Sasha Vezenkov

Kings’ Vezenkov Reportedly Intends To Honor Contract

A couple of reports last week had conflicting information about the future of Kings forward Sasha Vezenkov.

An Italian reporter claimed Vezenkov was told he was no longer in Sacramento’s plans and the team would look to trade him, while Eurohoops reported that Vezenkov told the Kings he wasn’t going to return for a second season and he was undecided on whether he would stay in the NBA or return to Europe.

While the former EuroLeague MVP “remains frustrated” with the limited he role he played off the bench as a rookie last season, several sources tell Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 that there’s “no truth” to the rumor of Vezenkov considering an NBA exit (Twitter link). A source close to Vezenkov referred to that reporting as “off base” and said the Bulgarian intends to honor the terms of his contract.

Cunningham hears Sacramento would like to keep Vezenkov on the roster, but evidently there is external interest in his services as well. Given the Kings could be over the luxury tax line if they’re able to re-sign Malik Monk in free agency, it’s possible they might unload Vezenkov to save money, as our Luke Adams wrote when he previewed the Kings’ offseason.

Vezenkov signed a three-year, $20MM contract with Sacramento last summer. His $6.66MM salary for 2024/25 is fully guaranteed, while his $6.98MM salary for ’25/26 is a team option.

As we previously noted, Vezenkov can’t just terminate his contract. And since the 28-year-old’s deal for next season is guaranteed, Sacramento has no incentive to waive him unless he’s willing to give back some or all of the money he’s owed in a buyout. According to Cunningham’s report, that scenario is highly unlikely to occur.

Vezenkov averaged 5.4 PPG and 2.3 RPG on .440/.375/.800 shooting in 42 games last season for Sacramento (12.2 MPG). He missed 22 games with a Grade 3 right ankle sprain, but even when he was healthy, he wasn’t a consistent part of the team’s rotation.

Pacific Notes: Hurley, Suns, Vezenkov, Kerr

UConn submitted a new contract offer to try to keep Dan Hurley as its head coach, but a source close to the athletic department tells Adam Zagoria of that the school can’t afford to get into a bidding war with the Lakers. Hurley traveled to Los Angeles on Friday to meet with team officials and is expected to consider his options throughout the weekend before reaching a decision. One of those options will be an offer from the university that would reportedly make him the third-highest-paid coach in the NCAA.

“We want to pay him certainly what he’s worth, but there’s a limit to how far we can actually go just because of the political pressures and all of that,” the source told Zagoria. “Even though everybody wants him to stay, and everybody’s behind it, I just think there’s a cap that exists.”

Zagoria points to a USA Today database that lists Bill Self with a $9.6MM annual salary at Kansas, while John Calipari will earn $8MM in the first year of his new contract at Arkansas. Hurley signed a six-year deal worth $32MM after winning his first national title last year, and he earned a $2MM bonus this season on top of his $5MM base salary.

“Obviously, they want to pay him,” Zagoria’s source added. “I just think at some point it’s not going to be Kentucky, it’s not going to be the place where you can just get some stupid number. I think there are just some realities at the school that make that tougher.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns will attempt to fill three needs this summer despite being bound by second apron restrictions, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 said on the Burns and Gambo podcast (hat tip to RealGM). After letting Devin Booker, Bradley Beal and Kevin Durant run the offense this season, Phoenix hopes to find a point guard who can play at least 20 minutes per game, according to Gambadoro. The team is also in the market for a young wing player who can provide more athleticism, along with an upgrade on Drew Eubanks at backup center.
  • Conflicting information about Kings forward Sasha Vezenkov makes it hard to tell which parts of the story are legitimate, James Ham states in his latest edition of Kings Beat (subscription required). As we relayed earlier today, a Eurohoops report stated that Vezenkov has asked for a change of scenery and is considering a return to Europe. However, Ham notes that Matteo Andreani of Basketinside claims the Kings told Vezenkov that he’s not in their plans for next season and they’ll try to trade him. Either scenario could lead to a breakup this summer, and Ham states that team officials have been silent about Vezenkov’s future.
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr understands the pressure on Team USA to capture an Olympic gold medal this summer, calling it a “win or fail” situation, per Ron Kroichick of The San Francisco Chronicle. Part of Kerr’s early preparation has been watching past losses to see what went wrong, including a 113-111 defeat against Germany in last year’s FIBA World Cup semifinals. “One of the things we look at is, why has USA Basketball lost games in the past?” Kerr said. “There are some common themes, and the big one really is defense. The games we’ve lost, we just failed to stop the other team. This Germany game is one of them — they carved us up. So we’re going to have to be really good defensively this summer.”

Sasha Vezenkov Seeking Exit From Sacramento?

After an uneven rookie season, forward Sasha Vezenkov has informed the Kings he’d prefer a change of scenery, sources tell Mihalis Stefanou of Eurohoops.

Vezenkov signed a three-year, $20MM contract with Sacramento last summer. His $6.66MM salary for 2024/25 is fully guaranteed, while his $6.98MM salary for ’25/26 is a team option.

According to Stefanou, Vezenkov has yet to decide whether he wants to continue his NBA career or return to Europe. The ’22/23 EuroLeague MVP would generate “huge interest” overseas, Stefanou adds.

Still, as Keith Smith of Spotrac observes (via Twitter), the Kings will certainly have a major say in what transpires. Since Vezenkov’s deal for next season is guaranteed, Sacramento has no incentive to waive him unless he’s willing to give back some or all of the money he’s owed in a buyout.

In our Kings offseason preview, which was released last night, Luke Adams identified Vezenkov as a possible salary-dump candidate due to the team’s proximity to the luxury tax.

Vezenkov, 28, averaged 5.4 PPG and 2.3 RPG on .440/.375/.800 shooting in 42 games last season for Sacramento (12.2 MPG). He missed 22 games with a Grade 3 right ankle sprain, but even when he was healthy, he wasn’t a consistent part of the team’s rotation.

Interestingly, the former Olympiacos star said he had no regrets about coming stateside when the Kings’ season concluded in April.

I made the right choice, no doubt about it,” Vezenkov said.

Kings Notes: Monk, Brown, Ranadive, Offseason, Vezenkov

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Sixth Man of the Year finalist Malik Monk made it pretty clear that he plans to test the open market in free agency this summer, tweets Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

I can go somewhere else with a lot more money and be in a worse situation, so you never know,” the Kings guard said. “I’ve got a great agent who’s going to do his job. I think my job is done.”

Sacramento holds Monk’s Early Bird rights, so the team is somewhat limited in what it can offer him this summer. Monk said in a perfect world, he’d “definitely” like to return, but he’s not sure what the future will hold, as Anderson relays (Twitter links).

I came here, (played with) one of my best friends, turned the organization around, turned the city around,” Monk said. “The city loves me and I love the city, so the emotions are everywhere right now.”

Monk added that he would prefer a starting role, but he’s willing to come off the bench if it’s better for whichever team he signs with, per James Ham of ESPN 1320 and The Kings Beat (Twitter link).

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • Even though they lost their second play-in game in disappointing fashion, the Kings have undoubtedly played much better under 2023 Coach of the Year Mike Brown the past two seasons. Sources tell Anthony Slater and Sam Amick of The Athletic that Brown is essentially entering the last season of his contract (2025/26 is a mutual option), and he hopes to sign a long-term extension that includes a raise. However, owner Vivek Ranadive hasn’t presented an extension offer to this point, and it’s unclear if he’ll be willing to commit to Brown going forward, per The Athletic.
  • Anderson of The Sacramento Bee recently released an offseason preview for the Kings, with Monk’s future the biggest question mark.
  • In a feature for The Ringer, Howard Beck wonders if Sacramento will be able to escape NBA purgatory as a good-but-not-great team. “We knew the expectations were coming for us right away,” GM Monte McNair told Beck. “That’s what we’ve seen this year. And that’s the reality of the NBA. For us, it’s trying to figure out: How do we continue to take those next steps? And that means getting back into the playoffs and eventually winning a round or two.”
  • Despite dealing with injuries and inconsistent minutes, rookie forward Sasha Vezenkov said he had no regrets about coming stateside last summer, Ham tweets. I made the right choice, no doubt about it,” last season’s EuroLeague MVP said. The 28-year-old will earn $6.7MM next season, with a $7MM team option for ’25/26.

Pacific Notes; Lue, Monk, Lyles, Vezenkov, LeBron, Davis, Vincent

Tyronn Lue called his team soft after a 3-6 stretch late last month. The Clippers got the message, reeling off three consecutive victories for the first time since early February, Law Murray of The Athletic writes. They’ve defeated Philadelphia, Orlando and Charlotte during the winning streak.

The Clippers will finish off a four-game road swing at Sacramento on Tuesday. “Getting a win however you’ve got to get it is the most important thing, but we’ve still got a lot to build on and get better with,” Lue said. “We’ll take the win. The Philly and the Orlando games were two good games that we needed – two gritty wins, tough wins on the road. And then (Sunday), just sticking with it even though we didn’t do a good job defensively.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kings coach Mike Brown said they’ll use a committee approach to replace Malik Monk, who is sidelined with an MCL sprain. “You can’t replace Malik,” Brown said, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “That’s tough. He did a lot for us and he could easily start for a lot of teams, but he was on the floor a lot of times down the stretch in our games, so to think that one person is going to come in and replace him, it’s not possible, so we have to do it by committee. It’s just the next guy up, and if your number is called, you have to go play within what you do and play your role as best you can.”
  • On the flip side, forwards Trey Lyles and Sasha Vezenkov were back in action for the Kings during Saturday’s win over Utah, Anderson notes. Lyles, who hadn’t played since March 12 due to a left knee sprain, had 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot. Vezenkov, who missed 22 games with a Grade 3 right ankle sprain, added five points, two rebounds, one assist and two steals in 10 minutes. “The size just helps especially on the glass, and both those guys, whether they come up with it or not, they’re battling,” Brown said. “They’re hitting bodies. They’re guys who are both used to taking big shots. They both are really, really good 3-point shooters. You’ve got to guard them outside that line, so it opens up the floor a little bit more for everybody else. “
  • Anthony Davis (left knee) and LeBron James (left ankle) are listed by the Lakers as questionable to play against Toronto on Tuesday, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. Jarred Vanderbilt (foot sprain) and Cam Reddish (personal reasons) will miss the game, as will Gabe Vincent (left knee injury recovery). Vincent returned to action on Sunday after being sidelined for over three months due to knee surgery and had two points in 14 minutes against Brooklyn.

Pacific Notes: James, Beal, Vezenkov, Sabonis

The Lakers are listing LeBron James as doubtful for Tuesday’s road game against the Bucks because of soreness in his left ankle, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

James missed a game against Milwaukee on March 8 due to the same issue. The Lakers are currently ninth in the Western Conference as they head out on a six-game road swing. James played 38 minutes in the Lakers’ 150-145 win over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, supplying 26 points and 10 assists.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Bradley Beal has to play third wheel in the Suns’ star-studded lineup and coach Frank Vogel praises the star wing for filling a different role than he had as the Wizards’ top scorer. “Brad’s really sacrificing for the betterment of this team,” Vogel said, per Gerald Bourguet of Beal’s scoring average of 18.1 PPG is his lowest since the 2015/16 season.
  • The Kings’ Sasha Vezenkov was a European star but it wasn’t always smooth sailing when he played for Barcelona, he told Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo (hat tip to Sportando. Still, he wouldn’t rule out playing there again. “I had difficult years at Barcelona,” he said. “I think they didn’t treat me well, but not the people who lead the organization, with Juan Carlos Navarro I have a very good relationship and I learned a lot from him. I have friends in the organization, I never say no, but it’s like my time there was difficult for the team and for me. I can’t predict the future, but I have friends I respect a lot.” Injuries have limited Vezenkov to 35 games so far in his first NBA season.
  • The Kings’ Domantas Sabonis had his 53rd consecutive double-double on Saturday with 21 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, tying Kevin Love’s record for the longest single-season streak since the ABA-NBA merger, Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee notes. Sabonis broke that record in style on Monday by posting a triple-double in a win over Philadelphia. “That’s the thing about it, is it’s extremely difficult,” coach Mike Brown said over the weekend. “It’s unheard of. And I’ve been around great players, Hall of Fame players, that didn’t have a chance to get this record that Domas is chasing. But he works so hard and he is the definition of consistency. I can see why others who aren’t around him don’t really feel like it’s a big deal because he makes it look easy. It’s like normal for him.”

Kings Notes: Huerter, Ellis, Vezenkov, Monk

Kings shooting guard Kevin Huerter suffered a left shoulder injury in Monday’s game against Memphis and there are concerns that he could miss the rest of the regular season, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Huerter had to leave the game after being fouled by Desmond Bane, and he was ruled out for tonight’s contest at Toronto.

The Kings are likely exploring treatment options for Huerter before making a formal statement on his prognosis, according to Anderson, who cites a 2020 study by the National Library of Medicine showing that NBA players are typically sidelined for 3.6 weeks with shoulder subluxations and 7.6 weeks with shoulder dislocations. Anderson notes that a four-week absence would keep Huerter out until the start of the playoffs, while an eight-week absence would have him returning in mid-May in the midst of the conference semifinals.

Huerter is a valuable part of Sacramento’s offense, averaging 10.2 PPG in 64 games this season while shooting 44.3% from the field and 36.1% from three-point range.

There’s more on the Kings:

  • Coach Mike Brown plans to start Keon Ellis while Huerter is unavailable, Anderson adds. Ellis, who had his two-way contract converted to a multi-year deal last month, has started six games and the Kings have won them all. “Obviously, with this team, it’s always next-man up mentality,” De’Aaron Fox said. “We have to be ready to play without Kev if it is some type of long-term thing, and I think everybody is confident in Keon. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, the minutes he’s been providing the last few games, especially since he’s been back in the rotation, have been great.”
  • Sasha Vezenkov isn’t quite ready to return from his right ankle sprain, Anderson tweets. The first-year power forward, who hasn’t played since February 9, had been upgraded to questionable for tonight, but the team opted to give him another night off.
  • In an interview with Anthony Slater of The Athletic, Malik Monk explains the career arc that has made him the favorite for Sixth Man of the Year honors as well as his decision to leave the Lakers and sign with the Kings as a free agent in 2022. “I feel like the organization needed a turnaround,” Monk said. “I feel like they needed new faces here. I feel like I could bring an energy that Sac had been waiting for since (DeMarcus Cousins) left. And my homie is here, my best friend here. Fox. This was going to be the most comfortable fit for me. Because leaving Los Angeles, a big city, coming here slows everything down. Slow pace. Now I can just focus on my craft. It’s been working for me.”

Pacific Notes: Thomas, Vezenkov, Ellis, Dinwiddie

Isaiah Thomas is expected to be available for the Suns’ game against Philadelphia on Wednesday, John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Phoenix tweets.

While the transaction has not officially been finalized yet, Thomas is expected to sign a 10-day contract with the Suns. The 35-year-old guard recently joined the Salt Lake City Stars in the G League in hopes of landing another NBA opportunity. He showed he still has his scoring touch, averaging 32.5 points in four games while shooting 45% from three-point range.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kings rookie forward Sasha Vezenkov (Grade 3 ankle sprain) was a full participant on Monday at the team’s shootaround. He won’t play against the Grizzlies but is making good progress toward a return to action, Sean Cunningham of the Kings Beat podcast tweets. Vezenkov hasn’t played since Feb. 9.
  • The Kings are 6-0 in games that Keon Ellis has started, but the second-year guard told James Ham of The Kings Beat in a Q&A that he tries not to make too much of that stat. “There’s just more basketball to be played, so I don’t get too deep into those things,” he said. “I just try to focus on the next game and just try to lock in for every game, for real. So the record will be whatever it is if I’m as locked in as I can be. I just kinda let it figure itself out, for real.” Ellis signed a three-year contract last month after starting the season on a two-way deal.
  • Lakers guard Spencer Dinwiddie is adjusting to his bench role after starting 48 games for Brooklyn this season. The Raptors waived him after he was traded but Dinwiddie doesn’t feel like a typical backup at this stage of his career. “Obviously, the way (things) shook out in Brooklyn kind of put me more so in this box than my game being in that box,” he said, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic (Twitter link). “It’s not like I’m 35 or coming off injury or washed or anything. … Like, I’m one of them guys. Let’s not get it twisted. But I also understand being a part of a bigger unit.”

Kings’ Trey Lyles Out At Least Two Weeks With Knee Sprain

Kings forward/center Trey Lyles, who sustained a knee injury in Tuesday’s victory over Milwaukee and was subsequently ruled out for Wednesday’s game, has been diagnosed with a MCL sprain in his left knee, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. The team announced that Lyles will be sidelined for at least two weeks, which is when he’ll be reevaluated.

As Anderson writes, Lyles will likely miss at least eight more games, including Saturday’s contest vs. New York. Rookie forward Sasha Vezenkov will also miss his 15th consecutive game tomorrow, though Anderson suggests the former EuroLeague MVP could be close to returning from a right ankle sprain. Kevin Huerter (right leg contusion), who was out Wednesday, is questionable for Saturday’s game.

Lyles is a key reserve for a Sacramento team that has won four of its past five games and is currently the No. 6 seed in the West. The 28-year-old is the primary big man off the bench, averaging 7.1 PPG and 4.4 RPG on .450/.383/.698 shooting in 49 games (19.8 MPG).

With Lyles sidelined, backup centers Alex Len and JaVale McGee will likely have an opportunity to earn rotation minutes. Assuming he returns soon, Vezenkov is another frontcourt option head coach Mike Brown could turn to.

Lyles re-signed with the Kings on a two-year, $16MM contract last summer. He’ll be earning $8MM next season before hitting free agency again in 2025.

Kings’ Vezenkov Sprains Ankle, Out At Least 4-6 Weeks

FEBRUARY 13: Vezenkov has been diagnosed with a grade 3 sprain in his right ankle and will be reevaluated in four-to-six weeks, according to an announcement from the Kings.

FEBRUARY 11: Kings rookie forward Sasha Vezenkov re-aggravated a right ankle sprain this weekend and will miss several weeks of action, per Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter link).

As Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee (subscriber link) writes, Vezenkov had just rejoined his Sacramento teammates after being sidelined for two weeks due to a sprain in the same ankle.

Vezenkov missed seven games total with that initial ailment, then injured the ankle again in a Saturday practice ahead of today’s ongoing Thunder game, a source informs Anderson.

The 28-year-old reserve, who is the reigning EuroLeague MVP thanks to his efforts with Olympiacos, joined the Kings on a three-year, $20MM deal as a free agent last summer.

In 12.6 minutes per game thus far this season, Vezenkov has averaged 5.6 points on .448/.380/.769 shooting, along with 2.5 rebounds per game. Anderson notes that the forward has been an inconsistent part of Sacramento’s lineups.