Malik Monk

Kings Notes: Vezenkov, Monk, McGee

Former Olympiacos star Sasha Vezenkov decided to come stateside for the 2023/24 season, signing a three-year, $20MM contract with the Kings, who held his draft rights. At his introductory press conference on Thursday, Vezenkov said the team’s months-long pursuit to sign him played a factor in his decision, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee relays.

I’m really happy, really excited,” Vezenkov said. “It was a big decision for my career and I’m really happy to do it for Sacramento. I’m really thankful to the organization because throughout the last year, they came overseas. They show me their commitment. They show me how much they want me to be here and I’m really happy.”

The reigning EuroLeague MVP had a lot of success playing with Olympiacos, winning back-to-back domestic titles the past two seasons and losing the EuroLeague final to Real Madrid by one point in 2022/23. The Kings’ success last season — winning 48 games and breaking their 16-year playoff drought — was another reason the Bulgarian forward wanted to join the team, according to James Ham of

I like to win,” Vezenkov said. “That’s why we play basketball — to enjoy, to win games. This helped in my decision. As we saw last year, the Kings were a fantastic team, playing beautiful basketball, but most importantly, winning.”

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • Adjusting to the pace, space, and athleticism of the NBA can sometimes be a challenge for European players, especially right away. But Vezenkov is confident he’ll make an impact with Sacramento and believes it will be a good fit, per Johnny Askounis of The 28-year-old sharpshooter said it was a “dream” to play in the league. “The NBA was like a goal, a dream for me,” Vezenkov said. “Every kid who plays in Europe wants to come to the NBA. … I am here to help with my experience, with whatever coach needs from me for this team to continue to win games and perform better and better.”
  • Ham of TheKingsBeat recently touched on Malik Monk‘s contract situation in an appearance on ESPN 1320’s D-Lo & KC show (Twitter video link). Monk, who is entering the final year of his deal, will only have Early Bird rights in 2024 after signing a two-year contract with the Kings, and he is not extension-eligible. That means Sacramento will be somewhat limited in what it can offer him in free agency next summer, Ham notes. After a solid regular season as the team’s sixth man, Monk had a breakout performance in Sacramento’s first-round playoff loss to Golden State, averaging 19.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 3.6 APG in seven games (29.3 MPG).
  • Veteran center JaVale McGee is reportedly signing a one-year, fully guaranteed minimum-salary contract to join the Kings after being waived by Dallas. He’s expected to compete for minutes behind Domantas Sabonis, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, who writes that McGee has the trust of head coach Mike Brown, as they won a pair of championships together with Golden State. McGee’s mother also played for Sacramento’s WNBA team, the Monarchs, Amick adds.

Kings Notes: Sabonis, Fox, Barnes, Monk, Murray, Mitchell

Domantas Sabonis may need surgery for the avulsion fracture in his thumb, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets. The Kings center had an appointment with hand specialists on Monday to discuss whether the thumb needs to be repaired.

While he mends, Sabonis is open to hearing from the front office about potential moves. He said that if general manager Monte McNair and assistant GM Wes Wilcox have questions for him about roster construction, he will provide his input, James Ham of The Kings Beat tweets.

We have more on the Kings:

  • De’Aaron Fox will take lessons from his first playoff series, Jason Jones of The Athletic writes. Fox feels he and his teammates have to improve in order to become true contenders. “I know there’s another level I have to get to as a professional and our team has to get as well,” he said. “I’m grateful for this experience. The playoffs are everything that I expected it to be.”
  • Harrison Barnes and Trey Lyles are among the players headed to unrestricted free agency. Malik Monk hopes the front office can keep the core group intact, Ham tweets. “I would love to have the same guys here because we’re all like brothers,’ Monk said.
  • Sabonis is eligible for an extension this offseason but it’s unlikely he’ll agree to one, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks explains. The big man could get an additional four years and $122MM without a renegotiation but the extension is $132MM less than the five-year deal he could sign with the Kings after becoming a free agent next summer. It would also be $65MM less than a four-year max with a rival team that has cap space.
  • In order to acquire another high-level player, the Kings may have to deal Keegan Murray and/or Davion Mitchell, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype opines in his offseason primer.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Draymond, Kings, Clippers

It seemed as though the Warriors had all the momentum after winning three straight games to go ahead 3-2 in their first-round series against Sacramento, which made their Game 6 home loss Friday night all the more stunning, writes Tim Kawakami of The Athletic.

Kawakami calls the 19-point defeat Golden State’s “most disappointing” performance since the trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green started making the postseason in 2013. The locker room was understandably quiet and reflective afterward.

Still, the team remains confident it will be able to rebound and emerge victorious Sunday afternoon in Sacramento for Game 7.

It’s up to us to go to Sacramento and do everything we did tonight — but opposite,” Thompson said. “And I know we will respond. I just know this team. I know these guys. I’ve played at the highest level with them and I know what we are capable of, and we will respond like the champions we are come Sunday.”

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • It’s time for head coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors to re-insert Draymond Green into the starting lineup in place of the struggling Jordan Poole, argues Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area, who points to Green’s experience of winning in high-pressure situations and his defensive acumen as reasons why the change should take place.
  • The Kings made a “series-altering” adjustment in Game 6, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. They decided to go smaller and faster, with more shooting around De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, who both had terrific games. They went away from Alex Len as backup center and used Trey Lyles at the five, with Terence Davis, Kevin Huerter and Keegan Murray receiving more playing time, while Harrison Barnes and Davion Mitchell played less. “We knew we could run them a little bit and we took advantage of that tonight,” Monk said. “I felt it a little bit more on them. They were a little tired. We’re younger than they are. So we knew we could take advantage of that. We’re going to try to do the same thing Sunday.”
  • Confirming a recent report from Mark Medina, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank says the Clippers will “continue to build around” Kawhi Leonard and Paul George despite their injury troubles, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. “Kawhi’s a ceiling raiser,” Frank said. “When you study past NBA champions, they have a top-five guy on their team, and Kawhi has shown that when healthy he can be the best player in the world. Paul is an eight-time All-Star now. So we’re going to continue to build around those guys and look for every which way [to improve around them].”
  • Both Leonard and George are eligible for pricey contract extensions in the offseason, and the Clippers will discuss the matter with their star players when the time comes, per Youngmisuk. “Those guys are great players and they’re great partners and we want to keep them as Clippers for a long time,” Frank said. “And so we’ll look forward to those conversations. And the No. 1 goal is how can we build a sustainable championship team? And those guys have been great partners, so at the appropriate time, we look forward to sitting down with them.”

Celtics’ Malcolm Brogdon Named Sixth Man Of The Year

Celtics reserve combo guard Malcolm Brogdon has been named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year for 2022/23, the league announced on Thursday (Twitter link).

In his first season with the Celtics following a 2022 trade from Indiana, Brogdon averaged 14.9 PPG on .484/.444/.870 shooting splits. Across 67 games, the 6’5″ guard also chipped in 4.2 RPG, 3.7 APG and 0.7 SPG, and was a critical component on both sides of the ball during Boston’s 57-25 season.

Brogdon is the first Celtic to win the honor since eventual Hall of Fame center Bill Walton did so for the 1986 title team, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Brogdon’s Celtics are currently leading the Hawks 2-0 in their ongoing first-round playoff series.

As the NBA announced last week, the three finalists for the honor were Brogdon, Bucks backup big man Bobby Portis, and Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley. Each would have been a first-time winner.

According to the NBA, Quickley was the runner-up in Sixth Man voting over Portis, Clippers guard Norman Powell and Kings guard Malik Monk. Brogdon received 60 first-place votes and 408 overall points, while Quickley got 34 first-place votes and 326 points. Portis earned the remaining six first-place votes and 97 points.

A total of 10 players earned at least one vote.

Earlier this week, All-Star Grizzlies power forward/center Jaren Jackson Jr. was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, All-Star Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox was honored as the NBA’s first-ever Clutch Player of the Year, and his Sacramento head coach Mike Brown won his second Coach of the Year award.

A global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters voted on all of this season’s awards recipients. The Rookie of the Year, MVP and Executive of the Year have yet to be named.

Warriors Notes: Wiggins, Poole, Kuminga, Adjustments

Andrew Wiggins is humbled by the patience the Warriors’ organization showed while he attended to a family matter over the past two months, he told Marc J. Spears of Andscape. Wiggins, whose four-year extension kicks in next season, returned to action in Game 1 of the first-round series with the Kings.

“In this organization, I feel like I’ve been blessed, just being here and all that time they gave me off to be with my family,” Wiggins said. “They didn’t have to do that, and they did it. And they didn’t rush me back. It was my decision to come back, so I just feel like that just says a lot about this organization. From my heart, I can say everyone here cares. This whole organization cares. There still can be a lot of good people out there. I’ll never forget that. A lot of teams aren’t doing that, so I’m forever grateful.”

We have more on the Warriors:

  • Jordan Poole is listed as questionable for Game 2 on Monday night with a left ankle sprain. He twisted it late in the third quarter of Game 1, Kendra Andrews of ESPN tweets. He had 17 points in 22 minutes in the series opener.
  • Coach Steve Kerr issued a challenge to forward Jonathan Kuminga for Game 2 and beyond — hit the glass much harder. “I’d like to see him rebound,” Kerr told Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area and other media members. “He didn’t have a rebound (Saturday) night, and that’s got to be a focal point for him — and for our whole team. We keep talking about everything, but it still comes back to rebounds. But I thought JK did a really nice job in a lot of ways, and he can get better.”
  • What kind of adjustments will they make in order to avoid an 0-2 predicament? Tim Kawakami of The Athletic anticipates Stephen Curry playing more than the 37 minutes he logged in Game 1 and Gary Payton II being deployed as the main defender against Malik Monk, among other tweaks.

California Notes: Powell, Thompson, Kings, Lakers

Clippers reserve guard Norman Powell appears to be rediscovering his fighting form of late. In his most recent contest, a 125-118 win over the Lakers Wednesday, Powell notched a team-high 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor, per Janis Carr of The Orange County Register.

“I think it’s like my fourth game back coming off injury after missing 11 games so it was just being prepared and just staying mentally locked in and as (head coach Tyronn) Lue says, not playing so angry,” Powell said. “It just shows how much I love the game and how much I commit to it, and my preparation every single day.”

Playing in his first full season with the Clippers, the 6’3″ swingman is averaging 16.7 PPG on .476/.404/.815 shooting splits. All but eight of his 58 healthy contests have come off the team’s bench.

There’s more out of California:

  • Starting Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson has been dealing with a sore back of late, but head coach Steve Kerr said on Friday that the 6’7″ vet is feeling better and was a full practice participant today, Kendra Andrews of ESPN tweets.
  • The 48-32 Kings could be without several notable players against the Warriors tonight, Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee tweets. All-Stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis are both questionable with ankle injuries. Shooting guard Kevin Huerter is managing his own injury, while rookie power forward Keegan Murray has a foot ailment. The statuses of forward Trey Lyles and guards Davion Mitchell and Malik Monk are also up-in-the-air. If Sacramento wins out and the Grizzlies lose out, the Kings would be able to secure the West’s second seed by benefit of a tiebreaker, but it appears the team is happy with its current No. 3 seed.
  • Despite a clean injury sheet, the healthy Lakers‘ loss against a Clippers team missing All-Star forward Paul George exposes the club as being less than title-caliber, opines Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. Plaschke notes that stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James were clearly playing through ailments, and the rest of the team failed to step up to meet the moment.

Injury Updates: Kessler, Jokic, Monk, Allen, Russell

Jazz big man Walker Kessler, one of the league’s top rookies, is being evaluated for a concussion, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News reports.

Kessler was elbowed by teammate Talen Horton-Tucker as Horton-Tucker drove to the basket, causing Kessler to fall backward. The play occurred during the third quarter of Utah’s loss at Brooklyn on Sunday.

“Kind of a weird play on a rebound,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “The docs looked at him tonight, didn’t want (him) to come back in the game, so he’ll be reevaluated (Monday).”

We have more injury-related updates:

  • Nuggets big man and MVP candidate Nikola Jokic missed his third consecutive game on Sunday due to right calf tightness, Kendra Andrews of ESPN tweets.
  • Kings guard Malik Monk didn’t play on Sunday after getting injured during warmups. He experienced mild lower left leg muscle soreness, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets.
  • Bucks swingman Grayson Allen departed early on Sunday due to a right ankle sprain, the team’s PR department tweets.
  • Left foot soreness sidelined Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell for the second half of the team’s game against Houston, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. Coach Darvin Ham said the move was precautionary and Russell could have played the second half, if needed.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Hartenstein, Brown, Russell

Warriors star Stephen Curry turned 35 years old on Tuesday, but he’s not even close to thinking about retirement, as he told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears. He’s hoping to play into his 40s, if all goes well.

“How I feel right now is not how I thought I’d feel at 35. That number sounds crazy, but in my head, I feel like I got a lot left,” he said. “The work I put into this I still enjoy. Who knows how [the future] looks?

“I talked to Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and other guys who have been on the other side of the halfway point. I know quarterbacking is different, but you can check yourself [mentally] into not fast-forwarding too far. They really did a good job of disciplining themselves for what is happening in real time. They’re 40 feeling like they can still play. I’m trying to stay in that mode. Thirty-five is a big milestone, but the next one is 40. The way I feel right now, who knows?””

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Knicks big man Isaiah Hartenstein suggested that if the Clippers had offered him the taxpayer mid-level exception last summer, he would have taken it, Tomer Azarly of reports. Hartenstein wound up signing a two-year contract worth up to $18.1MM with New York. “I mean, they gave the only thing they really could’ve offered me to John Wall. I was — I can’t take that big of a pay cut,” he said. “I think I was actually gonna come back, but I can’t take that big of a pay cut. So they picked John Wall over me and I got to live with that.”
  • Head coach Mike Brown has raised the bar for the Kings and they’ve responded, as Sam Amick of The Athletic details. Brown ripped his team for giving up 23 offensive rebounds to the Knicks on Thursday, even though Sacramento won. Holding his players accountable has paid off. “That’s why we’re in the position we’re in right now, because he wants us to be perfect,” guard Malik Monk said. “He knows we can’t be perfect, but he wants us to be perfect. So I think that’s why we’re succeeding right now. He’s pushing us, coming in and telling us that was B.S. You would’ve thought we lost if you heard what was going on, but he just wants the best for us, man. Like I said, he wants us to be perfect in a world that’s not perfect.”
  • D’Angelo Russell is hopeful of re-signing with the Lakers this offseason when he hits free agency, Jacob Rude of relays. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said at halftime of the Knicks-Lakers game on Sunday night that Russell wants to extend his second stint with the franchise. “D’Angelo Russell very much wanted a second chance in LA with the Lakers and you’ve seen the impact he made coming back against Toronto the other night, playing great in a win, and again (Sunday). He wants to be the point guard of the future for this organization.”

Rockets’ Green, Tate Suspended One Game By NBA

Rockets guard Jalen Green and forward Jae’Sean Tate have each been suspended one game without pay for leaving the bench area during an on-court altercation on Friday in Sacramento, the league announced today (via Twitter).

As we previously detailed, the skirmish began in the fourth quarter of Sacramento’s win over Houston when Kings guard Malik Monk took exception to a loose-ball foul committed by Rockets guard Garrison Mathews (Twitter video link via Bleacher Report).

Following an official review, referees ejected both Monk and Mathews, along with Kings big man Chimezie Metu, who was called an “escalator,” and Rockets forward Tari Eason, who was referred to as an “instigator,” according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

The players directly involved in the incident escaped without suspensions, though the NBA has fined Mathews $35K and Monk $25K. The league deemed Mathews to be the instigator of the altercation, but said Monk continued it, with both players taunting one another.

While Metu won’t face an additional penalty, Eason has been fined $30K for escalating the fracas and making inadvertent contact with a game official, per the NBA.

Green and Tate weren’t directly involved in the incident, but a player who is not already in the game and leaves the bench in a situation like this one automatically receives a one-game ban. Orlando, for instance, recently had eight players hit with one-game suspensions for doing the same thing during an altercation in Detroit.

Green and Tate will serve their suspensions on Sunday when the Rockets visit the Clippers. They’ll lose 1/145th of their full-season salaries, which works out to about $65K for Green and $49K for Tate.

Rockets Notes: Mathews, Eason, Green, Tate, Gordon, Silas

After Kings guard Malik Monk took exception to a loose-ball foul committed by Rockets guard Garrison Mathews in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s contest in Sacramento, a brief on-court fracas broke out between the two teams (Twitter video link via Bleacher Report).

Following an official review, referees ejected both Monk and Mathews, along with Kings big man Chimezie Metu, who was deemed an “escalator,” and Rockets forward Tari Eason, dubbed an “instigator,” according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Fines or suspensions could follow for the four players ejected from Friday’s game, and two more Rockets players could be in danger of one-game bans, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Jalen Green and Jae’Sean Tate both left the bench area during the altercation, which typically results in an automatic one-game suspension from the NBA. Orlando recently had eight players receive one-game suspensions for similar violations.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • With Eric Gordon once again on the trade block in Houston, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tries to find a deal that would make sense for both the Rockets and a potential trade partner. Iko cautions that expectations about Gordon’s value should be tempered — three of his four suggestions don’t involve Houston acquiring a first-round pick, and the one scenario that does include a first-rounder sees the Rockets taking on Richaun Holmes‘ multiyear contract from Sacramento.
  • The 10-32 Rockets are in danger of finishing with the NBA’s worst record for the third straight year, and Stephen Silas, who now has a 47-149 (.240) since becoming the club’s head coach, is no lock to coach the team beyond this season — or even for the rest of this season. Exploring that possibility, Jerome Solomon of The Houston Chronicle argues that Silas deserves better and has been dealt a terrible hand since getting his first head coaching job.
  • After making 33 starts and averaging a career-high 26.3 minutes per game last season, Garrison Mathews has come exclusively off the bench in 2022/23 and is playing just 12.7 MPG. However, he’s taking the demotion in stride and trying to make an impact in his limited role, writes Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle. “It’s my role, and I’ve got to try to do it the best I can,” Mathews said. “I gotta go out there and hit shots. And if I don’t, then that’s my role. So I gotta be able to do that.”
  • The Rockets’ defense has been bad during their current slide (nine straight losses, 14 in their last 15 games), and those issues go beyond the team’s talent on that side of the ball, Lerner writes in another Chronicle story. According to Lerner, it often appears that Houston’s defensive effort is lacking, with basic assignments missed, especially in transition. The Rockets are allowing an NBA-worst 26.2 transition points per game this season, per