Kings Blog

Despite their record, the Kings made progress. A look back at five preseason goals

Bogdan Bogdanovic (8) is ready to rejoin Sacramento Kings teammates Buddy Hield, left, and De’Aaron Fox after missing the first 10 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Hield, the leading scorer on a team that just had a five-game win streak snapped, says Bogdanovic will be a “great fit” for the Kings’ new run-and-gun style.
Bogdan Bogdanovic (8) is ready to rejoin Sacramento Kings teammates Buddy Hield, left, and De’Aaron Fox after missing the first 10 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Hield, the leading scorer on a team that just had a five-game win streak snapped, says Bogdanovic will be a “great fit” for the Kings’ new run-and-gun style. hamezcua@sacbee.com

The most predictable part of this season for the Kings was that it would end with a lot more losses than wins and a return to the NBA draft lottery.

This season was going to be about the future and development of players on the opening-day roster who had three or fewer seasons of NBA experience, including four rookies.

Before the season, I laid out five things to watch as realistic benchmarks for improvement. As the Kings end the season Wednesday after hosting the Houston Rockets, we revisit those goals and see how the team did, grading on a pass/fail basis.

All-Star weekend love

The Kings hadn't drafted a player that was selected for the Rising Stars game since Isaiah Thomas in 2012. That was significant, given Sacramento routinely drafted in the top 10 for more than a decade, and this game highlights the NBA's emerging first- and second-year players.

Opinion

The Kings ended up with three players in the game. Second-year guard Buddy Hield and rookies Bogdan Bogdanovic and De'Aaron Fox all were named to the rosters.

Hield and Bogdanovic were standouts, with Bogdanovic winning MVP honors for the World Team.

Grade: Pass

Patience

The Kings' recent history has been marred by starts and stops, as well as halfway attempts to rebuild. That was supposed to change this season with a full commitment to youth.

The decision to sign three veterans (Vince Carter, George Hill and Zach Randolph) didn't stop the Kings from going young, committing to sitting out veterans by mid-January.

Also, the Kings didn't make any deals that gave up on their main young players for a quick fix.

Grade: Pass

Home-court rulers

It's no surprise the Kings do not have a winning record at home. They enter Wednesday's season finale 13-27 at Golden 1 Center this season.

What's been disappointing is the lack of energy the Kings have played with at home on too many occasions. Some of that might be due to youth, but it's not unfair to expect youth to bring energy every time out.

The Kings just didn't do that consistently at home.

Grade: Fail

A true culture change

The Kings weren't the personification of chaos they've been known as in past seasons, but that doesn't mean things went smoothly.

There was frustration, especially early in the season, and confusion among older players who weren't playing extended minutes.

This was especially tough on Hill, who struggled to understand his role, as a player in his prime being asked to mentor.

The positive was dissension on the team didn't become an issue. Drama did not reign.

Perhaps the biggest sign the culture is headed in the right direction was the response by the Kings to protests that kept fans out of games after Stephon Clark was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers. From ownership to the locker room, there was a concerted effort to show empathy and respond as a team.

It's too early to declare the culture fixed, but there is reason for optimism.

Grade: Incomplete

What are we doing after the break?

The Miami Heat are an example of what happens when a team emphasizes winning, even when tanking would be widely accepted.

They are in the playoffs this year and nearly made it last season despite going 11-30 in the first half of 2016-17. Miami closed 30-11 to finish at .500, but missed the postseason on a tiebreaker with the Chicago Bulls.

The Kings turned to their youth early this season. That led to some rough nights, and by March, coach Dave Joerger was saying his young players were worn down.

Injuries made the total youth movement impossible, but the veterans have been spectators most nights, especially in the last two weeks.

It would be nice if the Kings get to the where March and April is about winning and not positioning for the lottery.

Grade: Fail

  Comments