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NBA Season Preview: The Sacramento Kings

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Last season: 25-57, in a year that was really all about figuring out that Tyreke Evans is a star you can anchor a team around. He is. And they found a nice young core to go around him.

Head Coach: Paul Westphal, who did a pretty good job trying to build young team and getting them to focus on defense. Be clear, their defense wasn’t that good but they focused on it (it was better than the disastrous year before), and it is that end of the floor that can anchor another big step forward. However, the team is not taking any steps forward if Westphal doesn’t settle down his rotations and give the players a rhythm that can get into.

Key Departures: Andres Nocioni is gone taking some toughness, a three points shooting threat and an oversized contract for that to Philadelphia. Spencer Hawes is gone, the price in talent for getting rid of the Nocioni contract. Hawes was inconsistent but losing someone like him would hurt a lot of teams — unless you have a DeMarcus Cousins coming in. Two solid players out the door but guys the Kings can get by without.

Also gone is Jon Brockman, some more size in the middle that likely would not get minutes now.

Key Additions:
They had the No. 5 pick in the draft and DeMarcus Cousins fell to them. That could be the best thing to happen to this franchise in a decade. The beast out of Kentucky then went out at Summer League and showed he could be the rookie of the year (well, the first half of Summer League until conditioning issues seemed to catch up with him). This preseason he has averaged 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in just 25 minutes per, although his shooting percentage of 44.8 percent needs to improve. There are questions about focus, but so far he looks like a steal.

Samuel Dalembert comes in and brings the defense at the rim the Kings really need. His offense is also a better fit in Sacramento’s drive-and-dish offense than whatever it was they were running in Philadelphia last year. Dalembert is also a large expiring deal that can save money this season or be traded for more assets.

They also drafted the very athletic Hassan Whiteside, a project that could pan out. Or not. But a good risk. Antoine Wright also was signed to a deal.

Best case scenario: They gel quickly behind their powerhouse young core and sneak into the bottom of the Western Conference playoffs.

For that to happen: Tyreke Evans will have to continue on a path to mega-star — that means developing a jump shot — and others will need to provide outside shooting well. DeMarcus Cousins will need to take the first steps to NBA stardom. Also the Kings defense needs to improve and the role players need to blend in.

Evans has spent all summer working on a jump shot and he is shooting 36 percent from three this preseason, well up from the 25.5 percent of last season. But he needs to do this when the games count (and the defense is better). If he can continue to knock down the shots and show off a hesitation move now and then, he will continue to blow us all away.

Where the Kings will be beasts is on the boards — they have a lineup of guys who thrive on the glass. Or, they will in a month or so when Dalembert returns from injury, although Cousins and Carl Landry will do just fine in his absence.

Where the lack of Dalembert hurts is on defense, where the Kings will be without that intimidating eraser at the rim for the first few weeks. Cousins will step into that role; we’ll see how he does with it and if he can stay out of foul trouble.

For the Kings to really thrive, Omri Casspi needs to become a scorer off the bench, Donte Greene needs to live up to the starts role, Jason Thompson needs to keep improving, and Francisco Garcia needs to be a steady outside shooter for the team (along with Beno Udrih in that role).

More likely the Kings will: Be improved but not quite playoff ready in a deep Western Conference.

Evans and Cousins are a powerful young core. Very powerful. Build a contender around powerful. But you need them to grow and mature, and you need to start finding the right pieces to go around them. Can Landry, Casspi, Garcia and the rest do that? If not they need to go. The Kings are going to have a lot of cap space after this year (whatever that will mean under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement) and a chance to build more around this team.

Last season was about finding out Tyreke Evans was THE MAN. This season is about seeing if Cousins can fit with that and who is coming along for the ride.

Prediction: 36-46, but this time the draft spot will not be so good as to have Cousins fall to them. Well, unless David Kahn has a lot of picks in front of them, then anything is possible.

Report: NBA restricts teams ads on jerseys; no alcohol, tobacco, politics, more

adidas-NBA All-Star West Jersey Front H
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The Los Angeles Lakers are not going to have a silhouette of a Patron bottle on their jerseys.

Despite the potential tie in with GM Vlade Divac, the Sacramento Kings are not going to be sponsored by Marlboro.

While NBA teams have been cleared to sell a small patch ad on jerseys for next season — to go on the left shoulder, where the KIA logo was on the All-Star uniforms this season (if you even noticed it) — there are limitations, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

In most cases this was not going to be an issue, but the league did not want to risk a local casino or whatever jumping in with a big bid.

Teams are expected to get several million dollars for the ad deals (larger markets will get more, smaller markets less). This is part of a three-year trial program approved by the owners, although once the money starts coming in it’s hard to imagine to owners deciding to scrap the idea.

Draymond Green’s fire drives Warriors in pursuit of title

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 16:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors warms up prior to playing the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 16, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Draymond Green
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry might be the face of the Warriors with the breathtaking long-range shots and ball-handling that makes Golden State so appealing to watch.

Draymond Green is the heart.

The loud, sometimes brash and amazingly versatile Green was the driving force behind the team’s commitment to chase a record 73 wins in the regular season, the key to the team’s dominant small-ball lineup and perhaps Golden State’s most indispensable player.

A knee injury to Curry has done little to slow down the Warriors’ run to a second straight title because fellow “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson has picked up the scoring load to help Golden State take a 2-0 series lead in the second round against Portland.

Making up for what Green does on the court would be almost impossible. In the past four games, Green is averaging 18.3 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and the Warriors have outscored the opponent by 109 points when he is on the court.

“Draymond is huge for us,” center Andrew Bogut said. “His playmaking ability, his defensive ability, he’s probably the best all-around player in the league at this point.”

It’s been quite a ride for a player so lightly regarded that he wasn’t drafted until 35th overall when he came out of Michigan State in 2012. But Green has improved each year, increasing his average in points, rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage and 3-point shooting in each of his four years capped by his stellar performance this year.

Green averaged 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game, becoming the first player to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocks in a single season since steals and blocks started being officially recorded in 1973-74.

He set a team record with 13 triple-doubles, was the only player to appear in all 73 wins for the Warriors and had the highest plus-minus margin ever on record with Golden State outscoring the opposition by 1,072 points when he was on the floor.

While Green has played the majority of his time with the presumptive MVP in Curry, it is telling that Golden State has outscored opponents by 13.8 points per 48 minutes with Green on the court and Curry off compared to 1.0 point per 48 minutes with Curry playing and Green resting.

But more than numbers, it’s Green’s defensive versatility that makes the Warriors what they are. He’s able to guard all five positions whether it’s battling with post players who have a decided size advantage or chasing quicker guards on the perimeter and that allows Golden State to employ its so-called “Death Lineup” of five perimeter players that opponents have been unable to neutralize.

“I think there’s a lot of great all-around players in the game,” Green said. “You’ll never hear me call myself that, but they are going to call me that, I’ll take it. I’m not going to shy away from it.”

Green is fueled by doubters and skeptics, using the snub of being a second-round pick or critics who called the Warriors lucky for avoiding some top teams or players on the way to the championship last year as fuel for his raging fire.

That fire sometimes gets too hot and led to the 12 technical fouls Green got during the regular season and the locker room shouting match he had with coach Steve Kerr at halftime of a game in Oklahoma City in February.

“We yell at each other all the time,” Kerr said. “He’s a guy that I know I can get on who won’t shy away but will actually do the opposite. If I yell at him he’s going to play better. Sometimes I yell at Draymond just to get the team to play better. Draymond understands that. When you have a relationship like that, every once in a while it’s going to blow over, which it did in Oklahoma City as everybody knows about but that didn’t mean anything.”

Kerr calls Green one of his favorite players he’s ever been around and credits his vocal desire to pursue 73 wins for the decision to go for the record.

Kerr is not the first coach to have run-ins with Green that did little to diminish his appreciation for his style of play. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he had plenty of yelling matches with Green in college but has only praise for Green.

“He had basketball IQ, it’s off the charts,” Izzo said. “It’s as good as anybody. He can see the floor and do some things like no player I’ve had. He has incredible toughness. He’d fight Godzilla. It doesn’t matter who it is, where it is or what it is. He has an incredible will to win. Everybody wants to win but he would sacrifice to win.”

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

Miami Heat, Chris Bosh issue joint statement saying he is out for playoffs

FILE - In this April 17, 2016 file photo, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, center, claps during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Charlotte Hornets, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Hornets 123-91. Bosh was a cheerleader for Miami's win in Toronto on Tuesday night. He'll be back in that role for Game 2 on Thursday and the question becomes if he'll be back at all this season. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Associated Press
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Chris Bosh was putting videos on Instagram of himself out shooting on the court. His wife had taken to social media using the hashtag #letBoshplay. Bosh had reached out and gotten the players’ union involved. Bosh wanted to play, the Heat and their team doctors were not about to let him after he went back on blood thinners due to a clotting issue that can be life threatening.

It was becoming a distraction to a team up 1-0 in the second round of the playoffs.

Wednesday afternoon the two sides put this to rest.

This was never Bosh’s decision to make alone, it had to be him and the organization on the same page. And the Heat organization was not changing its mind.

Miami had to go small and change their style of play without Bosh, but it has worked — Goran Dragic found room to operate, the Heat offense took off, and the emergence of Hassan Whiteside as a rim protector has kept the defense from slipping much.

The Heat needed seven games to vanquish the Hornets in the first round. While technically underdogs in the second round against Toronto, the Heat have real matchup advantages that could see them advance to the conference finals — likely against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

It is unfortunate that is happening without Bosh, but there are things more important than basketball. Bosh’s long-term health has to be on that list.

Report: Stephen Curry had platelet-rich plasma therapy on right knee

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, center left, sits on the bench during the first half in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series between the Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Associated Press
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Not that they need him yet, but Stephen Curry has been doing everything he can to get back on the court for the Golden State Warriors by Game 3 on Saturday.

That includes getting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy on his sprained right knee, reports Diamond Leung of the Mercury News.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry said Tuesday he received platelet-rich plasma treatment as part of his treatment on his sprained right knee.

PRP, which is said to promote healing, was given to Curry on the second day of his recovery process, he said.

While thought to be exotic when Kobe Bryant used to go to Germany for this treatment on his knees a few years back, now this treatment is relatively common among professional athletes.

The question remains (and likely will until game day) whether the Warriors will bring back Curry for Game 3. On one hand, they aren’t pressured to do so up 2-0 on the Trail Blazers and with some matchup advantages Portland is not going to be able to solve. The Warriors don’t need to rush him back to make sure they win this series.

On the other hand, between the ankle and now knee injuries Curry has missed a lot of time and there is a rust factor — the Warriors want to shake that rust off against Portland, not in Game 1 of the conference finals against a much tougher opponent. Meaning even if you don’t see Curry in Game 3, you will see him in Game 4 (unless something is more wrong with him than is being let on).