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Report: ‘Very real chance’ Kings pick Michael Porter Jr. at No. 2

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Michael Porter Jr. is the mystery in this draft. A year ago he was considered a likely top two pick for this draft class — a 6’10” athlete who can score around the basket and knock down threes — but then he missed most of the season at Missouri due to a back injury that forced a microdiscectomy surgery. The questions about his health remain, as do questions about how much he loves the game and how much work he would put in to reach his full potential.

Yet every year at the draft teams (and fans) fall in love with the potential of the unknown. We have a better sense of who DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III and Jaren Jackson Jr. are and could be (even though any draft is always a risk), but Porter Jr. is the unknown. His cancellation of a workout for teams Friday in Chicago adds to that mystery. He’s high risk but high reward.

The Kings may be willing to take that gamble at No. 2, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

Amick is a former Kings beat writer who lives in the area still and is well connected in Sacramento. With a week to go before the NBA Draft, take every report and rumor you hear with a grain of salt. In some cases, the whole box of Morton’s Kosher salt. But this one deserves to be given some weight, and the Kings are nothing if not unpredictable.

We know the Suns are expected to take DeAndre Ayton No. 1. After that, it’s the Sacramento Kings and it’s wide open. Luka Doncic is probably the safest pick here — he’s a ball-handling forward who understands how to run a pick-and-roll and is a gifted passer who has already been putting up numbers against men in Europe’s top league — but the ceiling for Bagley is considered by many scouts to be higher. Same with Porter, although he comes with higher risks.

The Kings have drafted a lot of bigs in recent years — Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein — but they are at a point in the latest rebuild that they just need to get more talent. Take the best player available regardless of position, develop that talent, and figure out how to fit all the pieces together later. Watch the NBA’s elite (like that team just a 90-minute drive from Sacramento down the 80) and you see talent wins out in this league. The Kings need a lot more of it. And they need to hit on this pick because they don’t have their first rounder next year.

Three Things to Know: Kobe wins an Oscar, Giannis Antetokounmpo just wins

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Kobe Bryant wins an Oscar for “Dear Basketball” animated short.
Kobe Bryant may be the tallest Oscar winner ever. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doesn’t keep that stat, but the tallest best actor ever is John Wayne/Gary Cooper/Jimmy Stewart at 6’3,” and Kobe has three inches on any of them. Pretty sure Shaq didn’t win an Oscar for “Kazaam.” Maybe some “Best Live Action Documentary” producer was once taller, but it seems unlikely.

Kobe’s retirement announcement was turned into a well-done animated short, part of the transition for Kobe from basketball player to “storyteller.” He’s produced two stories — both good, and both about himself. First was the “Muse” documentary, and then the animated short “Dear Basketball” with Disney animation legend Glen Keane and a score from another legend, composer John Williams. It works, check it out.

It’s a notable juxtaposition that Kobe — a man who had a high-profile rape trial — is celebrated in an Oscars where the #metoo movement and changes in Hollywood were also celebrated. That incident is part of Kobe’s legacy. While Bryant himself seems to have matured in his views since that time — his apology letter to the victim after the trial/settlement was surprisingly forthright — the fact his legal team ran a blame-the-victim, scorched earth policy in this case (which was eventually dismissed because she stopped cooperating with prosecutors) was a setback for rape victims everywhere that cannot be ignored.

We’ll see what stories Kobe goes on to tell that aren’t about him ( for example, LeBron James’ production company has produced “The Wall” for NBC, “Do or Dare” for Facebook Watch, some other stuff like a brilliant Long Beach Poly High documentary, and a couple of misses like “The LeBrons” with more stuff including Space Jam 2 on the way). But Kobe, whatever he does in Los Angeles, just finds ways to win.

2) Key playoff chase games in East: Bucks come from behind to beat 76ers, Pacers knock off Wizards. In the East, the playoff teams seem pretty much set — the ninth-seed Pistons are four games behind Miami, ground Detroit is not likely to make up having lost five-of-six (Charlotte showed some hope with a five-game win streak but then hit a tough part of the schedule, have lost three in a row, and are 5.5 games out of the playoffs).

What is not set in the East is the playoff seedings — 3.5 games separate Cleveland in third and the Heat in eighth. It’s a matter of how tough the path through the postseason will be for teams, and what matters most in these seedings is games between playoff teams, and we had two of them Sunday.

The Sixers were getting brilliant play from Joel Embiid (19 points, 8 rebounds), Dario Saric (25 points), and Ben Simmons (15 assists), but they didn’t play well as a unit on offense. Defensively, they joined the long list of teams that had no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 35 (with nine rebounds and seven assists ) and led a 21-0 third-quarter run that made it a game and helped get the Bucks a key 118-110 win. The win moves Milwaukee (the current seventh seed) within half a game of the Sixers in the standings.

The other key game saw a potential first-round matchup where Indiana held off a late charge from Washington to get the 98-95 win — one that vaulted the Pacers to the four seed and has them just half a game back of the Cavaliers for third. Washington is currently the five seed. Indiana had staked out a big lead behind 33 points from Victor Oladipo, but Washington raced back and at the end a clearly gassed Bradley Beal and three good looks to either take the lead or tie the game at points, and just missed them all.

3) Tankapaloza game updates: Hawks beat Suns while Kings knock-off Knicks. If we’re going to talk playoff races, the most interesting and most contested may be the one to the bottom — three games separate the bottom eight teams in the league as they jockey for the best draft lottery odds. And that’s not counting the Knicks, who are five-games from the worst record but in a Kristaps Porzingis-less free fall. (That is not to say the players/coaches are actively trying to lose games, but these teams are playing youth, using odd lineup choices, and doing what they can to facilitate better lottery odds.)

Like the playoff chase, the games that matter most are the ones between tanking teams — because someone has to win — and we had two of those: The Hawks beat the Suns in just an ugly game of basketball, and the Kings knocked off the Knicks at home.

Here’s what you need to know about the Suns/Hawks game: there were 18 combined turnovers in the first 19 minutes. That sums up the quality of the game. There was also a scuffle, shoving, and ejections late, then a Taurean Prince game-winning three to give the Hawks a 113-112 win.

As for the Kings, their young players got a win on a Skal Labissiere three with less than two seconds to go (which Knicks fans saw as a win for their lottery odds hopes).

Kings to waive Georgios Papagiannis less than two years after drafting him in lottery

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Shortly after the Kings drafted Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, DeMarcus Cousins tweeted:

Cousins claimed he was talking about yoga, not criticizing his then-team’s pick. But if he were talking about the draft, maybe Cousins was onto something.

Papagiannis has barely played in two NBA seasons and performed poorly when he has gotten onto the court. Now, he appears headed out of the league at age 20.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This presumably clears the way for the Kings to keep Bruno Caboclo, whom they acquired in a trade with the Raptors today. Sacramento needed to clear a roster spot to facilitate its trade with the Cavaliers and Jazz (Joe Johnson and Iman Shumpert for George Hill).

The Kings will be on the hook for the rest of Papagiannis’ $2,301,360 salary this season and his $2,400,480 salary next season. Obviously, it never looks good to waive such a high pick so soon.

But Sacramento got the No. 13 pick by trading down from No. 8 on draft night. The eighth pick, Marquese Chriss, is floundering, and other assets the Kings netted in the deal – the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic and the pick that became Skal Labissiere – are providing more value. So, that makes it easier to stomach dropping Papagiannis.

Report: ‘Significant hurdles’ remain before Cavaliers-Kings George Hill trade

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The Cavaliers trading Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and a second-round pick to the Kings for George Hill seemed inevitable.

But…

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

The Cavaliers and Kings are further apart on a trade for George Hill than it first appeared, sources told cleveland.com, with significant hurdles toward a potential deal remaining.

One source told cleveland.com that the two sides were speaking “conceptually” about Hill and were never close; another said the Cavs sought to change the parameters of a potential trade.

Sacramento would need to clear a roster spot to make the trade as reported. Skal Labissiere and Malachi Richardson were reportedly available, but finding a third team always makes a trade more complex and less likely.

Cleveland could use Hill, who’d provide a better defensive option at point guard with Isaiah Thomas and add depth at shooting guard with the struggling J.R. Smith.

But unhappy and expensive, Hill should be available closer to the trade deadline. Before making such a safe addition, the Cavs probably could keep the door open for a bigger move then trade for Hill later if still desirable. That said, a deal falling apart can not only indicate, but also create, reasons it won’t happen.

Kings will shut down veterans for some games, rookie Harry Giles for rest of season

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The Kings foolishly strayed from rebuilding last summer by signing George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to relatively expensive contracts. Those additions came despite Sacramento already having veterans Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos.

The plan has predictably failed. The Kings have the NBA’s worst offense and worst defense and are 13-31.

That’s bad, but not quite bad enough. Not in the last year Sacramento has its own first-round pick before conveying its selection as a result of a ridiculous salary dump a few years ago.

So, in a transparent bid to break a tie with the Hawks and Magic for the NBA’s worst record and tank to the top seed in the lottery/develop young players already on the roster, the Kings are sitting those veterans on a rotating basis.

Sacramento is also shutting down No. 20 pick Harry Giles, who hasn’t played this season.

James Ham of NBC Sports California:

Both management and the coaching staff is on the same page with the decision, NBC Sports California has confirmed. Two or three players will sit each night as they team explores what they have in youngsters.

“Going forward, what I’m going to do is, we’re going to play a rotation where two of our five veterans are going to be out every night. It might be some times there’ll be three. It’s an opportunity for some other guys to get some minutes as we go throughout the course of the season. I’ve got it laid out…I’ve got about five or six games laid out, and every week I’ll go out again because you want to communicate with those guys when they’re not going to play. Other guys, they’ve got to be ready. If you’re in the first three years of your contract, you can expect to play a little, or a lot, or none, but you should be ready to play,” Joerger told the media after the Kings’ loss to the Thunder on Monday night.

This is smart, though it’s also an opportunity to point out it would have been smarter not to sign Hill, Randolph and Carter in the first place. Though those veterans might not be thrilled with the direction of the franchise, at least they’re getting paid. And they should know their rest days far enough in advance to enjoy the reduced workloads.

Younger Kings – including De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere – should have a chance to spread their wings and grow. That could help down the road, when Sacramento has a chance to win meaningfully. This year, the difference between the fully operational Kings and tanking Kings is minimal on the court, but could make a huge difference in draft position.

As for Harry Giles, it’s strange how the Kings are touting him as fully healthy while shutting him down for the rest of the season. The best way to keep him healthy is never play him. At some point, they must test him on the court. Perhaps, giving him even more time to strengthen his knee is the right approach. But if he needs this long, can he really accurately be described as entirely healthy?