Kent Bazemore

Kings' tailspin continues as team hits rock bottom in loss vs. Pistons

Kings' tailspin continues as team hits rock bottom in loss vs. Pistons

What happened to the Sacramento Kings? They’ve been treading just above rock bottom for the better part of a month, but it doesn’t get much worse than the performance they put forth Wednesday in Detroit.

The Kings looked completely disinterested through the first half, almost as if they were just going to show up in the third quarter and blow a completely depleted Pistons team out of the water.

That didn’t happen. In fact, the Kings were embarrassed by a team missing 60 percent of its starting lineup, falling by a final of 127-106.

“Basketball is a simple game, defend without fouling, make the right play and knock down shots early,” Luke Walton told reporters following the loss. “I feel like we didn't do any of those things. Now, I don't know where our competitive spirit was or because of injuries we thought the game might be easy.”

The Kings looked like a team that has completely lost its way. Players started hunting for shots in the third quarter and throwing up one bad 3-point attempt after another.

Instead of attacking the rim, it was a series of misses, followed by defensive rebounds for Detroit. The only time the offense looked anywhere near cohesive was when Walton went to the bench, turning to a group that included Cory Joseph, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and Harry Giles.

Giles has played sparingly over the last week and Bazemore and Tolliver made their debuts with Sacramento after coming over in a trade over the weekend.  

[RELATED: Kings players react to Bazemore-Tolliver trade with Blazers]

“I think our bad stretches are happening for too long, too many times,” De’Aaron Fox told media members. “There are times where we are out there playing good basketball and there are times where we're not. I said it before, you just try to play the best basketball you can for the most amount of time. I don’t think we're doing that right now.”

On the defensive end, the Kings didn’t move their feet and they fouled at will. 12 of the 13 players who stepped on the floor were called for personal fouls, including five each for Buddy Hield and Dewayne Dedmon.

In total, the Kings picked up 28 personal fouls as a team and sent the Pistons to the line for a staggering 44 free-throw attempts, of which they hit 37. Sacramento was outscored by 25 points at the foul line in a 21-point loss.

“There are times where our defense looks great and then we're not making shots,” Fox said. “There are times where we're making shots but we're trading baskets. We just have to be able to piece it together for as long as we can. Like I said before, we can't let our offense affect our defense or vice versa.”

The Kings have now dropped six straight and they are just 3-15 over their last 18 games. At 15-29, they are rudderless and in desperate need of a win.

“It's about where we're going and I'm a very patient person,” Walton said. “I believe in our group, but we need to do a lot of things including starting games with a much more competitive, engaged mindset. So, I still have all the belief in the world in our team. It's still surreal to be coaching this team, but there are some things that we need to improve on and improve on quickly because it's too late in the season to be having these same types of mistakes so frequently.”

With 38 games remaining in the season, the Kings have officially hit a new low. There is still time to make the season respectable and build for next year, but changes have to be made.

Whether that is a rotational move or a trade or something more drastic, the team needs a shock to the system and the current path the Kings are on is completely unacceptable by any standard.

Kings finalize Trail Blazers trade to add Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver

Kings finalize Trail Blazers trade to add Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver

The deal is done.

After a 72-hour delay, the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers officially have completed a trade to swap Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round draft picks.

Due to Gabriel’s signing date, he couldn’t be traded until Jan. 21, which is why the trade was put on ice for a few days.

Gabriel, an undrafted combo forward out of the Sudan via the University of Kentucky, spent last season as a two-way player for the Kings. He played his way onto the roster through hard work over the summer and training camp.

Like Gabriel, Swanigan put in extra time with the team’s training staff during the offseason. He completely reshaped his body during his time with the Kings, losing massive amounts of weight and building muscle.

This pair worked together, along with second-rounder Justin James and big man Harry Giles, playing pickup games after practice. They were instrumental in helping Giles get back on the floor after a rough start to the season.

“They both work extremely hard and they’ve been with me through my process of getting back to where I need to be,” Giles told NBC Sports California. “I got nothing but love for them the whole way and I know they are going to be successful wherever they go.”

Swanigan and Giles were both part of the 2017 NBA Draft class. Giles was selected by the Kings at No. 20- overall, and Swanigan went six selections behind him at No. 26 to the Blazers. But the prep basketball circuit is a much smaller world than you would expect, especially when you are dealing with NBA prospects.

“Those are my boys, I’ve known them from before we got in the league so I have a special relationship with them,” Giles said. “I’m happy for them to get a new opportunity. They’re still in the NBA, so it’s a blessing for them.”

The players joining the Kings both have ties to Sacramento as well. Tolliver played with the Kings during the 2016-17 season, before being waived during the summer of '17. He averaged 7.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 65 games for the Kings in his lone season and shot an impressive 39.1 percent from 3-point range.

Bazemore played with Dewayne Dedmon over the last few seasons in Atlanta before he was traded to Portland during the offseason. In addition, he broke into the league as part of the Golden State Warriors' 2012-13 rookie class that included Festus Ezili, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes.

“Coming into the league, I think Kent really worked hard to establish himself as a good two-way player -- a guy who can knock down shots and defend at a high level,” Harrison Barnes told NBC Sports California.

Undrafted out of Old Dominion, Bazemore bounced back and forth between the Warriors and the D-League during his first two seasons, but he still managed to suit up and play 61 games alongside Barnes in his rookie season.

The two forged a friendship and have stayed in contact over the years despite no longer playing for the same team.

“We spent a lot of time together, developed a great friendship and we still have that,” Barnes said.

[RELATED: What will Kings' plan be as NBA trade deadline approaches?]

There is no word on how coach Luke Walton will use either Bazemore or Tolliver. Of the two, Bazemore should be able to find a role in the Kings’ wing rotation. He is an energy player that can defend multiple positions and he can eat some of the minutes that Ariza was receiving.

Tolliver is lost in a sea of bigs on the front line, although Sacramento has struggled with injury woes all season long and there always is a chance the 12-year NBA vet will be needed at some point.

Both players are on their way to Detroit to meet up with the Kings. There is a good chance they will be eligible to play Wednesday night when Sacramento faces off with the Pistons.

What is Kings' NBA trade deadline plan after disappointing first half?

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USATSI

What is Kings' NBA trade deadline plan after disappointing first half?

If Saturday’s five-player trade that sent Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan to the Portland Trail Blazers is any indication, the Kings are open for business and aren’t waiting around for the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline to start overhauling the roster.

At 15-27, this is the right move. The Kings got off to a rough start and they currently are spiraling out of control as they make their way through the longest road trip on their schedule.

General manager Vlade Divac and his group need to be bold if they hope to hold their core together and perhaps build on it.

Here is how the roster shakes out with a little over two weeks before the deadline.

Untouchable

De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley

Fox and Bagley are completely off the board in any trade scenario, according to a source with knowledge of the Kings’ thinking. Fox is taking another step in his development in Year 3 and is the face of the franchise. Bagley has battled injuries throughout his two NBA seasons, but the Kings still believe in his talent and aren’t even close to moving on from the 20-year-old power forward.

Rather Keep

Richaun Holmes, Harrison Barnes

Holmes is the surprise of the 2019-20 season for the Kings. It took him four games to displace starter Dewayne Dedmon, and at two-years, $10 million, he’s one of the best deals in the league. He’s a hard worker and a high character guy and his age fits the current player arc.

While Barnes isn’t having his best offensive season, there is a reason why the Kings traded for him and then signed him to a four-year, $84 million contract. He’s a pro’s pro who rarely misses a game. The Kings can run him out on the court for 38 minutes a game and know they are going to get solid production at the small forward position.

Rather keep, but it's complicated

Bogdan Bogdanovic

Bogdanovic is a wild card for this team. They are just 2-9 when he misses a game, but are just 13-18 when he plays.

After paying Barnes and Buddy Hield over the summer and knowing that Fox and Bagley extensions are just around the corner, the Kings are going to have to scramble to keep everyone. Bogdanovic will be a restricted free agent on July 1, but he likes Sacramento, they like him and as long as the money doesn’t get completely out of control, the two sides would like to continue their union.

On the Block

Dewayne Dedmon

On paper, Dedmon was the perfect fit next to Bagley in the post. Poor shooting, high turnover rate and a general malaise cost the veteran center his starting job, and his decision to go to the press demanding a trade cost him $50,000.

The Kings would love nothing more than to find a taker for Dedmon and his three-year, $40 million contract. There are teams that have sniffed around, but no takers as of yet. Dedmon is owed $13.3 million next season, but the final year of his deal is guaranteed at just $1 million. Expect the Kings to do their best to move on from the 30-year-old big, even if they have to get creative.

Veterans worth keeping

Cory Joseph, Nemanja Bjelica

Joseph signed a three-year, $37.2 million deal to back up Fox and provide veteran leadership. Early season injuries cost Fox 18 games, leaving Joseph to play heavy minutes. While he isn’t the offensive weapon that Fox is, Joseph plays hard and has one of the longest current games played streaks in the NBA. He’s owed $12.6 million next season, with a $2.4 million buyout in the third year. If the right deal came along, the Kings would listen, but Joseph has been as advertised in his first season in Sacramento.

Divac and his staff went searching for a perfect frontcourt pairing for Bagley, but they may have had the guy they needed already on the roster. Multiple teams have scouted Bjelica and would love to take the 31-year-old Serbian off the Kings’ hands. He’s on a team-friendly deal with a club option for next season at $7.2 million. He’s far outplayed his contract and he’s tough as nails.

Would they listen?

Buddy Hield

Contract negotiations were contentious leading into the season, but Hield finally got his payday from the Kings. Injuries to Fox and Bogdanovic have forced coach Luke Walton to use Hield in ways that he’s not suited for and he hasn’t responded well to the challenge. While he’s still leading the team in scoring at 20.1 points per game, his shooting numbers have taken a massive dip and his turnovers have spiked.

Hield’s contract status is complicated. He signed a four-year, $86 million extension during training camp, but he currently is making $4.9 million under his old deal. Dealing him before July 1 almost is impossible under the current collective bargaining agreement. Hield's bouts with inconsistency, specifically on the defensive end, have frustrated plenty of folks in Sacramento and his decisions to go public with internal matters haven’t helped his case.

The magnifying glass only gets hotter when he starts making $26.4 million next season. 

Expiring contracts

Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, Yogi Ferrell, Harry Giles

The Kings now have a variety of expiring contracts to work with, including the massive $19.2 million owed to Bazemore that they picked up in the deal with the Blazers. Tolliver is a veterans minimum player who makes $2.6 million and Ferrell is in the final year of his deal that pays him $3.2 million this season. Bazemore and Tolliver are slightly complicated because they were just acquired, but there still is a chance they can be moved, although as individual pieces.

In addition, the Kings have Harry Giles and his $2.6 million contract for this season. The team declined his fourth-year option, making him an unrestricted free agent after the season and limiting their ability to re-sign the 21-year-old big. Giles' contract limitations move with him, making his contract more of an expiring deal than a trade asset.

Additional assets

In addition to players, Sacramento also has a massive stash of second-round selections, including four in 2020, three in 2021 and a total of 13 over the next six seasons. They also own all of their own first-round selections moving forward, although it would take a blockbuster to get them to move one of them. The Kings also have an open roster spot that can hold value under the right circumstance, and rookie Justin James is on a minimum scale deal, although he is well-liked and is unlikely to be moved.

[RELATED: What Bazemore, Tolliver trade means for Kings]

Conclusion

Expect the Kings to be active and in asset collection mode. The season has not gone as planned, at all. They’ve made moves at the deadline the last few seasons and they've already started the activity this year. The Ariza deal opened up some new avenues and the team would love to move on from Dedmon and his contract, as long as it doesn’t hamper the franchise long term.

Lastly, despite the poor showing this season, the Kings still are just five games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference with 40 games remaining. There still is enough time for Divac to swing for the fences and try to change the team's fortunes this season.