Kings coach Luke Walton offered a measured response after guard Buddy Hield expressed frustration over contract talks with the team following Thursday’s 105-88 preseason victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Walton didn’t directly address the state of negotiations between Hield and the team’s front office, but he said Hield is a valued teammate who is working hard to answer the coaching staff’s call for him to become a better defender. Already known as one of the league’s premier 3-point shooters, Hield demonstrated improved defense Thursday against Suns guard Devin Booker, who finished with 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting.
“Everyone knows we love Buddy,” Walton said following Friday’s practice. “That’s him and the front office dealing with (contract discussions). Buddy’s been great. I think last night, defensively, he really stepped up to the challenge that we’ve been putting out there for him. All game, from the first play, he’s chasing Booker around, who’s an elite scorer in our league, and I thought that showed a lot of growth from Buddy last night.”
The Kings have until Oct. 21 to sign Hield to a rookie-scale extension or he will become a restricted free agent. The 26-year-old sharpshooter told The Sacramento Bee he wants to get a deal done now, but he indicated the two sides are not close to an agreement.
“As a player, you want to have that trust that the franchise has your back and we’re just waiting for them to make a move and come to an agreement,” Hield said. “They’re talking, but nothing is moving yet. Nothing has moved. I’m ready to make things happen, man. I want to make Sacramento my home. I’m ready to get this s--- done. I want to be here and if it doesn’t happen, then things can go the other way.”
Kings general manager Vlade Divac recently told The Bee that “Buddy is (a) very important piece to this franchise” and “we’ll figure something out down the road.” Hield and Divac were seen sharing a lighthearted moment when the media was allowed to enter the team’s practice facility Friday afternoon.
Walton, who spent 10 years in the NBA, said the uncertainty associated with contract negotiations can linger in a player’s mind, but he is confident Hield will remain focused on basketball.
“It’s natural,” Walton said. “There’s always a human element to sports and it’s important that, as a team and a culture, we recognize that. We support each other. We’re aware of those things, but at the end of the day we come down and we know our job is to play basketball, to win games, and that’s the most important thing. I think Buddy knows that and I think he has the ability to do a good job of focusing on the task at hand.”
The Kings announced Friday that forward Trevor Ariza and center Harry Giles III will miss the team’s two remaining preseason games.
Ariza underwent a successful surgical procedure Friday morning to remove a lipoma from his back, the team said. He will be reevaluated following Wednesday’s preseason game against Melbourne United.
Giles is still sidelined with a sore left knee. A precautionary MRI conducted Sept. 30 revealed no new findings, according to the team. The Kings said Giles’ status “will be updated as appropriate.”
Walton said Cory Joseph remains sidelined with a sore left calf and could miss the last two preseason games, but there was no official word on his status.
Coming and going
The Kings waived forward Isaiah Pineiro and center Eric Mika on Friday morning. They signed Hollis Thompson on Friday afternoon.
Thompson was a member of the Kings’ summer league team. He averaged 12.7 points and 4.3 rebounds at the California Classic. He averaged 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in Las Vegas.
Jason Jones of The Athletic reported Thompson had agreed to a partially guaranteed deal and would likely spend most of the season with Sacramento’s G League affiliate in Stockton.
Sacramento Kings preseason schedule
Oct. 4: Indiana Pacers 132, Kings 131 (OT)
Oct. 5: Indiana Pacers 130, Kings 106
Oct. 10: Kings 105, Phoenix Suns 88
Oct. 14 at Utah Jazz, 6 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Melbourne United, 7 p.m.