Summer league has already been frustrating for guard Malachi Richardson. The Kings say there is no concern, but the second-year guard was held out of Sunday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies because of the right hamstring injury that cost him the final 25 games of last season.
Richardson left Friday’s game against Phoenix early because of his hamstring. Summer league coach Jason March said it wasn’t a serious situation after Richardson sat out Saturday’s practice, but said the team would be “smart” about Richardson.
That means if there’s any sign Richardson isn’t right, he won’t be playing. It’s the right decision, but it doesn’t make Richardson’s quest to remind everyone why the Kings were happy to land him with the 22nd pick in last year’s NBA Draft.
Since Richardson was injured in February, the Kings have acquired guard Buddy Hield, the sixth pick in last year’s draft, and will add Bogdan Bogdanovic, George Hill, Vince Carter and rookie Justin Jackson.
All those players, along with Garrett Temple, will make it hard enough for Richardson to get on the floor and he can’t make his case to play if he’s injured.
It’s easy to get rattled by the Kings shooting 36.4 percent in their 81-75 loss to the Grizzlies at Cox Pavilion. But sanity should prevail and take into account the Grizzlies had four players from last season from a squad that made the playoffs.
No, the Grizzlies didn’t have Marc Gasol or Mike Conley playing, but similar to a college football bowl game, making the postseason means more time for young players to continue to learn and get their work in before departing for the offseason.
De’Aaron Fox started the game matched up with Wade Baldwin IV, a first-round pick from last year. It’s a good test for Fox, who is definitely more touted than Baldwin was, but will have his moments where it’s obvious he’s a rookie.
That’s why the George Hill signing was perhaps the most important of the offseason. The Kings need to have someone who can play well and not have to leave Fox on the court to struggle through teachable moments.
Of the Kings second-year players, only Hield would qualify as truly experienced, having played 82 games. No one else played in even 41 games last season among Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis or Richardson.
One joke among some veterans is you’re still a rookie until you play 82 total games. It’s a reminder how young this Kings team is heading into next season.
Don’t stop — shoot it, shoot it
If there’s a time to keep on chucking it up, it’s summer league.
“I give props to Justin Jackson, going 0-for-9 (to start) and he just kept shooting it,” Labissiere said. “A lot of guys go 0-for-2, 0-for-3 and they just stop shooting it. I’m sure that wasn’t comfortable for him but he kept shooting it and that speaks volumes about him. We want him to keep shooting and eventually they’ll start falling.”
Jackson finished 2 of 13 with four points. Hield missed eight of his first nine shots but finished 4 of 14. Frank Mason III shot 2 for 10.
Fox had a team-high 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting.
Hield said it helped having Carter on the bench to encourage the squad through the struggles.
“Even when I was missing shots, he was encouraging, saying ‘Keep shooting this is summer league,’” Hield said.