Even for a franchise accustomed to misery, the Kings hit this season’s rock bottom Wednesday. Sacramento lost by 22 to the Pistons, who were missing Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown. It was the Kings’ sixth straight loss.
So, Sacramento made a big change last night – starting Bogdan Bogdanovic over Buddy Hield at shooting guard.
The adjustment worked beautifully. The Kings beat the Bulls, 98-81. The starting lineup outscored Chicago by seven points. Hield scored 21 points, shooting 2-for-3 on 2-pointers and 5-for-9 on 3-pointers, and grabbed eight rebounds.
Not every game will be against the lowly Bulls. But it’s not as if Sacramento had been beating anyone.
Kings coach Luke Walton, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:
“There’s nothing permanent with it, it’s not a punishment to Buddy at all,” Walton added. “Buddy’s been great and we expect him to be great for us tonight. But we’ve got to keep looking for something that works for us.”
“He’ll be fine,” Walton said. “Buddy’s a professional and he knows how we feel about him. Again, this is not a punishment towards him, we’re just looking at trying to mix some things up, try to give ourselves a little juice and find a way to win a game in this stretch that we’re in right now.”
Hield, via Ham:
“You’ve got to come in, be ready and when coach call your number, go out there and hoop,” Hield told Grant Napear on the NBC Sports California telecast following the Kings’ 98-81 win.
“Today I was just locked in and more confident,” Hield said. “I’m just trying to be myself and do what I do best, which is score the basketball.”
Hield has underperformed this season, sometimes leading to tension. Good for him playing hard last night, and Walton was probably wise to downplay the move.
But a team benching a highly paid cornerstone is a big deal.
In order to balance lineups, teams don’t always start their five best players. But the best players usually start, because teams want to play their best players more. It’s generally better to spread that greater playing time over the full 48 minutes than a compressed period that begins several minutes into the game.
Last night, Sacramento treated Hield like a true reserve. He played just 23 minutes, down from 34 per game as a starter.
Maybe Hield will regain his confidence off the bench, return to the starting lineup and continue his momentum. That’d be great for the Kings, though it’d also maintain complications with Bogdanovic headed into restricted free agency this summer.
Sacramento has two talented shooting guards. That’s fine with Bogdanovic still on his first (though relatively high-paying) contract. It becomes more complicated when Bogdanovic receives his raise. The Kings might eventually have to choose between the two.
If nothing else, this lineup change shows not to take Hield’s once-exalted status in Sacramento for granted.