It's no surprise Buddy Hield has led the Kings in assists just five times this season. Teammates haven't jokingly referred to him as "thirsty" because he can't wait to pass; rather, it's been his inability to quench his desire to shoot the ball.
What has been surprising lately is Hield has led the Kings in assists in back-to-back games, matching his career high with seven in Friday's win at Golden State, followed by six in Saturday's 103-97 loss to the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
"Just making plays for my teammates and don't think selfishly, about myself," Hield said. "That's going to open more doors and that's helped me the last five or six games, and I'm going to keep building on that."
Hield entered Saturday averaging 1.7 assists, but is averaging 4.0 in his last five while also averaging 18 points.
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That's not enough games for Hield to shed his shoot-first, pass-last reputation. He admittedly "was just looking for my shot" a lot this season, but said chats with teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic and reviewing game film have helped him to begin to find teammates, which helps them play more "freely."
"You watch guys like Bogi and then finish the game with 15 points and have eights assists," Hield said. "They make plays for teammates and still have a great game and i think that frees you up, that makes you feel better as a player, that you're making plays."
Bogdanovic said it's no surprise to see Hield figure out he can be a dangerous scorer while facilitating. He's scored 20-plus points in his last three games, including a team-high 23 Saturday.
Bogdanovic said experience will help Hield improve as a passer and that Hield is capable of making that happen.
"I told him my first couple years (as a pro in Europe) I wasn't that good a passer, and then realized if I make other players better, everyone feels good," Bogdanovic said. "The assists always make two or three guys happy. When you score individually it's maybe one guy. That's a part of assists and Buddy's a quick learner."
As Hield has looked to pass more, his shooting percentage has increased. He's shooting 52.3 percent from the field in his last five games. He entered Sunday shooting 43.5 percent this season.
By being more unselfish and more patient on offense, Hield is making the game easier on himself.
"Teams are going to play me regardless because of how I shoot the ball," Hield said. "Just making the right play, don't make the tough play, make the right play, the easy play and just go out there and execute everything. I know teams are going to play me hard, I've just got to make the easy play and the right play. Don't worry about Buddy trying to get points or trying to score, but make plays for my teammates and then other things will open up for me."
Slowly, Hield hopes to change the narrative on who he is as a player.
His shooting is what made him a coveted prospect in the 2016 NBA draft, and Hield said he's always been a good rebounder for a guard.
Now as he figures out how to make the game easier for himself and his teammates, he's hearing different things when he has the ball.
"Coaches see that (I'm trying to pass) and other teams see that," Hield said. "You hear some guys when they're scouting you say 'he's going to shoot it,' but they're not saying that anymore. They're saying 'watch out for the lob, he's a better passer now.' Just mixing it up and make the defense guess that I can make the pass for a teammate or really try to score the ball."
Hield was the only King to score 20 or more Saturday. The Kings (23-48) shot just 43 percent. The Jazz (40-30) weren't much better, connecting on 44.6 percent from the field.
But Utah won its ninth straight behind Donovan Mitchell's 28 points and 22 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks from Rudy Gobert.