New-Look, Youthful Kings Try To Gain Ground In Tough West

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The Sacramento Kings have moved on from emotional big man DeMarcus Cousins, who they traded away to New Orleans in February.

They are embracing a new era and it’s a full-on youth movement in California’s capital, with a few experienced veterans mixed in to provide guidance.

“I think we have a really talented group,” second-year forward Skal Labissiere said. “This year for us is going to be a lot about growing. It’s going to be an exciting year. We have great vets.”

While new guard George Hill knows the turnaround will take time, he is counting on helping to build a winning culture as everybody works to develop chemistry on the court and off it.

The Kings went 32-50 last season and missed the playoffs for the 11th straight year.

“This is a building process. We’re trying to win,” said Hill, who is used to being a mentor after doing so with a young Utah team last season.

Second-year coach Dave Joerger will work to find his best rotation options with so many young players and the proven experienced ones he believes deserve a chance to play – from Hill to Vince Carter and Zach Randolph.

“You want to have the competition,” Joerger said. “Yet you know there’s going to be nights where sometimes a healthy guy might be asked to step aside and it might be a young guy and it might be an older guy. I’m committed to playing 10 guys and I think the split shouldn’t be 24 (minutes) 24, because I think then I’m just trying to keep people happy. But I don’t think it also should be 35-13. As guys earn their minutes, somebody’s going to be at 26-30 and somebody could be at 18 … I think that’s how we can evaluate our players, I think we can develop our players better that way. And also throughout the course of a long season everybody knows that they’re going to be counted on and I think that responsibility will help our team, too.”

Here are some things of note with the Kings:

SEARCHING FOR STABILITY: Joerger and general manager Vlade Divac appear to be sticking around for the rebuilding process.

The Kings exercised the option for Joerger’s fourth season and extended former fan favorite Divac, keeping them under contract through the 2019-20 season. Divac has said they have a unified vision on how to get the Kings back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Divac enters his third year as GM.

HIELD’S HAND: The Kings acquired Buddy Hield from the Pelicans for Cousins, and they’re counting on him being a key shooter leading this youthful roster.

As a rookie, Hield averaged 10.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists but his role grew, scoring 15.1 points and getting 29.1 minutes in 25 games with 18 starts, after joining the Kings following the All-Star break.

“We’re experienced but we’ve still got to experience a lot more,” Hield said. “Going into my second year I have to learn a lot more. I don’t know it all. I’m trying to figure out and I’ve just got to keep competing hard.”

A PLACE FOR ZACH AND VINCE: At 36, Randolph has joined his fifth team beginning his 17th season – and he’s not even the oldest on the Kings. Carter is 40 and ready for a 20th NBA season.

Joerger will pay attention to his old guys the way he does the youngsters, such as limiting the physical nature of Randolph’s play in practice when necessary.

“I think you’ve got to protect Zach,” Joerger said. “Zach’s taken and given a lot of hits over the course of his career. … If you talk to people that have played against Zach it’s like wrestling a bear for 35 minutes. You’re just worn out physically when you play against Zach.”

GILES REHAB: Harry Giles’ NBA debut will have to wait months.

The rookie forward is being held out until at least January so he can build strength to protect his surgically repaired knees.

The 20th overall draft pick out of Duke will work with the training staff through a progression, which will include participating in some “controlled” parts of practice.

He missed summer league to rest his surgically repaired left knee. Giles had an arthroscopic procedure on the troublesome knee last October after an ACL tear during high school in 2013. He also tore the right ACL in 2015.

“He’s a talented guy,” Joerger said. “He’s been working hard in individual workouts.”

___

More AP basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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