Oct. 21—Kings coach Luke Walton said his team will not be distracted by "outside issues" after Marvin Bagley III's agent blasted the organization for its handling of his client.
Walton said the Kings were focused on trying to pick up a tough road win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Wednesday's season opener. That's exactly what they did, holding on for a 124-121 victory at Moda Center after the Blazers stormed back from a big deficit.
Prior to the game, Walton was asked about Bagley and the statement issued by his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management. Schwartz criticized the Kings for their "mismanagement" of Bagley, who did not play Wednesday after Schwartz revealed he is not part of the team's current rotation.
"I'm not getting into any of that," Walton said in his pregame news conference. "For me, we're a team. We know we have a plan. We know what that plan is and we're going to need everyone this season, so we're focused on playing Portland and, really, that's it. Portland is a great team. They have been for a long time and this is a great challenge for us to start the season after having a great training camp."
Walton was also asked if it will be difficult to prevent the Bagley issue from becoming a distraction given the history of disruptive behavior from certain members of his family.
"Nope, not with our group," Walton said. "We've got a tight group. We've talked about it, whether it's trades from last year or anything else, we don't concern ourselves with outside issues. We're a tight group. You can ask any of the players. They believe in what we're doing and they're working hard and we're in a good place."
Schwartz issued his statement Tuesday, a day after the Kings allowed the deadline to pass without signing Bagley to a rookie-scale contract extension. Schwartz said the Kings have told Bagley he is not part of Walton's rotation to start the season. He also said the Kings have passed on potential trades involving Bagley over the past several months because they weren't satisfied with the offers.
"Sacramento has informed Marvin Bagley he is not in the opening night rotation, which is completely baffling," Schwartz said. "It's clear they have no plans for him in the future, and yet, passed on potential deals at last year's deadline and this summer based on 'value.' Instead, they chose to bring him back but not play him, a move completely contradictory to their 'value' argument. This is a case study in mismanagement by the Kings organization."
Walton sidestepped a question about the thought process that went into the decision to bench Bagley, who has been plagued by injuries since coming out of Duke as the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
"Again, tonight we have our team, all 17 guys, and it's about Portland and it's about the way that we play and what we're trying to build here, and that's where our focus is tonight," Walton said.
Harrison Barnes established new career highs with 36 points and eight 3-pointers for the Kings (1-0), who shot 45.7% from the field and 41.5% from 3-point range. De'Aaron Fox had 27 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Richaun Holmes recorded a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Buddy Hield came off the bench to score 17 points, making four 3-pointers to tie Peja Stojakovic's franchise record for 3-point goals with 1,070. Hield will have a chance to break Stojakovic's record when the Kings play the Utah Jazz in their home opener Friday night at Golden 1 Center.
C.J. McCollum had 34 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals to lead the Blazers (0-1), who lost in Chauncey Billups' head coaching debut. Damian Lillard, who eviscerated the Kings last season, averaging 33.7 points and 8.7 assists with two 40-point games to help Portland go 3-0 against Sacramento, was held to 20 points on 8-of-24 shooting.
Lillard went 0-for-9 from 3-point range. His final attempt would have tied the game as time expired to force overtime.
The Kings held the Blazers to 23 points in the first quarter and 26 in the second, but they gave up 36 points in the third and fourth quarters, allowing Portland to cut an 18-point deficit to one with 11.1 seconds remaining.
That was the story of the night in Walton's eyes, but he was glad the Kings could escape with a win.
"I'm not very pleased at all with how we played defensively, the details of our defense, in the second half," Walton said. "And I get it, that's a tough team to guard, but we have to be better. Damian Lillard had a chance to tie the game up and most nights he's going to hit that."
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nba/kings-beat-blazers-walton-says-outside-issues-with-bagley-wont-become-a-distraction/ar-AAPN9JE818