Kings

Three things to watch in Kings' preseason game against Lakers

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USATSI/AP

Three things to watch in Kings' preseason game against Lakers

Fresh off a win in their preseason opener on Monday, the Sacramento Kings look to make it two in a row. They’ll take on LeBron James and the new-look Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center Thursday evening.

It’s the first of a brutal back-to-back, featuring two of the heavy hitters in the Western Conference. Following the game in LA, the Kings will board a flight to the Pacific Northwest where they’ll face the Warriors at Key Arena for the first game played in Seattle in a decade. 

Here are three things to watch as the Kings attempt to improve to 2-0 during the preseason. 

Building confidence

It’s a continuing theme, but the Kings are a very young team. Whether it’s summer league or preseason, building a winning culture matters. 

A victory over the Suns is step one. Competing against teams like the Lakers and Warriors is another move in the right direction. Games count for real in a couple of weeks. It would be nice to see the team walk into the regular season with a little bit of confidence. 

Let the game slow down

Harry Giles III looked like a whirling dervish early in the game against Phoenix. He picked up two fouls early and rushed shots at the rim and from the perimeter. As the game continued, he started to settle in and make better decisions, which is huge for his growth. 

Marvin Bagley III struggled with the same issue in the Kings’ debut, but he never found his comfort level. The sooner Bagley has that moment, the better for Sacramento. He’s a high-end talent, but the game is moving way too fast right now. 

Who stops LeBron?

No one really has an answer to this question. For the last 15 years, James has been the best player on the planet. He’s a physical freak and he continues to adapt his game as he moves into the final phase of his career. 

If James is playing the small forward position, Justin Jackson will likely get a first look. If he’s playing the four, Dave Joerger is going to have to get creative. Giles and  Bagley both played the four in the opener, as did Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein. None of them are natural matchups against James.

If the Lakers feature the 14-time All-Star, the Kings could be in for a long evening. 

Kings rookie Marvin Bagley ready to prove naysayers wrong in NBA debut

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USATSI

Kings rookie Marvin Bagley ready to prove naysayers wrong in NBA debut

SACRAMENTO -- Preseason is over. Records and stats are thrown out the window and now it’s time for a young Sacramento Kings team to step on the floor and prove they belong when games count. 

Everything is new for rookie Marvin Bagley III. From the grind of training camp, to getting smoked by 39 points against the Utah Jazz, it’s all a learning experience and the 19-year-old power forward is taking it in stride. 

“You look up at the score, you’re down 30, not putting your head down and not playing hard, that’s something I try not to do,” Bagley said Sunday after practice. “I just try to keep attacking, keep going, keep playing like it’s a tie game or like we’re winning. I think that’s the big things for us, stay positive, pick each other up, no matter what’s going on.”

Following the drubbing at the hands of Utah, Bagley stayed at his locker while others scurried out the door as quickly as possible. No player wants to talk to the media after an embarrassing loss. 

Bagley didn’t take the bait. He stood tall and took the lumps for his teammates, including some players with a lot more to answer for.

Against Portland, on the second night of a back-to-back, Bagley continued to show he belongs. In 27 minutes against the Blazers, the former Duke star scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while grabbing six rebounds. He hit his first 3-pointer in the 118-115 loss, and added a steal and a block. 

“Even though we lost that game in Portland, I think we had flashes of what we can do as a team,” Bagley said. “We were running that game. We definitely came out with more energy than the last games that we had.”

While the numbers are reset to zero for Wednesday’s opener against Utah, it’s hard not to like what Bagley’s shown so far. In six preseason contests, the 6-foot-11 big posted 13.0 points, a team-high 6.8 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in 24.1 minutes per game. 

Bagley picked up four fouls in the preseason opener against Phoenix, but only committed another three in the final five games. He also turned the ball over a total of six times during the exhibition season.

Regardless of how strong the rookie plays, there are still naysayers out there. Before being selected with the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, basketball analysts around the league said Bagley couldn’t play defense and could only score with his left hand. It’s early, but he’s shown plenty defensively and his offensive game is developing.

“I’ve been doing it since since I was younger and a lot of people had a lot of things to say about my game, but I blocked it out,” Bagley said. “I kept getting better, kept working. One day they’ll love you, the next day they’ll hate you, they’ll tear you down. They’ll even build you up so they can tear you down. Everything with the media and what’s going on outside these lines and what we have going on, it doesn’t bother me, I try not to think about it.”

He can’t wait to kick off his career later this week. The 19-year-old is excited to play alongside Harry Giles III, and he’s looking forward to facing former Blue Devil teammate Grayson Allen in the opener. 

Bagley is mature well beyond his years. He’s been in the spotlight since he was a young prep athlete, and he’s ready to finally hit the big stage and show the league what he’s got.  

Breaking down Kings' roster ahead of NBA's mandatory cut down day

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AP

Breaking down Kings' roster ahead of NBA's mandatory cut down day

SACRAMENTO -- Cut down day is coming and the Sacramento Kings have a few roster moves to make. There isn’t a lot of mystery to hash over with the Kings. They walked into camp with 15 players on guaranteed contracts and rookie Wenyen Gabriel under a two-way deal.

Teams have until Monday at 2 p.m. PT to set their rosters. That means the end of the road for Cam Reynolds and Kalin Lucas, who were waived by the Kings on Saturday. The duo are expected to join the Stockton Kings as allocated players, but their ties to the parent club will dissolve, barring a late two-way offer to one of them.

Sacramento waived two Exhibit 10 players, Taren Sullivan and Gabe Vincent, earlier in the preseason. Like Reynolds and Lucas, Sullivan and Vincent will both have the opportunity to skip the G-League draft on October 20 and join the Kings’ G League affiliate for the upcoming season.

Last season the Kings carried a pair of two-way players all season in JaKarr Sampson and Jack Cooley. Both players were allowed to spend up to 45 days with the parent club and they shuttled back and forth between Sacramento and Reno. 

With the Bighorns relocating to Stockton and going through a rebranding to the Stockton Kings, the ties between Sacramento and their G-League affiliate have strengthened. 

The Kings are likely to watch the waiver wire and search for the right fit when it comes to their second two-way player. 

As far as the NBA roster goes, the Kings have very little flexibility. Unless they decide to jettison a guaranteed deal, they are set walking into the season with 15 players under contract.

Sacramento has approximately $11 million in salary cap space walking into the season. Ben McLemore ($5.5 million), Kosta Koufos ($8.7 million), Iman Shumpert ($11 million) and Zach Randolph ($11.7 million) are all playing out the final year of their contracts, giving the Kings nearly $37 million in expiring contracts. 

Willie Cauley-Stein is entering the final year of his rookie scale contract which will pay him $4.7 million this season. Sacramento can extend a $6.3 million qualifying offer to the 7-footer next summer, which would make him a restricted free agent and allow the team the option of matching any contract offers that come his way.

Outside of the four expiring veterans and Cauley-Stein’s qualifying offer, the rest of the Kings’ squad is under contract through this season and next, at a minimum. They’ll enter the season with nine players on their initial rookie scale contracts, plus free agent acquisitions, Yogi Ferrell (2-year, $6 million) and Nemanja Bjelica (3-year, $20.4 million).