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The Good, the Bad, and the Meaningless – NBA Bubble Games, Week 3

The Sacramento Kings went 1-3 this week and were eliminated from the Playoffs for the 14th year in a row.

The Portland Trail Blazers' victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday officially, mathematically, eliminated the Sacramento Kings from a playoff berth. Of course, waiting for the mathematical certainty was just taking the easy way out; the Kings playoff hopes died under the Dallas Maverick' outstanding comeback on Tuesday, was double-tapped on Friday when they listlessly cratered against a Brooklyn Nets team that was missing 6 of their best 7 players, and was officially buried when they collapsed against the Houston Rockets.

But hey! In between those three losses, the Kings had an offensively-excellent 140-125 win against the New Orleans Pelicans, the only team who arguably has had a worse time in the Bubble than Sacramento! That was fun, right?...

In all honestly, the Bubble Basketball has been excellent - even the Kings games, if you can just appreciate the other teams. Tuesday's loss to the Mavericks would have been a thrilling basketball game to watch, if any Kings fans could watch He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named without envy and rage (I wish I could enjoy watching a 21-year-old maestro of the game set records night after night and just appreciate the beautiful basketball he plays). The Nets beating the Kings with a roster of G-Leaguers is damn impressive. And who knows how far the Rockets will get in the Playoffs, but James Harden is an offensive mastermind and Houston's ultra-small-ball experiment is addicting to watch.

...Damnit, let's just get to the good.

The Good: Bogi is back, baby! 

Against the Mavericks on Tuesday, Bogdan Bogdanovic had one of his more frustrating games in a Kings uniform, going 1-15 (with a whole bunch of easy misses) in a game that the Kings would eventually lose in overtime.

But Bogi bounced back in a big way - a career-high 35 points, four rebounds, and three assists in the win against the Pelicans, and 27 points and six rebounds in the loss to the Nets. Against New Orleans, Bogi had 19 points on 7-8 shooting (5-6 from deep, the only miss being a 50 foot heave to end the quarter) shooting line in the first quarter, when the Kings scored a Sacramento franchise record 49 points in the period. Honestly, Bogi's career high might have been a lot higher if Sacramento hadn't resorted to their hot-potato isolation offense a lot more in the second half.

And... that's it for Good. There were other bright spots this week, of course. De'Aaron Fox continued his star ascension offensively, averaging an incredible 26.3 points and 8.8 assists this week while still getting to the rim with ease (just don't look at his three point percentage). DaQuan Jeffries had 12 points against the Magic in 12 minutes, got 30 minutes against the Rockets, and continued to make the case for more playing time (especially now that the Kings should be making a youth movement). Alex Len played for the first time after missing a bunch of the Bubble Training Camp with the virus, and the Kings needed his size and physicality to earn their lone win of the trip. So yeah, some good stuff. But this team doesn't get silver linings in Orlando.

The Bad: The Coaching Staff's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Utilization of Buddy Hield

The contest against Houston saw a miracle - Buddy Hield got unleashed in the right way! In the opening quarter, Buddy sank his first three threes: one off an excellent assist from Bogi, another off a screening hand-off from Harry Giles, and the third off of an iso move.  He deferred to the initiators (for the most part), and while he still had some dribble drives, they all ended in good passes, including a highlight alley-oop to Harry Giles! Buddy had 11 points and two assists on 4-5 shooting in the first half.

But when Buddy saw the court in the 2nd half, the game was out of hand, the Kings had been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and the initiator mask came back on. The results were not pretty. Hield went 2-6 from the field (and 1-5 from deep) in the second half, and finished with 16 points.

Over the course of the year, Luke Walton identified Buddy's handling and playmaking as a big point of emphasis. He clearly sold Hield on a role that he is not suited for, and has benched Buddy repeatedly when he fails to be effective at it - banging a square peg into a round hole, the absolute pinnacle of Sacramento Kings coaching strategies. Buddy's terrible utilization isn't a new theme, as both Sanjesh Singh and Tony Xypteras have covered in depth. But the Orlando disaster has been extra-harsh on Hield, averaging 12.5 points on 42% shooting, far below his talent level and capabilities.

As Kings legend/meme legend Pete Youngman reminded us after the Nets game, Buddy is working his way back from having COVID-19, whose effects on even the healthiest in our society we still don't understand. But while Buddy's offensive struggles may be peaking in Orlando, it's been a consistent issue across a lot of the season; he's being asked to play a role he isn't suited for, and the coaching staff often benches him for their own hubris. There hasn't been a single Sacramento King who has been better utilized under Luke Walton than they were under Dave Joerger, and Buddy is chief among them.

The Meaningless: Luke Walton's Shallow, Meaningless Coaching

If you haven't read Blake Ellington's excellent piece from this weekend, stop reading this article and go check it out; the meaningless, depressing/hilarious quotes that fall from Luke Walton's mouth go far beyond the €œWatch The Tape€ meme and bury any possible optimism about his long-term career as an NBA head in a greater way than any blog post can. But if you want a more meaningful condemnation of where this team is at, De'Aaron Fox made it clear last night:

It's hard to take even the few bright spots from the last six games seriously. The Kings defense fluctuates between various stages of confusion and listlessness. The offense has had a few promising moments, mostly from Fox, Bogi, or half-a-game of optimized Buddy, but those are diminished by too many your-turn/my-turn isolation possessions while the rest of the team seems instructed to nail their feet to the floor. Worst of all, the thing we hoped the Kings would give most - they wanted all the damn smoke, remember! - was effort. And for the second season in a row, the Kings players have quit on a Coach to end a season.

(Side note - I'd argue that the players quitting on Joerger is less surprising, given that the Front Office basically quit on Dave Joerger a whole 5 months before the players did, when Brandon William's publicly threatened Joerger's tenure and the team offered nothing but meaningless words. We all know Joerger was a tough coach to get along with, but would the Kings players have been able to tank so harshly last April if they didn't know the organization had given up on him earlier than they had? Walton is locked in for the next few years - what's his excuse?)

Luke Walton was supposed to be the next step in the process, Vlade Divac's next big gamble that would take last year's promising squad to the next level. But instead of that next step, they produced just another big stumble. We'll hear talking points and excuses, both justified and not - missing Marvin Bagley, the teams' €œage€, and the crazy upside down world we're all living in. But the Phoenix Suns - another young, injured team experiencing this same upside down world - are 5-0, play with effort and competence on both ends, and are fighting for a Playoff spot they've had little shot at from the jump. Wouldn't it be nice if Walton coulda gotten at least consistent effort out of the Kings?

But speaking of meaningless - even if the Kings somehow manage to win these last two contests (Tuesday against New Orleans, and Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers), don't accept any record as a silver-lining. Orlando has been a disaster for the Kings, and their Head Coach seemed to view this trip - the best chance the Sacramento Kings have had in 14 years to make the Playoffs - as if it was just some sort of glorified extra Training Camp for next year. Do better, Kings.

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1951
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August 10, 2020 9:08 am

Reflections on the bubble:
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HongKongKingsFan
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August 10, 2020 9:16 am

What Fox said is absolutely right….I have watched all games they played this year….
No offense set, poor defense, bad transition defense, Hield is just yelling and handling the ball all the times…….

Good: Found D. Jeffries, he can play

Bad: Divac and Walton

Meaningless: Parker is good at pushing the ball……wish he can be given more playing time in the remaining 2 games….(although he may not staying next year…and his bad defense, hey, but who else played good defense in this roster)

andy_sims
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August 10, 2020 9:18 am

You can scoff at the notion of an extra training camp, but the Kings have the best-executed layup drill in the league, bar none.

fire_voisin
August 10, 2020 9:25 am

Time to move on to how to fix the Kings. Ask Vlade to resign and give him a Magic Johnson like honorary ambassadorship. Furlough everyone not on a contract (assistant GMs, training staff, scouts, COO and hope they quit or find other jobs). Apply money savings to buying out Luke.

andy_sims
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August 10, 2020 9:33 am
Reply to  fire_voisin

Why would you reward Divac’s incompetence by giving him a cushy do-nothing job? This entire organization needs to be reset, and the first step is to stop glorifying members of one of the best third-place teams in history.

The Kings are essentially an expansion team, and they need to start trying to build as one, instead of wallowing in the gauzy memories of long-gone…well, success isn’t the right word.

2020 is Year Zero, and everyone that isn’t an active player under contract needs to be eliminated. The patient is dead.

Jman1949
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August 10, 2020 9:46 am
Reply to  fire_voisin

Vivek has had more than one HC on salary virtually every year since he took over. Why shouldn’t carrying salaries for Luke and a real HC already be factored into the budget for the next three years?

TheFifthMookie
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August 10, 2020 9:31 am

Play the last 2 games, and then clean house, dump everyone in basketball ops, dump people above ops who meddle in it, ‘where the bodies are buried’ or not.

Anything less is just going to lead to a re-hash of the past 5 years.

Gregoryl
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August 10, 2020 10:51 am
Reply to  TheFifthMookie

Vivek + Matina will still be there…that’s the problem.

TheFifthMookie
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August 10, 2020 2:01 pm
Reply to  Gregoryl

all we can do as fans is ask that they won’t still be there. I know it’s unlikely to work, but what else is left at this point beyond drifting into full-on Dolan/Knicks permanent dysfunction and apathy?

Kosta
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August 10, 2020 4:14 pm
Reply to  TheFifthMookie

The only other thing I can think of:

Inception.
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1951
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August 10, 2020 10:05 am

Is Kings Nation a site based on sarcasm?

but we’re definitely on the right track”

Oy vey!

BestHyperboleEver
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August 10, 2020 10:45 am
Reply to  1951

See, I would assume being “on the right track” would imply improving. Meanwhile the Kings went from 9th last season to 13th with 2 games to play. From a .476 winning percentage to .414. And from a -1.1 NetRtg to -2.4. And that’s with their supposed core plays aging towards their prime.

But I guess my mistake is assuming that the “right track” would be the one that leads towards respectability. Maybe, here, “the right track” is one that heads off in a different direction

Gregoryl
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August 10, 2020 10:50 am
Reply to  1951

Never heard of it.

RORDOG
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August 10, 2020 4:24 pm
Reply to  Gregoryl

Kings Nation took this comment personally

ForKingsandCountry
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August 10, 2020 10:51 am
Reply to  1951

But we’re DEFINITELY on the right track!

Kosta
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August 10, 2020 12:53 pm

Is there another train heading our way on that right track?
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HunterSThompson
August 10, 2020 12:51 pm
Reply to  1951

Maybe it is a track that leads us off a proverbial cliff…that might be the correct track.

Kosta
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August 10, 2020 12:54 pm

I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.

bangbangplay
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August 10, 2020 10:10 am

Bill Walton needs to come pick up his son

ForKingsandCountry
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August 10, 2020 10:59 am
Reply to  bangbangplay

I love this comment.

eddie41
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August 10, 2020 10:23 am

good assessment of the Buddy Hield situation. It was even more glaring in the first half of the season when Fox was injured.

Timmy_13
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August 10, 2020 10:41 am

I think we should start covering actual Kings. They are more entertaining than this franchise. We can start with Enmebaragesi of Kish, in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

andy_sims
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August 10, 2020 10:45 am
Reply to  Timmy_13

I wouldn’t mind getting more content about Hawaiian rolls.

Timmy_13
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August 10, 2020 11:09 am
Reply to  andy_sims

Ahh yes, The King of breadrolls.

JackassCentral916
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August 10, 2020 11:53 am
Reply to  Timmy_13

After that I’d like to move on to Louis XIV.

A4512A0A-A331-410E-86AF-D3A4884822E2.jpeg
Kosta
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August 10, 2020 12:35 pm

I think we need to talk about pulling out from these Kings.
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ForKingsandCountry
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August 10, 2020 10:52 am

The meaningless is absolutely perfect because this organization isn’t serious about putting out a decent product… maybe ever.

MichaelMack
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August 10, 2020 12:00 pm

This is terrific writing. This organization is so strained for any sort of leadership. I had no problem with letting Joeger go, if they didnt feel like he was their man, then so be it. It is their money. The fact that they were so centered on Luke Walton after his tenure with the Lakers with plenty of coaching talent out there, that they hired him without any interviews of other available talent, is ridiculous on every level.

Last edited 1 year ago by MichaelMack
Amonk81
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August 10, 2020 3:53 pm
Reply to  MichaelMack

Agree but I did have a problem with them letting go of Joeger.

They ousted him, in large part, because he correctly wanted Doncic and knew how shitty Bags was.

I hate Vlade, Matina, Vivek etc. The worst. Egos run amuck.

HunterSThompson
August 10, 2020 12:49 pm

Can the NBA just let them come home early….? There is zero reason to allow them the chance to get injured….Free the Kings.

Wonderchild
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August 10, 2020 1:03 pm

Considering what happened this season, I still can’t wrap my head around how Vlade earned an extension. Is this what our ownership considers success? Or did Vlade write his own contract? If the answer to either is anything close to ‘Yes’, we are screwed as fans as long as Vivek/Matina has anything to do with this franchise.

TheFifthMookie
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August 10, 2020 2:02 pm
Reply to  Wonderchild

you and I use the word ‘earned’ differently….. 😉

JackWagon
August 10, 2020 2:30 pm

All I ever see is people wanting to fire Vlade and Walton. While I understand that, part of the problem is who do you propose to hire? Obviously we can’t get rid of the owners, which is another common refrain. I also understand some reasons why Vlade should be fired, primarily not drafting Doncic. But he has made some decent draft picks and signed some decent player. Keep in mind it’s hard to pick the right players. But if you want to fire Vlade and Walton, at least tell us whom you would replace them with?

Wonderchild
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August 10, 2020 3:16 pm
Reply to  JackWagon

For GM, Bobby Webster would be a dream scenario IMO. He’s currently Masai Ujiri’s right hand man in Toronto.

For coach, I still contend Walton shouldn’t have been hired, and then shouldn’t have been retained after the sexual harrasment case surfaced. It’s like the world served up the Kings a mulligan and they didn’t use it. Another missed opportunity. I’d trust a guy like Webster to make a good decision for a new coach.

Kosta
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August 10, 2020 4:16 pm
Reply to  Wonderchild

Webster as Vlade’s replacement?

I’ll take it!
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NinjaFetus
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August 10, 2020 3:47 pm
Reply to  JackWagon

Is anyone with a relation to the Spurs or Thunder organization available? Assistant GM? Scout? Trainer? Ball boy? Mascot?

SelecaoKOJ
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August 10, 2020 10:54 pm
Reply to  NinjaFetus

Yes Sir…

This the the Kings future coach I hope..

BK is Brian Keefe, who has returned to the Oklahoma City Thunder as an assistant coach and has a reputation as one of the best player-development coaches in the NBA. In the five years since Keefe left the Thunder bench, he’s developed into more €” a coach who can not only nurture talent, but also lead it.Aug 8, 2019

Will Hardy: Asst Bench Coach for the Spurs is another good candidate.

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