The NBA restart was supposed to be an opportunity for the Sacramento Kings to show that their 13-7 record over the 20 games before the shutdown wasn’t a fluke. Instead, the Kings season came to a crashing end in the Orlando bubble.
Sacramento went 3-5 over its final eight games and missed the playoffs for the 14th straight season. The players were too inconsistent, and the coaching staff failed to make adjustments, especially during the first three games of the restart.
One of the players who struggled early on is sharp-shooting guard Buddy Hield. The 27-year-old shot just 31.3% from the field over the Kings’ first three losses, including 25.6% from the 3-point line, well below his career average of 41%.
Hield was removed from the starting lineup by head coach Luke Walton in favor or Bogdan Bogdanovic earlier this year. It seemed like the right decision at the time as Sacramento played its best basketball of the season once Bogi got the nod.
But, things haven’t been the same since for Hield, whose frustration boiled over during the postgame press conference after the Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers 136-122. Asked by The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson if he was content with his role on the team, Hield said this:
“Y’all know me. Y’all know how I talk. Y’all know how I feel. Y’all can read me well, so I’ll let y’all answer that yourselves.”
Asked Buddy Hield if he can be content with his role moving forward with the Kings. He did not say yes.— Jason Anderson (@JandersonSacBee) August 13, 2020
For his part, Walton was awful in his first year as Sacramento’s head coach. His lack of creativity on the offensive end was exposed in Orlando, and his inability to adapt to the opponent was readily apparent over the eight games. He’s simply in over his head.
“Seems like we’re all over the place,” Hield said after a Dec. 26 loss to Minnesota. “Trust issues going on, I guess. They stop believing in players. It is what it is.”
Star point guard De’Aaron Fox echoed Hield’s sentiments earlier this week, saying the Kings have been lost at various points throughout the year.
The Hield/Walton drama needs to end this offseason, but it won’t be easy. Hield signed a four-year deal worth up to $106 million less than a year ago. Considering that Bogdanovic is up for a new deal this offseason — plus the fact that Walton and Vlade Divac seem to prefer Bogi over Buddy — it’s hard to see a team offer equal value for Hield.
I don’t anticipate owner Vivek Ranadive would give Divac the OK to fire Walton either, considering the team would still have pay him not to coach for three more years.
There is only one way out this mess, and that is for Ranadive to clean house, and get out of his own way. Hire the right people to run the basketball operations side of the team, and stop meddling in their decisions.
Given the track record, I don’t see that happening. But, one thing the Kings need to do right away is end the Buddy Hield and Luke Walton experiments.