Sacramento Kings

Malachi Richardson, Kings staying patient with rookie guard’s return from injury

Malachi Richardson stretches during the Kings’ practice at the Golden 1 Center on Sept. 30, 2016 in Sacramento.
Malachi Richardson stretches during the Kings’ practice at the Golden 1 Center on Sept. 30, 2016 in Sacramento. rpench@sacbee.com

Malachi Richardson would likely be one of the rookies playing heavy minutes for the backsliding Kings had he not suffered a partially torn hamstring in the final seconds of a loss to Golden State on Feb. 15.

While the circumstance is frustrating, the shooting guard said, he agrees with the Kings taking a patient approach to his recovery.

Richardson has been practicing with the team, and coach Dave Joerger said he could possibly see game action this week. But Richardson remained inactive Wednesday night against the Bucks.

“I just want to take it day by day, just make sure I’m completely confident in my body and ready to play,” Richardson said after practice Tuesday. “I don’t want to go out there and not be ready to play.”

The Kings have 11 games left, and Richardson said that while he hopes to return he also doesn’t want to risk re-aggravating the injury.

“I don’t think it’s a crazy big deal if I don’t finish the year,” he said. “I think my health is way more important – especially going into the summer, having a big summer league and being ready to play for next year.

“This year has been a good year for me. I’ve learned a lot. It would definitely help if I was able to finish out the year. That’s the plan. But just take it day by day.”

Richardson, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, had appeared in 22 games with the Kings before his injury, averaging 3.6 points and nine minutes per game. His playing time had just begun to increase before he suffered the right hamstring injury late in the final game before the All-Star break. He set career highs in minutes (27), shot attempts (10) and rebounds (7) that night.

Richardson said the timing – right before the Kings’ trade of DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans, which signaled a team rebuild – was “very frustrating.” But he took some encouragement from parlaying his early assignments to the Development League into experience at the NBA level.

“I think I’ve had a pretty good year,” Richardson said. “I was able to get better there (in the D-League) and come back and start producing, and I was able to get back in the rotation. A lot of guys can’t even get in the rotation their rookie season. So I think that was a plus for me.”

Good company – Sacramento basketball fans got an up-close look at projected top-five pick Lonzo Ball during last weekend’s NCAA Tournament action at Golden 1 Center. Ball, the UCLA freshman point guard, has drawn comparisons to Jason Kidd, the former NBA All-Star and current Milwaukee coach.

Asked about those comparisons Wednesday, Kidd said he’d only watched Ball play for a half against Arizona this season, but came away impressed.

“His demeanor on the court that half, his tempo, it’s not fast; he’s always under control,” Kidd said. “He knows how to play the game. He’s a passer first. He competes. The short time that I saw him play, he plays at a high level and he loves to play and his teams win. So that’s a nice comparison – but he might be better.”

Et cetera – Along with Richardson, guard Ty Lawson and center Kosta Koufos sat out Wednesday night because of planned rest.

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