Hield-Kings situation is impacted by Pascal Siakam contract

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How Buddy Hield-Kings situation is impacted by Pascal Siakam contract

The Toronto Raptors made a huge commitment to power forward Pascal Siakam on Saturday morning, locking up the 25-year-old big on a four-year, $130 million max money contract. 

Taken with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Siakam is just the fourth first-round pick from the 2016 class to garner an extension.

That’s a lot of money for a player who worked his way through the G League to become an NBA champion, although it’s well deserved. Siakam was an integral part of the Raptors squad, and with Kawhi Leonard bolting for the Clippers in free agency, he is now the centerpiece of Toronto’s title defense.

The Raptors have their man, but what does this mean for Buddy Hield, another 2016 alum, and the Sacramento Kings team he has been playing hardball with over the last two weeks?

Hield has made it his mission to get an extension before the clock strikes 2 p.m. PT on Oct. 21. He wants a four-year, $110 million contract, which he has been aggressive in trying to obtain. He has even taken a step or two out of bounds while trying to plead his case.

When Siakam’s deal was announced, Hield’s camp likely gave a silent fist pump. Another of Hield’s class got paid handsomely for his skills as a basketball player. But when the dust settles, Toronto’s decision might not be in Hield’s favor.

Sure, Siakam got a truckload of cash. That is what Hield is looking for, which he made sure general manager Vlade Divac understood Saturday afternoon at the team’s Fan Fest.

But the reality of Hield’s situation might begin to sink in very soon. Sacramento holds all the cards with regards to the restricted free agent. The Kings are setting their price now, and next summer might not hold any relief for Hield and his negotiating team.

With Toronto paying out Siakam, there are now just four teams with $20 million or more to offer next summer. That number could adjust slightly at the trade deadline, but it could also shrink, especially if the situation in China becomes more of an issue for the NBA.

If Hield is looking at the group of teams with money, Memphis, Atlanta, Charlotte and Cleveland are it. If that is what he wants, he’s taking a substantial step back when it comes to the win column, and that is if one of those teams deems him worthy of a long-term contract offer.

Maybe money is more important than wins, but that is not what the Bahamian-born shooter has spent the last two seasons promoting.

If he decides to hit the free-agent market, he’ll do so with the understanding that the Kings can (and in all likelihood will) match any offer. They’ll also likely get a discount, because any offer comes with a 5 percent raise, instead of the 8 percent that Sacramento can offer. 

Divac is willing to sit down at the table, but he’s playing with a royal flush, and he knows it. He would prefer an amicable conclusion to what has become a debacle. He would prefer to finish this saga by hugging Hield and welcoming him back into the fray with no hurt feelings.

Hield has an out. He can just play out this season and the 2020-21 campaign as well under a $6.5 million qualifying offer. He would then become an unrestricted free agent and the Kings would no longer have a hold over him, outside of his Larry Bird rights.

Hield would also give up anywhere from $16 to 21 million in salary during the 2020-21 season and enter free agency as a 28-, going on 29-year-old free agent. The chance of him recouping his lost wages would be minimal at best, but he could write his own ticket.

[RELATED: Lillard not a fan of Hield's negotiating tactics]

Siakam is a feel-good story. Hield could be as well. Like Siakam, he has made himself into a bonafide player in the NBA by working hard and finding his niche. But finding common ground with the Kings, instead of practicing a scorched-earth policy, might be his path to salvation.

In a Kings season focused on snapping a 13-year playoff drought, Hield’s situation is quickly becoming an unwanted distraction. There is still a chance for an amicable resolution. There is also a chance that he is creating a toxic situation. 

The two sides have a little over 24 hours to work things out. If not, this could drag on into the season and potentially beyond. There is common ground somewhere, and someone needs to find it quickly.