Shooting guard Malachi Richardson knew for two weeks he’d play or the Kings.
During that time, he spent his days working out while still technically a member of the Charlotte Hornets.
All that changed Thursday when Richardson, the 22nd overall pick in last month’s NBA draft, officially was dealt to the Kings to complete a draft-day trade for guard Marco Belinelli.
While the Kings’ other three draft picks already have held introductory news conferences and toured Sacramento, Richardson had to wait. His first official act as a King was practicing Thursday afternoon in preparation for Friday’s summer league opener against the Toronto Raptors.
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“It’s been a long few weeks waiting for this whole thing to go through,” Richardson said after practice Thursday. “I’m finally excited it happened.”
Richardson beat the Kings’ rookies and undrafted free agents to Las Vegas, where he has been working out with one of his new teammates.
“Working out with DeMarcus (Cousins) a little bit, just getting ready for the pro game,” Richardson said.
While waiting to join the Kings, Richardson worked on his game.
“Trying to just become a total, complete player,” Richardson said. “Putting (the ball) on the floor, mid-range game, working on the NBA three-point shot. Just really trying to compete and become the best player I can be.”
Richardson joins veterans Arron Afflalo and Garrett Temple as Sacramento tries to improve its backcourt. In past seasons, the Kings’ guards were small and lacked defensive aggressiveness.
Richardson (6-foot-6), Afflalo (6-5) and Temple (6-6) add size to the backcourt.
Sacramento coach Dave Joerger finally saw Richardson in a Kings uniform in Thursday’s scrimmage against the NBA D-League Select team.
Joerger said it was “tough” and he felt “terrible” that Richardson had to wait to join the team. The Kings began practicing for the summer league on Monday in Sacramento.
“It’s so exciting to go through the draft process, and then you have to hurry up and wait,” Joerger said. “And I was impressed. He has a moxie about him. He’s got long arms; he’s got good size. He can see the game a little bit; he has a good feel. I felt terrible that he couldn’t play (with the Kings) until (Thursday), and I was pretty impressed (with Richardson) in a situation where he just played that he picked stuff up.”
Joerger said Richardson likely will play Friday.
“We’ll see how (Friday) morning goes and how many minutes he gets,” Joerger said.
Richardson played one season at Syracuse, averaging 13.4 points on 36.9 percent shooting. He also averaged 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 34.4 minutes. He started all 37 games for the Orange and made 79 three-pointers – the third most by a Syracuse freshman – and was selected to the Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshman team.
The Kings traded for Richardson after Belinelli was disappointing in his lone season in Sacramento. The former Spurs standout reserve signed a three-year deal worth $19 million with the Kings last summer.
Belinelli averaged 10.2 points but shot 38.6 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from three-point range – both career lows – last season. Add that to his defensive struggles,, and Belinelli fell short of expectations.
By signing Afflalo and Temple, the Kings do not have to rush Richardson into the rotation.
But before Richardson can worry about the regular season, he has plenty to learn during summer league play.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard,” he said.
- When: Friday through July 18
- Where: UNLV
- Kings’ games: Friday vs. Toronto, Cox Pavilion, 7 p.m., NBATV; Sunday vs. Houston, Thomas & Mack Center, 3:30 p.m., NBATV; Monday vs. New Orleans, Cox Pavilion, 7 p.m., ESPN2; Games 4 and 5 to be determined after seeding for tournament
- Championship: July 18