Wednesday, April 23, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Kings still searching for winning combination

SACRAMENTO — Despite constant roster changes and rotation shuffles, the rebuilding Sacramento Kings have been remarkably consistent this season.

Consistently bad, that is.

Nobody in the NBA pulled off more trades since the season started than the Kings before Thursday’s deadline for non-waiver deals passed. With Sacramento (18-36) stuck at the bottom of the Western Conference and headed for an eighth straight losing season, rookie general manager Pete D’Alessandro promises there will be even more changes ahead.

“We’re an unfinished product,” D’Alessandro said. “We’re just going to continue to try to change and turn it over and try to figure it out until we can get it right. I think change is good when you’ve lost a lot. You have to change. You always have to change. We talked about it at the beginning of the year and we’re still talking about it. We’re not there. We’re not there by any means. But we’re working hard to kind of get there, bring the right guys in, bring the young guys along and then really be ready for what we believe is going to be a pretty good draft as well.”

Since new owner Vivek Ranadive hired him last June, D’Alessandro has said he owes it to Kings fans to be aggressive after years of suffering through relocation talk and cost-cutting moves.

Sacramento sent Luc Mbah a Moute to Minnesota for Derrick Williams on Nov. 26, acquired Rudy Gay in a seven-player deal with Toronto on Dec. 9, traded Marcus Thornton to Brooklyn for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans on Wednesday, and got Roger Mason Jr. from Miami for a heavily protected 2015 second-round draft pick and cash Thursday.

The deals leave only five players — DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, Jason Thompson and Travis Outlaw — from last season’s team. And only Cousins, who signed a four-year, $62 million contract extension before the season, has a long-term commitment from the franchise.

“I think the trades themselves, in many ways, made us more athletic. We added talent,” D’Alessandro said. “I keep saying this over and over: I don’t feel like we’ve turned it into a team yet.”

The Kings enter Saturday night’s home game against Boston still very much a work in progress.

Sacramento has packed a potent scoring punch behind the trio of Cousins, Gay and Thomas. But first-year coach Michael Malone’s goal of transforming the Kings into a defensive-oriented team has failed to come about.

The Kings are allowing 103.5 points per game, the fifth most in the NBA. Sacramento also ranks 28th in opponents’ shooting percentage (46.4 percent) and 28th in opponents’ 3-point shooting percentage (37.2 percent), following a similar trend under previous coaches Keith Smart and Paul Westphal.

D’Alessandro admits his moves have not made Malone’s job easy. With the trade deadline over and at least some sense of stability setting in for the final 28 games, Malone said he wants to “create an identity” and give others a chance to play.

Rookie guards Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum will get more opportunities with Thornton gone. Fredette, who will be a free agent this summer and is not expected back, will likely see his minutes decrease.

What role, if any, Terry will have also remains unclear.

Looking further ahead, whether Thomas and Thompson fit into Sacramento’s plans is also murky. Thomas will be a restricted free agent when the Kings make him a qualifying offer after the season, and while Thompson is signed for three more seasons, the Kings acquired Landry, Williams, Quincy Acy and Reggie Evans to play power forward.

“These (28) games is going to be a lot about seeing Ray McCallum, Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams, Carl Landry,” Malone said. “We have to see these guys play, and not in practice but in NBA games to see what they’re capable of doing so we can make decisions coming in the offseason.”

The only thing Sacramento is still in contention for is winning the NBA draft lottery.

The Kings entered Friday tied with the injury-depleted Los Angeles Lakers for the fourth-worst record in the league. Orlando, Boston, and Milwaukee were all below the Western Conference cellar-dwellers.

Malone said he’ll likely tinker with his lineups now, even if it means resting more proven players, to give D’Alessandro and his staff more to base their evaluations on for the future.

“To get younger is our bigger vision,” D’Alessandro said. “And we’ll see where it goes come offseason and draft time and everything else.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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