Miami Heat

Buddy Hield making tremendous strides both on and off court for Kings

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AP

Buddy Hield making tremendous strides both on and off court for Kings

SACRAMENTO -- He grows on you. With his big smile and thick Bahamian accent, Buddy Hield has arrived this season in so many ways for the Kings.

The third-year guard has impressed on a nightly basis with his ability to score in bunches. He has become an extremely efficient shooter, and very few players in the league put in the overall miles that the former Oklahoma Sooners guard does for the up-tempo Sacramento offense.

Hield has failed to score in double-figures just twice all season and he ranks fourth in the league in 3-point percentage, knocking down a shocking 45.2 percent on 7.6 attempts per game. He's averaging 20.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 31.6 minutes per game this year.

All of those numbers are career-highs.

“You watch him and you just smile, because he loves to play,” coach Dave Joerger said of his budding star at the two. “He loves to make a play and it’s not selfish or greedy in any way, shape or form.”

There are still moments when Hield drives you crazy. At the pace the Kings play, the design is for Hield to get back on defense and not hang around the key looking for boards.

“He runs in for offensive rebounds, which makes me pull my hair out sometimes,” Joerger said following the Kings’ win over the Miami Heat on Friday. “He did that today and won the game for us.”

Sure enough, it was Hield who slashed to the basket, grabbed an errant layup from De’Aaron Fox and laid it in to seal the victory for Sacramento.

Hield is learning that it can’t just be about how many points he scores. If he wants to be part of a winning culture, he has to do whatever it takes. 

Even if that means sacrificing some of his statline or defying his coach on occasion.

“It’s the little things and the little things get me chewed out a lot by Dave too, but I’m going to keep on plucking away and try to find ways to win,” Hield told NBC Sports California. “That’s what you’ve got to do as a basketball team, a basketball player, you’ve got to find ways to win and help your team.”

The light bulb has gone on for Hield both on and off the court. His maturation as a player is stunning, but his change in demeanor is equal to (or greater) than what fans are seeing between the lines.

Following the stunning trades of Iman Shumpert and Justin Jackson last Wednesday, it was Hield who stood in and fielded difficult questions. With a void in leadership, he is one of the players who is ready to step in and take the torch.

“You’ve got to step up, you’ve got to grow,” Hield said. “Shump is not the voice anymore like it use to be. Z-Bo’s (Zach Randolph) not here. Garrett’s (Temple) not here.”

This isn’t the same kid that came to the Kings at the 2017 NBA trade deadline in a swap for big man DeMarcus Cousins. Everything about him feels different.

“Look at me, I’m the one shooting most of the balls, so you know, I have to have something to back it up,” Hield said.  

Those are words that Hield wouldn’t have spoken a year ago. Like so many others that come into the league, Hield was all about his own numbers in his first couple of seasons.

His lack of versatility as a player had plenty within the organization believing he would never be a starting-level shooting guard in the league.

Those concerns are gone. Hield is clearly a starter, and he might even be a lot more than that.  

“You’ve just got to love his spirit and what he brings to our team,” Joerger said. “I can’t say enough good things about [how] the positive far outweighs the negative with him.”

[RELATED: Divac has heart-to-heart with Fox after Kings' trades]

Hield will participate in the 3-point shootout on Saturday as part of NBA All-Star weekend. There’s a good chance it won’t be the last invitation he receives to the NBA’s annual showcase.

While it should be a fun experience, Hield is focused on his team’s chase for a playoff berth, which has evaded the Kings franchise for the last 12 seasons.

Hield knows what the playoffs would mean for his young team, and he also understands that his squad is playing for more than just themselves.

“There’s a lot of pressure. You know why? Because the city hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2005-06 and it would be a joy to get them back there,” Hield said. “It’s a great fanbase and they love it so much. They’re passionate about basketball and it’s a lot of pressure.”

Young players don’t always understand the big picture. In his third season, Hield is starting to see the forest through the trees, which is a refreshing development.

Warriors Under Review: Pesky Heat no match for Kevin Durant's brilliance

Warriors Under Review: Pesky Heat no match for Kevin Durant's brilliance

OAKLAND – The Warriors fooled around and won a game on Sunday, needing the full 48 minutes to put away a Miami Heat team whose greatest asset is its zeal to overcome its roster shortcomings.

So when a final-seconds heave by Heat guard Dion Waiters was off target, the Warriors more relieved than satisfied.

Here are some of the positives and negatives culled from a 120-118 win at Oracle Arena:
 

POSITIVE

KD the terminator

Three turnovers aside, Kevin Durant was terrific throughout. But he was absurd in the second half of a game that could have gone either way, scoring 25 points in 19 minutes, on 10-of-12 shooting, including 1-of-3 from beyond the arc. Repeatedly getting to his mid-range spots in isolation, he scored 11 of the team’s last 13 points, DeMarcus Cousins’ clinching free throws with 5.4 seconds left the only exception.

The Heat, like most teams, had no answer for Durant. His teammates saw that and exploited it.
 

POSITIVE

Draymond’s dimes

Few teams are more proficient using physicality to disrupt an offense than the Heat, who had some success in the first half. Draymond Green, who had four assists and two turnovers in the first half, solved them in the second. Finding a seam here and a crack there to zing passes to set up his teammates, Green recorded 10 assists and one turnover after intermission.

The Warriors shot 59 percent in the second half. Klay Thompson (7-of-10) and Durant made the shots, and Green did plenty of spoon-feeding.
 

NEGATIVE

Tardy again

Eight minutes into the game Friday in Phoenix, the Warriors trailed the Suns 26-9. Eight minutes after tipoff against Miami, the Warriors were down 24-7. With sloppy play and lack of focus, they invited early 17-point deficits in back-to-back games. Both times, with the help of energy off the bench, they recovered over the final 40 minutes to get the victory.

These are textbook examples of a bad habit. Getting away with it doesn’t make it right.
 

NEGATIVE

Speaking of bad habits

The Warriors, for the second consecutive game, allowed their opponent to grab 19 offensive rebounds. One game after the Suns put up 20 more shots (101-81) than the Warriors, the Heat put up 21 more (103-82). Phoenix had 25 second-chance points, and Miami rang up 21.

For the time being, the Warriors consider fundamentals as unnecessary. Until they fix this, they’re asking for trouble.
 

POSITIVE

The jersey swap

Heat legend Dwyane Wade is making the post-game jersey swap a routine of his farewell tour. His swap partner in this game was Stephen Curry. They shared a few private words, and then posed for cameras, each gripping the jersey of the other.

[RELATED: Warriors show appreciation for Wade in final game at Oracle]

A few folks, mostly cranky retired players, don’t approve of this.

We do. Celebrate the game.

Warriors show full appreciation as Dwyane Wade's farewell tour passes through

Warriors show full appreciation as Dwyane Wade's farewell tour passes through

OAKLAND -- When it was over, the Warriors summoning barely enough to overcome the relentless pluck of the Miami Heat, two legends of basketball and beyond stood side-by-side, grinning and giggling, each holding the sweaty jersey of each other.

Half of that moment belonged to Dwyane Wade, the Heat superstar in the final season of a career spent putting a mountain of respect on his name and his game.

The other half belonged to Stephen Curry, who is in the midst of a career doing very much the same.

These two don’t have much in common except for proud fatherhood, quiet leadership, a deep reservoir of toughness, creative scoring ability, infinite determination, a commitment to a better society and three NBA championships.

That will have to do until they become teammates in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

“Everywhere he has gone, he’s going to be watched on TV, and it’s a different energy when he gets the ball,” Curry said after a 120-118 victory. “We understand how important he has been to the game throughout his career. No matter who you root for in this league, you respect greatness.”

Most every member of the Warriors, players and coaches, went over to share a word or a hug or a handshake with Wade, who scored 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting.

“He’s invested so much into basketball, especially physically, that it’s just time to walk away and pursue what’s next in his life,” said Kevin Durant, who shared an embrace with Wade before the Curry-Wade jersey swap. “As a hooper from Day 1, I can appreciate that about D-Wade, especially battling him in the (2012) Finals and throughout my whole career.

“It’s good to see guys go out the way they want to.”

With the game at stake, Wade had the nerve to, as a help-side defender, anticipate and swat a Durant fadeaway inside the final minute, turning it into a layup that gave Miami its first lead of the fourth quarter.

That’s not what this night was about, even though that single play -- Wade, at 6-foot-4, defying his seven-inch disadvantage -- symbolizes the player he has been throughout a 16-year career.

The Warriors in the first quarter compiled a brief video tribute, with highlights from Wade’s career, with the Oracle Arena crowd cheering along and, once the camera settled upon him standing near the Heat bench, rising for a standing ovation, which he fully acknowledged.

“He’s been incredible,” Draymond Green said. “D-Wade was an inspiration for me. When you talk undersize, when D-Wade came in the league he was an undersize 2-guard. He beat all odds. Finals MVP. Three-time champion, a million All-Star appearances, a million All-NBA teams . . . I think D-Wade made some All-Defensive teams (three times, actually).

“He’s had an incredible career. And what he’s done for that organization, it’s been amazing.”

Wade is to Miami as Kobe Bryant is to Los Angeles, Larry Bird to Boston, Reggie Miller to Indiana or . . . Curry to the Bay Area.

If not for the presence of Wade, LeBron James never would have taken his talents to South Beach. If not for Wade in Miami, Shaquille O’Neal’s championship glory would have been restricted to L.A.

Indeed, there is no reasonable argument against Wade being among the five best shooting guards in NBA history, which is all the more remarkable insofar as he lacked a reliable 3-point shot. He’s a career 29-percent shooter from deep.

That was the knock on him coming in. Couldn’t shoot. So he responded by scoring in every way possible and a few that should have been impossible. In 2008-09, Wade led the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.2 points per game.

In a league that included Kobe and KD and LeBron and Dirk and Melo, Wade somehow was the top scorer while shooting 31.7 percent from deep.

[RELATED: Kerr on Harper: 'I would love it' if he played for Giants]

Curry, of course, wants no part of such paltry proficiency from beyond the arc. That is the most fearsome element of his game. He is to 2019 what Wade was to 2009.

If Curry knows Wade’s journey, it is because so much of it is his own, from draft-night skeptics to championships to franchise icon.

No doubt Curry will find a place for Wade’s jersey and, moreover, he’ll understand as well as anyone what makes it special.