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Bogdanovic, Kings still finding their way but see progress after loss in Portland

Willie Cauley-Stein likes Kings’ effort, makes first career 3-pointer in loss at Portland

Willie Cauley-Stein led the Kings (4-12) with 18 points.
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Willie Cauley-Stein led the Kings (4-12) with 18 points.

Sometimes being a versatile player has its drawbacks, at least early in a career.

The Kings like Bogdan Bogdanovic at three positions: point guard, shooting guard and small forward. That can be a lot to take on as a rookie, even at 25 years old, when taking into account Bogdanovic is adjusting from playing as a pro in Europe.

Bogdanovic had 12 points and three assists in Sacramento’s 102-90 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night at Moda Center. It was the first time in two weeks that he’d scored in double figures.

The Kings would love to get Bogdanovic going on offense, but in a season that’s seen the rotation change multiple times after an abbreviated training camp, that’s not easy.

Bogdanovic also missed the first three games of the season with a sprained right ankle.

“I’m still learning,” Bogdanovic said. “I can play multiple positions and I’m just trying to do my best in whatever spot coach wants me in, either as a starter or as a point guard, whatever he says, I’m just trying to do my best and trying to develop my game here.”

Kings coach Dave Joerger described Bogdanovic as a “playmaker” that he’d like to feature more, but the priority early in the season is laying the foundation for the overall system before shifting focus to a player.

It hasn’t helped that players have gone from starters to reserves as the Kings have struggled to find the right mix.

“Our group keeps changing,” Joerger said. “And I own that responsibility (and to find) some things we can do to be intentional to put the ball in his hands to make a play.”

The Kings see Bogdanovic as a player they could count on for offense, and that still might happen this season. Bogdanovic said he is coming along well, even as he learns multiple positions and adjusts to a new team.

“It’s a big part,” Bogdanovic said. “And the basketball is really different here. A lot of athletes, the size is different as well. Those are all things that come by time, that’s part of the adjustment.”

Saturday was the second consecutive game in which Bogdanovic came off the bench after starting the previous nine games.

And for the second game in a row, there was no talk of a lack of energy – a sign of progress after too many games where that was an issue, culminating Wednesday with a 46-point shellacking in Atlanta.

Joerger said what he saw from the Kings in Friday’s win over Portland at Golden 1 Center and Saturday in defeat is consistent with what he wants from the team every night.

“If you keep chipping away and that becomes the standard you play at, we will see improvement,” Joerger said. “And also start getting a reputation with other players in the league, you start gaining respect from other players by how hard you play.”

Willie Cauley-Stein led the Kings with 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Zach Randolph had 17 points and Frank Mason scored 13.

Cauley-Stein said the Kings’ effort remained consistent even after falling behind by as many as 22 points against the high-scoring guard tandem of Damian Lillard (22 points, six assists) and CJ McCollum (25 points, four assists).

“That’s a challenge for us, playing with high energy, winning or losing, still staying on that and still going tough,” Cauley-Stein said. “Because every night we have to play our best to give us a chance to win, and that starts on the defensive end.”

It’s difficult to say the Kings lacked urgency Saturday. Lillard and McCollum were simply too much to overcome.

Following Friday’s win, which was emotional for a team coming off their embarrassing showing against the Hawks, a letdown wasn’t a big surprise.

Sacramento – which played without Buddy Hield, it’s No. 2 scorer – shot 38.2 percent from the field while Portland shot 54.3 percent.

“I think we had the energy tonight,” guard George Hill said. “I think a lot of our shots we were making yesterday just didn’t’ go in today.”

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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