De'Aaron Fox

Rookie De’Aaron Fox’s jumper with 13.4 seconds left lifts Kings over 76ers

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — De'Aaron Fox made a 19-foot jumper with 13.4 seconds remaining to lift the Sacramento Kings over Philadelphia 109-108 on Thursday night, ending a five-game winning streak for the 76ers that marked their longest in six years.

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid missed a shot from the free throw line as time expired.

Two nights after rallying from 17 points down to upset Oklahoma City and snap a seven-game skid, Sacramento (3-8) pulled off another stunner by closing the game with a 7-0 run.

The Kings (3-8) led most of the second half but fell behind late in the fourth quarter when they went nearly four minutes without a field goal. Fox ended the drought with a short jumper and Garrett Temple hit a 3-pointer before Fox’s game-winner gave Sacramento its second consecutive win.

Zach Randolph had 20 points and seven rebounds for the Kings. Justin Jackson scored 19, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and Fox finished with 11 points and seven assists.

Embiid had 22 points and 15 rebounds on an uneven night for the 76ers’ big man. He shot 7 of 20, struggled in the paint against Randolph and Kosta Koufos, and had a shot blocked in the final minutes by Willie Cauley-Stein.

Robert Covington scored 24 points and sank six 3-pointers for Philadelphia (6-5). Ben Simmons added 18 points and six assists.

The 76ers trailed by as many as nine and looked out of rhythm most of the night before Simmons scored six straight points in the fourth quarter, including an emphatic, one-handed driving dunk down the lane.

Dario Saric followed with a 3 and Covington’s sixth shot from beyond the arc followed by a three-point play extended Philadelphia’s lead to 108-102 before the Kings made their decisive push.

The teams played even early before Sacramento pulled away midway through the second quarter to lead 64-57 at halftime.

 

 

Markelle Fultz: Free-throw form temporary, result of shoulder injury

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DETROIT – I spent the day wondering the best way to ask No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz about his suddenly deformed shooting stroke. I wanted to be respectful and empathetic and mostly just not blurt out, “What’s wrong with you?”

After answering a few questions about his shot, Fultz himself brought up that he’s aware of all the “rumors” about his free throws. Sounding comfortable and confident – working against a popular theory that he has the yips – Fultz explained a shoulder injury is still hindering him. As soon as his shoulder heals, he’ll return to the form he used at Washington, where he made 65% of his free throws.

“I do what I’ve got to do to get the ball on the rim,” said Fultz, who’s 6-of-12 from the line this season (50%).

Fultz was less direct about his jumper.

He can shoot 3-pointers right now, he insists. But after attempting more than five per game in college, he has taken no shots from at least 15 feet – let alone beyond the arc – in 76 NBA minutes.

Though he professed confidence in his open jumper, even his close-range jumpers are a mess. He’s 3-of-16 from outside five feet, and shooting just 33% overall.

More jarring are the shots he isn’t taking. A smooth mid-range operator and aggressive shot hunter at Washington, Fultz looks like a shell of himself. He sometimes drives, mostly to set up teammates, and he sets screens. But his biggest strengths have been neutered.

As a result, defenses can sag off him, and the 76ers’ offense has crated with him on the court. They’ve scored a woeful 80.4 points per 100 possessions when he plays. Rotations aren’t to blame, either. No matter which teammate Fultz is paired with, during the duo’s minutes together, Philadelphia has scored at what would have been a league-worst rate last season.

Yet, the 1-3 76ers continue to play Fultz at least a third of each game. They’re trying to win for the first time since The Process began, but they also have young talent like Fultz to groom.

“There’s no book that tells you how to combine win and develop,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “They are very mutually exclusive.

“Normally, the link is you’ve got to play them and you’ve got to live with some stuff.”

Fultz said he isn’t worried about developing bad habits while shooting through his shoulder injury. Neither is Brown, who has consulted with medical personnel.

“Nobody has any fears,” Brown said. “…You don’t just walk a certain way for a long period of your life and all of a sudden start to limp.”

But it’s not so easy to dispel doubt for several reasons:

  • As the No. 1 pick, Fultz receives outsized attention. Even coming off the bench to begin his career, joining the ranks of Anthony Bennett and Andrea Bargnani, immediately generated pessimism.
  • Because the Celtics traded the No. 1 pick while Fultz was the consensus choice, many Boston fans are openly rooting for Fultz to fail. Not because they hold any specific ill will toward him, but just because they want their team to be right.
  • Point guards drafted after Fultz – Lonzo Ball, De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr. – are off to much better starts to their careers.
  • Teammates Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, who had a triple-double in his fourth game, are balling. Fultz is the weak link of Philadelphia’s young three-headed core.
  • Fultz, against the 76ers’ wishes, reworked his jumper over the offseason. That’s what makes it so hard to completely discount the possibility of a larger mental block.

So, the articles of concern are rolling in. Jokes are being cracked about his Shaq-esque free throws. More serious people are actually fretting about his long-term value.

Brown’s advice to Fultz is simple: “This is not going to define you.” The coach wants Fultz to focus on everything but his jumper – defense, running the offense, getting to his spots in the pick-and-roll.

“At the end of the day, I know what I can do,” Fultz said. “My teammates know what I can do. My coaches know what I can do.”

Maybe someday soon, he’ll get to show it.

Lakers, Kings to donate proceeds from Vegas game to victims of mass shooting

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The mass shooting that killed 58 people and injured nearly 500 more at a country music festival has shaken both Las Vegas, where it happened, and the country. Everyone seems to be looking for ways to help in a complex situation.

That includes the Lakers and Kings.

Those two teams have an exhibition game Sunday at the T-Mobile Center just off the Las Vegas strip, and they have combined with the arena and everyone involved to donate the proceeds from the game to those impacted by the tragedy. From the press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers organization announced today that, along with the Sacramento Kings, T-Mobile Arena, AEG, and MGM Resorts International, it will donate the proceeds from Sunday night’s preseason game vs. Sacramento in Las Vegas to aid those affected by the tragic incident on October 1.

The donation will be made through the MGM Resorts Foundation and all of the money raised will go directly to benefit victims, their families and first responders. More information about the Foundation can be found at http://www.mgmresortsfoundation.org.

“To say we are united in grief does not fully convey the sadness we feel as we offer our deepest sympathies and support to those impacted,” said Sacramento Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and everyone enduring this heartbreaking tragedy. Together we will remain Vegas strong.”

Good on the teams.

This should be a full house, thanks to Lonzo Ball the Lakers sold out the Thomas & Mack arena in Vegas for Summer League games (although he may not play due to a sprained ankle). The Kings, too, are not far away and will draw to Vegas as their fans want to see De'Aaron Fox.

Kings extend Vlade Divac contract, pick up option on coach Joerger

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It’s good to have the trust of the owner. Not a lot of coaches and front offices coming off a 32-50 season feel secure.

Sacramento  GM Vlade Divac and head coach Dave Joerger get to.

The Kings announced Wednesday the organization has extended the contract of Divac and picked up the fourth-year option on coach Dave Joerger, keeping both of those men in their positions through 2020.

Divac has been taken his share of criticism as a GM — plenty of it deserved, he was learning on the job and it showed — but this is a smart move. It’s good to see Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive trying to add a little stability to the franchise rather than making changes again out of frustration. Those constant changes — in roster personnel, in coaches, in style — are part of why it’s been a decade since the Sacramento Kings made the playoffs. Now they are on a rebuilding plan and they need to draft well and stick with it (they had a pretty good summer, although they brought in more vets than I would have preferred). They need to solidify a new culture, something that is not easy and takes time. We can debate if Vlade is the guy to head that effort, but tearing the playbook up and starting over right now would be a setback.

“I am so excited to continue to build this team with incredible partners and want to thank Vivek and the entire Sacramento Kings organization for their support. Together, from ownership to the front office to Dave and his team, we’re unified in our vision for the future of this franchise,” Divac said in a statement.

“It is a great time to be in Sacramento and I’m thrilled by the opportunity to continue working alongside Vlade and the entire Kings organization. Together, we are bonded as a group focused on working hard and developing our team,” Joerger said in the same statement.

It’s up to the Kings and Jaeger to develop a lot of young talent on this roster. There are guys already in a Kings jersey such as Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere, and Willie Cauley-Stein, plus some interesting rookies — De'Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Divac and Joerger wanted solid veterans around that group and added guys such as George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter. Jaeger has to balance getting those vets minutes and touches, letting the young guys get their run, teaching that young core, and letting them learn from their mistakes. Keeping the morale up on a team that will lose a fair amount of games — they are not playoff bound in the ridiculously deep West — will not be easy.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?