Kings

Why Kevin Durant can see Kings attracting big names in NBA free agency

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AP

Why Kevin Durant can see Kings attracting big names in NBA free agency

SACRAMENTO -- Kevin Durant is getting in the habit of talking about the Kings.

First, he spoke glowingly of the team on the Bill Simmons podcast. Then, following shootaround Friday at Golden 1 Center, he was asked a few more questions about the team his Warriors were set to play later in the evening.

“I just like the growth of each player, I mean, you can see that these guys are getting better individually and they’re bringing it together as a unit and playing well off of each other,” Durant said.

The nine-time All-Star and former NBA MVP was asked a follow-up question about whether or not the Kings have become an attractive free agent destination. After taking a moment to think, he gave a thoughtful answer.

“Sacramento’s usually been a team that’s always tried to build through the draft, and they always have some young pieces, young assets,” Durant said. “But I feel like this is the first time since I’ve been in the league that they’re starting to come together even more and present a great product of basketball on the floor.”

“Hopefully guys start to look at this place as somewhere they want to go -- new arena, fan base is pretty excited about the team,” Durant continued. “Anything can happen in the NBA. All you need is just one guy.”

The Kings (15-12) are proving up a young core this season, and they are armed with an estimated $60 million in salary cap space for next summer when Durant and over 200 NBA players can become free agents.

Sacramento has the building, the fan base and talent, and the team is playing a fun brand of basketball. Like Durant said, “all you need is one guy.”

Expect to see that mantra printed on a purple T-shirt somewhere in Sacramento later this season.

NBA odds: Where Kings' playoff hopes stand after first NBA restart win

NBA odds: Where Kings' playoff hopes stand after first NBA restart win

So you're telling me there's a chance.

The Kings stumbled out of the gates in the NBA restart, losing their first three games in the Orlando bubble. They bounced back with an impressive 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, barely keeping their postseason chances alive.

Sacramento's playoff hopes aren't dead. However ...

They're mostly dead.

After defeating the Pelicans, the Kings' playoff odds according to FiveThiryEight stand at a whopping 2 percent. Of all the teams still alive in the Western Conference playoff race, only the San Antonio Spurs (1 percent) currently have worse odds.

[RELATED: Kings minority owner Shaq makes virtual cameo during win]

In order to qualify for a playoff spot, Sacramento would at least have to climb to ninth place in the Western Conference standings while remaining within four games of the eighth seed. The Kings currently sit 2.5 games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies, but currently have three other teams situated between them and Memphis.

The Kings dug themselves quite a hole. It's going to be awfully tough to dig themselves out of it.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Bogdan Bogdanovic's career game carries Kings to first NBA bubble win

Bogdan Bogdanovic's career game carries Kings to first NBA bubble win

De’Aaron Fox is becoming a star in the Orlando bubble, but in order for his team to start winning games, someone else had to step up and give him some help. On Thursday, Bogdan Bogdanovic was that player, scoring a career-high 35 points to help the Kings pick up their first win of the seeding tournament.

In a recent recording of the Purple Talk podcast, Fox mentioned his starting backcourt mate and made a statement that may have struck a chord with the Serbian shooter.

“Sometimes, the player that Bogi is, for him to be a team-first guy, is for him to shoot the ball,” Fox said.

There can be an issue with a player being too unselfish. Bogdanovic is a career 37 percent shooter from long range and one of the more versatile scorers on the Kings’ roster, but he rarely looks for his own shot.

He tries to get everyone else involved and then once the game has settled into a rhythm, he looks to get free himself. Fox has struggled with this issue as well, but since the NBA’s restart, he has gone into attack mode.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Bogdanovic followed Fox’s lead Thursday, which led to the 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

After missing his first 14 shots in the Kings' loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, Bogdanovic looked like a man possessed against New Orleans. He started firing away in the first quarter and by the time the first 12 minutes were up, his shooting hand was smoldering.

“I was just maybe a little bit more mentally locked in,” Bogdanovic said. “Before the game against Dallas, I did all of the same things I did today. I didn’t change my routine at all.”

Bogdanovic lit up New Orleans for 19 first-quarter points. The only shot he missed in the opening period was a 50-footer as time expired.

With Bogdanovic on fire, New Orleans made adjustments and the Kings countered. First, they got Harrison Barnes loose in the post. When the Pelicans shifted defensive stalwart Jrue Holiday over to slow Bogdanovic down, he went to Fox and told him to attack.

“Whenever I was open, I was decisive, I took my shot, I scored, I didn’t miss my first couple of shots,” Bogdanovic said. “And then they started trapping me and I saw a lot of space for the big guys and tell them, ‘Hey, now it’s your time.’ And then I told Fox, ‘Hey, Holiday is on me, he’s stop blocking, he’s not helping, so you have all the space now, it’s your time.’ That’s how he got hot.”

Bogdanovic was a flame thrower and once Fox started attacking, it was lights out. The starting backcourt for the Kings pinned 65 points on the Pelicans in their best-combined scoring output of the season.

“We know we have a lot of guys on this team that can put the ball in the basket,” Fox said. “But when you have guys like that and they care about each other, it makes the game easier for others.”

An experienced European player, Bogdanovic helped play coach on the floor. Playing within a team concept is how he learned the game and he’s doing his best to share as much as he can with his teammates.

[RELATED: Fox's development silver lining to Kings' struggles in restart]

The Kings' road to a playoff spot is narrow to say the least, but they had to have the win over the Pelicans to keep any hope alive.

“You’ve got to step up as a man and play the game,” Bogdanovic said. “That’s what we did.”

The Kings don’t have a lot of time to celebrate the victory. They jump back into the fray Friday morning when they play the Brooklyn Nets in their lone back-to-back of the tournament.

While the Kings likely will scoreboard watch all day to see what happens to teams like the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, the focus must remain on the things they can control.

“We can’t worry about anyone by ourselves,” Fox said. “Knowing that we got this win, it throws us right back in contention for one of the last playoff spots.”

The Kings now are halfway through their schedule in the bubble. Following the Nets, they’ll face the Houston Rockets, the Pelicans for a second time and then finish off their seasons against the first-place Los Angeles Lakers.