Buddy Hield

Pacific Notes: Cousins, Jerebko, Hield, Rondo

A blue curtain made sure the event was private, but behind that barrier Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins participated in a scrimmage this afternoon, the latest sign of progress toward his season debut, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Poole states that there probably won’t be much notice before Cousins is activated, but today’s scrimmage is another reason to hope it will happen soon. He notes that the team doesn’t normally use the curtain that divides its practice facility unless a rehabbing player is close to returning.

Searching for a solution at center, the Warriors will treat any progress from the former All-Star as welcome news. After rupturing his Achilles last season, Cousins joined the Warriors on a one-year deal with the understanding that he might not be able to play until January or February. Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko are holding down the position in the meantime, but the defending champs frequently find themselves at a size disadvantage.

“Loon is playing his tail off as an undersized center against bigs that are a couple inches taller than him and probably just as strong, or stronger,” Kevin Durant said. “He’s got his work cut out for him, as well as Draymond (Green). It’s on us to help out a little more on the rebounding, but teams are spreading us out with the 3-point line around just one big. So we’ve got to pick and choose our spots when we want to go in there and help in the paint and when we could contest 3s, because both of those things are beating us right now.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Jerebko has been a better fit with the Warriors than some other free agents the team has signed, notes Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. “He doesn’t lack confidence, and that’s the biggest thing for us,” Stephen Curry said. “Night to night, not really knowing how many shots you are going to get – he’s ready to play. We knew he could shoot and he will continue to have open looks and he just has to have the confidence to knock them down.”
  • Many Kings players have improved this year, but no one more than Buddy Hield, who is bidding for an All-Star appearance, writes Hector Amezcua of The Sacramento Bee. Hield wasn’t certain to be a starter when the season began, but is averaging 20.4 PPG and shooting 44% from 3-point range.
  • Rajon Rondo‘s clutch performance in the Christmas Day win over the Warriors gives the Lakers hope of staying competitive while LeBron James is sidelined with a groin injury, according to Joey Ramirez of NBA.com.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Durant, Zubac

The Kings haven’t necessarily solidified a spot in the deep Western Conference playoff picture but there’s still reason to celebrate given their 18-15 record at this point in the season. Jason Jones of The Athletic examines how the team has drastically improved in 2018/19.

The Kings have benefited from the monstrous strides De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield have taken this season. That backcourt, Jones writes, is emerging as one of the most fun to watch in the NBA.

Of course contributions from other young veterans like Willie Cauley-Stein and Bogdan Bogdanovic have helped the Kings at least appear to turn a corner early on.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division today:

  • Potential free agent Kevin Durant hasn’t exactly tipped his hand as to what he plans to do this summer but he did tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he wants to make sure he can get “as much money as [he] can on his next deal.” The Warriors are the only team eligible to offer him a five-year max contract, worth around $221MM. That’s one year and nearly $60MM more than any other team.
  • Although he can’t vote for his own player, Suns coach Igor Kokoskov told Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic and the rest of the media that he thinks more people should consider Deandre Ayton when discussing potential Rookie of the Year winners. In his last five games, Ayton has averaged 22.8 points and 15.6 rebounds per game.
  • While it’s not always easy to find three pure centers minutes in a regulation basketball match, that’s one problem Lakers coach Luke Walton will be happy to welcome after two solid spot starts from third-stringer Ivica Zubac this week. The third-year center dropped 16 and 11 on the Pelicans on last Friday and followed that up with 19 points and four blocks against the Grizzlies on Saturday. “Luke’s always been saying to me that he trusts me,” the 21-year-old big man told Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. “If there’s a chance to put me on the floor, he’s gonna put me there and he’s gonna always trust me like every other player on the team. I’ve been doing the same stuff every day”.

Pacific Notes: Green, Ingram, LeBron, Hield

Draymond Green set the record straight on his relationship with Kevin Durant after the Warriors‘ game on Sunday, telling reporters that he and Durant won’t be broken apart because of a previous locker room incident between the All-Star duo.

Green was suspended in November following a heated verbal exchange with Durant, an altercation that included several profanities and Green telling Durant, “We don’t need you,” according to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. Green’s anger stemmed from a disagreement in the final seconds of a Nov. 15 game, with the Warriors labeling his conduct as “detrimental to the team”.

“I know the hope is that [incident] will make us fall off, but it ain’t,” Green said, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “It’ll never happen like that. We good.”

Green had a major voice in recruiting Durant back in 2016, with both stars playing key roles in helping the Warriors win titles in 2017 and 2018. Golden State has vastly improved since placing the locker room incident behind them, winning eight of their last 10 games and sporting a 23-11 record entering the final week of 2018.

“We sat down and rapped,” Green said of his discussion with Durant. “And that’s it. It ain’t really about re-creating the wheel. Brothers get into it all the time. Y’all sit down and y’all figure it out, ain’t nobody else going to figure it out for you. Can’t nobody else figure it out for you. We sit down as men, we figure it out and we move forward.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division today:

  • Longtime G League guard Andre Ingram is continuing to strive for an NBA career, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes. Ingram had a storybook NBA debut this past spring, getting a call-up with the Lakers after 11 straight seasons in the G League. Ingram currently plays for the team’s minor league affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, in hopes of receiving another shot during the 2018/19 season.
  • LeBron James has apologized for quoting lyrics that included the line, “getting that jewish money” on his Instagram account. “Apologies, for sure, if I offended anyone,” James told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “That’s not why I chose to share that lyric. I always [post lyrics]. That’s what I do. I ride in my car, I listen to great music, and that was the byproduct of it. So I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn’t through the lens of a lot of people. My apologies. It definitely was not the intent, obviously, to hurt anybody.”
  • Kings guard Buddy Hield revealed last week that several websites recorded his age wrong, including the NBA’s official publication at NBA.com. Hield turned 26 years old on Dec. 17, despite most outlets listing him as turning 25. “That’s their fault, not my fault,” Hield said, according to Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times. “The first time I saw it on Wikipedia, my mom said, ‘Why do they have your age wrong?’ I said, ‘I have no idea.’”

Poll: Kings’ Hot Start

The Kings have been one of the season’s biggest surprises so far, as they have jumped out to a 6-4 start. As a result of strong 3-point shooting, the league’s second fastest pace and development from several young players, the Kings have impressed many through their first 10 games.

This is a Kings team that hasn’t won more than 33 games in a season since 2007/08, so a strong start is certainly something that has caught attention. While the team hasn’t been overwhelming on either end of the floor (they are just about league average on both ends), they have gotten strong play from De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein and Nemanja Bjelica.

In his second season in the league, Fox has made major strides. Heading into the Kings’ loss to the Bucks on Sunday, Fox was averaging 19 points, 7.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Hield is providing another capable scoring option, averaging 19.8 points per game while hitting 48.9% of his 3-pointers. Bjelica has been a great addition for the Kings, as his floor-spacing has been much needed in the starting lineup. So far, Bjelica is averaging 15.6 points per game while shooting a staggering 55.3% on 3-pointers. Finally, Cauley-Stein has improved as a rim-running big, averaging 16.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

However, teams have gotten off to fast starts only to fade throughout the remainder of the season. Most recently it was the Magic, who got off to an 8-4 start last season, only to finish 25-57. While that Magic team surprised many early in the season due to some unsustainable shooting, there are certainly ways for the Kings to fall back down to the bottom of the standings moving forward.

Perhaps the development from their young players, their key free agency additions and their style of play will lead them to more success than anticipated. What do you think? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote

Kings Exercise Options On Five Players

The Kings showed their commitment to the youth movement by exercising the rookie scale options on five players — guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, small forward Justin Jackson and big men Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere, according to a team press release.

Teams have until the end of the month to make rookie scale option decisions but Sacramento beat the deadline by nearly a week. The biggest salary commitment, due to his status as the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft, goes to Fox. He’ll have a salary just shy of $6.44MM for the 2019/20 season. Hield’s fourth-year option will result in a $4.86MM cap hit.

Jackson’s third-year option is worth $3.28MM while Giles will make approximately $2.58MM. Labissiere’s fourth-year option will cost nearly $2.34MM.

All of those affirmative option decisions were expected with the possible exception of Labissiere’s contract. However, he’s off to a productive start this season, averaging 8.5 PPG and 4.7 RPG.

Fox is emerging as one of the cornerstones of the franchise, averaging 17.6 PPG, 6.6 APG and 1.4 steals through five games during his sophomore campaign. Hield is scoring at a 14.0 PPG clip thus far while making 43.2% of his 3-point tries. Jackson has posted 9.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 1.6 APG, while Giles is averaging 3.8 PPG and 3.0 RPG while working his way back from major knee issues.

You can find all the rookie scale option decisions around the league here.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Knight, Kings

There’s pressure on the Lakers to get a second star, but it’s far from urgent, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report writes. So long as the franchise continues to practice patience, they’ll remain flexible enough to have options.

As things stand, the club has $5.7MM in cap space. That figure could grow to as much as $15.5MM if the club waives and stretches Luol Deng‘s contract over three seasons. They can get as high as $22.8MM if they can unload the deal altogether with “at least a first-rounder attached,” Pincus says. That flexibility would make a Brandon Ingram-for-Kawhi Leonard swap financially feasible.

Of course the Lakers could wait to see if a different trade for a star beckons, as reports suggest with Jimmy Butler and as is at least borderline conceivable with Damian Lillard.

An alternative to making a move this season would be giving center Brook Lopez the Lakers’ remaining $5.7MM of cap space on a one-year deal, retaining all of their young players in an audition to see who best fits with LeBron James, then going out shopping for a star next summer.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division tonight:

Pacific Notes: Jordan, LeBron, Harris, Cauley-Stein

The lack of teams with ample salary-cap space this summer will present a tough choice for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, as Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explains. Jordan has a player option of $24.1MM this summer and multiple league executives told O’Connor he probably wouldn’t receive an annual salary approaching that on the open market. Some of the teams that will have cap room, such as the Nets, Hawks and Sixers, aren’t looking to add a veteran center at a high salary, O’Connor continues. It’s plausible that Jordan will opt in and take his chances on the open market in 2019, O’Connor adds.

Also around the Pacific Division:

  • The lack of elite, established players on their current rosters will make it tough sell for the Lakers and Clippers to land LeBron James this summer, Marc Spears of The Undefeated opines. The Lakers could sign two major free agents this summer, but the Clippers don’t have that much cap room, Spears notes. The Clippers may have hurt their cause to sign a top free agent by trading away Blake Griffin in the first year of his long-term contract, Spears adds.
  • Forward Tobias Harris has been traded three times during his career and he’s taken the latest one in stride, as he told Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. Harris was the top player acquired by the Clippers in the Griffin blockbuster. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league,” Harris said. “When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too.” 
  • Willie Cauley-Stein establishing his market value is among the storylines surrounding the Kings the remainder of the season, according to James Ham of NBCSports.com. Cauley-Stein has to emerge as the defensive stopper he was in college and improve his rebounding to earn an extension this offseason, Ham continues. The development of the De’Aaron FoxBogdan Bogdanovic backcourt and the need for Buddy Hield to become a playmaker are some of the other things to watch, Ham adds.

Kings Notes: Inferiority, Fox, Caboclo, Hield

The Kings are about the most consistent franchise in the NBA over the last decade. However, for the unfortunate fans in Sacramento, the Kings have been consistently inferior, writes Phillip Reese of The Sacramento Bee.

On pace to win about 25 games this season, the Kings are right on target to finish in a familiar position in the standings. Sacramento has won between 22 and 33 games for the last eight seasons, and no other team has a lower standard deviation in wins or end-of-season rankings so far this decade.

Practically speaking, the Kings have finished no better than 21st and no worse than 28th, while teams like the Cavaliers (first – 29th), Magic (second – 30th), and Lakers (third – 29th) have finished both worse and far better. The next most-consistent team? The Spurs, whose superior consistency has seen then finish as high as first and no worse than ninth since the 2009/10 season.

There’s more out of Sacramento:

  • Known for being super quick, rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox is using that speed to catch up with his contemporaries after a slow start to his rookie season, writes Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Often cited as a poor shooter, Fox’s shooting percentage (41.0) is now actually higher than fellow lottery picks/point guards Dennis Smith Jr. (39.4), Lonzo Ball (35.6), and Frank Ntilikina (35.0).
  • In another article for The Sacramento Bee, Voisin writes about how newly-acquired forward Bruno Caboclo, 22, received a strong endorsement from former NBA player and fellow Brazilian, Tiago Splitter“Bruno is a great player,” said Splitter. “He needs a team that gives him confidence, that lets him play and has some good leaders. He’s a good shooter, has long arms, and has a feel for the game. He’s an NBA player for sure. I wish him the best.”
  • For the second year in a row, Buddy Hield (Bahamas) represented Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge last night, and his team-high 29-point performance was capable in part because of a confidence surge after being moved to the bench, reports Erik Horne of The Oklahoman“I think coach making the decision to bring me off the bench was probably the best decision,” Hield said. “I think it’s good for me, to help me, slow down a little bit and let the game come to me.”

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Sarver, Lopez

The Clippers opted for flexibility by turning down the third-year option on Brice Johnson‘s rookie contract, Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register writes.

Team president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank says that the decision was made because the Clippers didn’t have a full body of work on which to base Johnson’s value. The 23-year-old North Carolina standout has played in just six games over the course of his NBA career, two of them this past week.

We still think Brice is a talented player,” Frank said. “There wasn’t a great body of work due to some difficult circumstances, obviously, with the back injury. This year, we have great depth at his position.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Contrary to a Washington Post report that suggested Suns owner Robert Sarver was looking to sell the franchise, the executive has “zero interest” in cashing out, Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic writes. Sarver bought the team for $401MM in 2004 and it’s now, per Forbes, valued north of $1B.
  • A move to the second-unit may have helped Buddy Hield find his rhythm with the Kings. Kyle Ramos of the team’s official site discussed the sophomore’s solid showing off the bench on Wednesday.
  • Often the subject of trade rumors, Brook Lopez wasn’t particularly surprised to find out that the Nets had traded him to the Lakers last June, Greg Logan of Newsday writes. He was, however, excited. “I’m a huge Magic Johnson fan, so having him around — to be a little fan boy — it’s awesome for the little kid Brook inside,” Lopez said.

Kings Exercise 2018/19 Options On Five Players

The Kings have picked up 2018/19 rookie scale options on five players, the team announced today in a press release. The moves will add about $14MM in guaranteed salary to Sacramento’s books for the ’18/19 season. Here are the options exercised by the club in advance of today’s deadline:

None of these decisions comes as a real surprise. With the exception of Hield – who was the centerpiece in the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans – all of these players were drafted by Vlade Divac and the current Kings management group.

Cauley-Stein, the only player of the bunch whose 2018/19 option is on the fourth year of his rookie contract, will be eligible for a contract extension during the ’18 offseason, and will reach restricted free agency in the summer of ’19 if he’s not extended next year. The other four players are on track to be RFAs in 2020 if their fourth-year options are picked up next offseason.

All of this year’s rookie scale team option decisions can be tracked right here.