Justin James

Dewayne Dedmon breaks out, but not enough for Kings in loss to 76ers

Dewayne Dedmon breaks out, but not enough for Kings in loss to 76ers

The Sacramento Kings starters looked disinterested and ready to get home for a turkey dinner when the ball tipped off Wednesday evening at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The second team came in to give the Kings a lift, but the inconsistent play lasted all night.

Joel Embiid went to work in the post and punished the Kings. Matisse Thybulle came off the bench to give the 76ers a lift on both ends of the court and the home team held on for a 97-91 victory to send the Kings home with a 1-3 road trip.

“That’s a good team and we did not play well enough to come in and get a road win,” coach Luke Walton told reporters. “I thought we started the game a little soft, a little tentative and then I think our bench did a nice job of finding that heart and passion that we play with.”

Bogdan Bogdanovic came in to stabilize the lineup, but he wasn’t the only second-teamer to step up. Rookie Justin James brought a ton of energy and after a rough start to the season, and Dewayne Dedmon put together his best game as a King.

“He hasn’t been playing as much as he was early on in the season, he stepped up big, he was huge for us,” Harrison Barnes told reporters about the seven-footer. “Depth is something we talked about at the beginning of the season and guys are staying ready.”

The veteran center has struggled at almost every aspect of the game this season, but especially from the perimeter, where he’d hit just 8-of-37 coming into the game.

Dedmon was impactful, scoring a season-high 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including a pair of 3-points and he chipped in six rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

“I thought he was leading out there, he was talking defensively, calling out coverages, getting to the rim, finishing when appropriate, kicking out when appropriate,” Walton said. “I thought his all-around game on both ends was really big for us.”

Before Wednesday’s game, Dedmon’s season-high in scoring was just 11 points on the season after averaging 10.8 points for the Hawks last season. The Kings desperately need the 30-year-old to find his game moving forward.

Dedmon helped keep the Kings in the game, but the Kings couldn’t buy a bucket from the perimeter, which was an issue early and then again late.

Sacramento hit just 9-of-34 from long range, including a 3-of-12 performance from leading scorer Buddy Hield. That’s a far cry from the 36.9 percent the team averages from distance on the season.

“We’ve got to knock down shots when we get em’,” Walton said. “We had a lot of open looks tonight that we didn’t knockdown.”

Hield wasn’t the only one to struggle. Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica each shot 1-of-4 from long distance and Yogi Ferrell missed his only two opportunities.

[RELATED: What we learned in Kings' hard-fought road loss to 76ers]

The Kings’ offense is predicated on the team hitting the long ball, especially with De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley sidelined. Unfortunately, the team has been hit or miss on the four-game road trip, which is a big reason they finished 1-3 on the eastern swing.

Sacramento flew home after the game and will have a two-day break to take in the Thanksgiving holiday and prepare for the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. Bagley is inching closer to a return after missing all but the opening night game with a broken right thumb, but there is no early word on his availability.

Why injured Kings should give Harry Giles a look to boost offense

Why injured Kings should give Harry Giles a look to boost offense

Injuries are part of the game, but the Kings are feeling the burn early in the 2019-20 season. During the Kings' 116-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, coach Luke Walton was forced to go young early and often.

Justin James flashed his athleticism and unbridled energy. Wenyen Gabriel had a nice moment or two and DaQuan Jeffries scored his first NBA bucket.

There was also a Harry Giles sighting, which came way too late in the game.

Giles is lost in the shuffle of a heavy front line. Richaun Holmes has been an incredible find for Sacramento. Nemanja Bjelica is playing extremely well, the Brooklyn game being an outlier.

Harrison Barnes is playing minutes at the four, and the Kings also invested heavily in Dewayne Dedmon during the offseason.

So far, Dedmon has been a tremendous disappointment for Sacramento. He’s shooting just 37.5 percent from the field, in large part due to his 21.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

The advanced numbers are just as bad for the 30-year-old center. He has posted an offensive rating of 95 and a defensive rating of 107.2 for a net rating of negative-12.2. Dedmon’s assist percentage is down and his turnover percentage is sky-high. And if you are a fan of player efficiency rating (PER), Dedmon’s has gone from 16 last season to just 7.1 this year.

In all fairness, Dedmon was supposed to pair with Marvin Bagley as an inside-outside combo, but that lasted all of one game before Bagley broke his thumb.

Walton also has been forced to get creative with De’Aaron Fox’s long-term absence due to an ankle sprain. Bagley should be back on the court in a week or so, but Fox is likely out of action until after the New Year.

Already trying to reinvent the Kings' system of play, Walton has done a very nice job of pushing the right buttons and also making tough decisions.

Replacing Dedmon with Holmes isn’t one of those moves that usually goes over well with a front office. Holmes signed a two-year, $10 million deal in the offseason, which pales in comparison to the three-year, $40 million Dedmon received.

But Walton made the move and hasn’t looked back. Since joining the starting lineup 10 games ago, Holmes is averaging 29.3 minutes a night and posting 11.9 points, nine rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

All of this brings us back to Giles.

Vlade Divac made a tough decision not to pick up the fourth year of Giles’ rookie-scale contract in late October. He had his reasons for the move, but the Kings’ general manager also hasn’t closed the door on the 21-year-old big.

When Walton inserted Giles into the lineup in the second half against the Nets, the dynamic on the floor instantly changed. Despite playing limited minutes over the last four years, Giles sees the floor in a way that Holmes and Dedmon can’t.

Giles doesn’t have Holmes’ athleticism or understanding of the pick-and-roll game. He also doesn’t have Dedmon’s shooting ability or experience. But when injuries hit and you need a player you can run your entire offense through in the high post, Giles is uniquely qualified on the Kings’ roster.

Against Brooklyn, Giles made passes that no other Sacramento big could. The movement and flow of the team completely changed. Despite playing just 28 minutes on the season coming into Friday, Giles called for the ball and directed his teammates all over the court.

Giles missed training camp with knee soreness. He also sat for the first eight games while getting back into game shape. At this point, he still is searching for his rhythm, but he needs to be on the court to work through the kinks.

[RELATED: Kings rookie James provides silver lining in blowout loss]

Walton is still learning his players and trying to fit all the pieces together, but it might be time to turn to Giles for his reserve minutes at the five. Giles will make mistakes. He’ll force an occasional shot. He’ll pick up a few fouls that frustrate you. He’ll try to thread the needle on a pass that has no chance.

But Giles will also make a big defensive play, grab a rebound, hit a 20-foot jumper, attack a player like De’Andre Jordan in the post, bring toughness to the team and open the spacing back up with Fox on the shelf.

If the goal is to win, you have to go with the nine or 10 players that give you the best chance. It’s probably time to see if Giles fits into that group.

Kings rookie Justin James provides silver lining in disappointing loss

Kings rookie Justin James provides silver lining in disappointing loss

The Sacramento Kings walked into Friday evening’s game knowing they were short-handed and they were going to need everyone on the roster to contribute. Unfortunately, they played like a team expecting to lose and sure enough, the prophecy was fulfilled.

Coach Luke Walton’s team didn’t play to their potential and lost 116-97, but there was at least one bright spot for the team.

Rookie Justin James came to play. It took him a little while to get his bearings, but with Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox and Trevor Ariza all out due to injury, the Kings were light at both the guard and small forward position.

“I felt good out there, I was just playing my game,” James told reporters following the game. “I had a lot of mishaps defensively that I’m not too happy about, but coach called on my number and I was ready to play.”

James had played a total of 15 minutes over four games coming into Friday. Against the Nets, he more than doubled that total and came away with a career-high 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting in 32 minutes of action. He also added three rebounds, three assists and a steal during his time on the court.

“Very impressed with him,” Walton said in his postgame scrum. “He’s come a long way in the short time we’ve had him. But to see him out there and the way he was compete...he was playing smart. As far as the play calls and just reading the game, taking on the defensive challenge, a bright spot in a bad night, Justin was very good for us.”

Starting point guard Cory Joseph was questionable leading up to the game and managed to play just 22 minutes. James ran the point for stretches, flanked by players like Buddy Hield and Yogi Ferrell.

“My versatility, being able to guard and spread the floor on offense,” James said of what he can bring to the team. “And just do whatever coach needs me to do.”

It wasn’t always pretty, but the effort and energy was there from the 6-foot-7 guard. He showed off his floater, challenged De’Andre Jordan on a near highlight-reel dunk and even hit a pair of 3-pointers.

At this point, James simply is organizational depth, but the second-round pick might be able to help out, especially if Bogdanovic and Ariza continue to miss time.

He’s made an impact with his positive energy and when he’s not playing, he is cheering his teammates on from the bench with vigor.

That boundless enthusiasm carries over to practice where he is a sponge trying to take everything in.

“He’s one of the most talkative players I’ve been around, but I think that’s helping him,” Walton said. “Every practice and he never shuts up, really. I think because of that, he knows then offense, he knows the play calls. There was one play out there he was directing veterans on the team at where to go. He knows what an amazing opportunity this is for him and he’s doing everything in his power to make it work. He made a nice case for himself tonight.”

[RELATED: Richmond thinks Fox will be next All-Star guard for Kings]

Depending on where Bogdanovic is health-wise, James may get another shot to step up when the Kings visit the Washington Wizards on Sunday. Even if Bogdanovic is a go, Walton may turn to his bouncy rookie with Ariza being away from the team during the road trip.

James made a positive impression. That can’t hurt his chances going forward as the Kings try to survive an early rash of injuries.