Buddy Hield and Kings coach Luke Walton
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Buddy Hield on Kings: ‘It seems like we’re all over the place … Trust issues going on’

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The Kings lost their first five games this season. But they weathered the storm. They won 12 of their next 21 games and got back into the Western Conference race.

It’s raining again.

Sacramento has lost five straight. Buddy Hield sat the entire fourth quarter against the Rockets on Monday, and he played just five minutes between the fourth quarter and first overtime against the Timberwolves last night.

NBC Sports California:

Hield on how the Kings are handling frustration and connectivity during a five-game losing streak:

It seems like we’re all over the place, the coaches and everybody. Trust issues going on. I guess guys, they stop believing in players. So, it is what it is, man. They have who they have playing out there, and I’ve just got to be supportive. I’m a team-first guy, no matter what. I feel like we should’ve won that before regulations. But I’m not the coach.

Hield on whom he doesn’t trust:

I don’t know. I’m a confident player. I like to be on the court. That’s why I’m on the court, right? I want to make plays, make shots. I feel like I wasn’t trusted the past two games to be on the court. So, as a player, no matter what, I feel like it’s my job to go out there and compete at a high level. And guys know that if I’m struggling or not, you’ve still got to ride the wave.

Hield on whether he was surprised to re-enter the Minnesota game late:

Surprised? I don’t think they even want to put me out there. The reason why they put me in was because they were down by three, I feel like. They need a 3-pointer, they call on me, so I’ve just got to do my job. That’s what I had to do, do my job. Regardless, I’m a team-first guy.

Hield has struggled during the losing streak, shooting 29% on 2-pointers and 23% on 3-pointers. He’s not playing well enough, no question. Hield is a scorer. When his shots aren’t falling, his shortcomings – like defense – become even more aggravating.

But Hield is also a good player. I’m not sure how much Kings coach Luke Walton is accomplishing by cutting Hield’s playing time. Will that help Hield make more shots? Or is this just a random cold streak? Just because Hield has missed shots lately doesn’t mean he’ll keep missing them. Recent prior shooting results on a small sample are a poor predictor of future shooting.

Maybe Walton is trying to send a message about Hield’s all-around game, that defensive effort should be better. That could come during a hot shooting streak, but obviously wouldn’t.

As is, Walton is clearly lighting a fire in Hield – for better or worse – while sacrificing Sacramento’s spacing. Even when missing, Hield draws defenders.

I’m not sure whether sitting Hield is worth it. Walton has a better sense of the teams internal dynamics and should be better positioned to make that judgement.

Hield sometimes has emotional responses. It paid off with his contract extension.

We’ll see whether this helps him – and the Kings.

Paul George on twins Marcus, Markieff Morris: “They’re different, but they’re the same”

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LOS ANGELES — Paul George has given us the quote of the day.

For some quick context, last season Paul George played with Markieff Morris in Oklahoma City. This season, George’s Clippers team traded for the other Morris twin, Marcus Morris, at the deadline. When asked about them, George admitted to mixing them up — and then had a classic description of twins.

“It was weird at first, ‘cuz I would call [Marcus] ‘Keiff.’ It actually took a good week. It’s crazy. ‘What’s up Marcus? Nice to meet you.’ Then instantly after, ‘Hey Keiff!’ It’s gonna take a second…

“They’re different, but they’re the same.”

Um… yes, they are.

Both Morris twins live in Los Angeles now (and are expected to move in together). Marcus was traded to the Clippers at the deadline, while Markieff was waived and became a free agent, choosing to sign with the Lakers.

George had high praise for both of them.

“Markieff and Marcus, they are great glue guys,” George said. “They just know how to play the game. They fit right in, they bring toughness, hecka [good] locker room guys, both of them just great people. Great dudes.”

They’re the same that way. But different.

Report: Terry Stotts to remain Trail Blazers coach next season

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts
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The Trail Blazers had big expectations after reaching the 2019 Western Conference finals and signing their top players, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, to lucrative contract extensions.

Instead, Portland (26-32) is in a dogfight with the Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns and Kings for the No. 8 seed.

Often, teams underperforming like that fire their coach.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

A source with knowledge of coach Terry Stotts’ situation said there’s no reason to believe he’s in any danger this summer, regardless of how this turns out.

Stotts has a few things working in his favor:

So expect Stotts back next season. But also expect him to face a little more pressure. Even if a lot of what wrong this season wasn’t his fault, losing tends to increase scrutiny on the coach.

In his eighth season with the Trail Blazers, Stotts is the NBA’s fourth-longest-tenured coach (behind only the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, Heat’s Erick Spoelstra and Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle). It just becomes increasingly more difficult for Stotts to meet the high expectations he has helped set in Portland.

For now, though, Stotts appears to remain ahead of the curve.

Stephen Curry reportedly will return to Warriors lineup Sunday vs. Wizards

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After four months off, the Warriors were looking for a soft landing spot to ease Stephen Curry back into the rotation.

How about Sunday, vs. Washington and the worst defense in the NBA this season?

That’s the plan, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Curry has said for some time he was targeting March 1 for a return, this would be that exact date (to be fair to the Wizards, they have played better defense of late). After that, Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.

Curry suffered a fractured hand just four games into the season when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him. Recovery required two surgeries, one to put pins in to stabilize the bone through the healing process, then a second one to remove those pins once the recovery was far enough along.

While some fans had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr emphatically shot that idea down. As he should.

For one thing, Kerr wants to build some familiarity and chemistry between Curry and newly acquired Andrew Wiggins this season. Having Curry back may mean the Warriors don’t finish with the worst record in the league this season (which they have right now) but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not as big an issue. Besides, this is not a deep draft. This is not a situation where the Warriors will get instant help — in our podcast recently, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons. The Warriors may ultimately try to trade their pick for a player who can help more next season.

Ben Simmons has nerve impingement in lower back, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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The biggest concern with Ben Simmons back issue is not that it will have him out weeks, it’s that nobody is saying what exactly is causing it.

Simmons has a nerve impingement in his lower back that will have him getting treatment daily, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, something first reported  by Shams Charania of The Athletic and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided some context, but nothing that is very encouraging.

A nerve impingement — what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve — is exactly what it sounds like: Something is pressing on the nerve, “pinching” it and causing pain.

The big question: What is impinging on the nerve? That’s what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes asked.

This does not sound like something that is going to be resolved in two weeks and Simmons will be back to normal.

Simmons injured his back last Wednesday in practice while grabbing a rebound, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons sat out last Thursday’s Sixers game against the Nets, tried to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks but had to come out after one quarter, and has not set foot on the court since.

Simmons averages 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds a game, not to mention a league-best 2.2 steals a night. The All-Star is a core part of the Sixers rotation and will miss significant time they try to climb up into the top four in the East and get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Shake Milton started Monday in Simmons place.