Kings hope youth movement pays off in near future

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Coach Dave Joerger strongly believes Sacramento’s commitment to youth this season will pay off down the line in helping develop the Kings into a playoff contender.

How soon that happens remains an open question.

”It can be frustrating because we’re a society that wants a quick change and we want it right now,” Joerger said after the final game of his second season in Sacramento. ”It just takes time together to get that chemistry. We all want it to happen as fast as possible and we’re doing everything we can for that.”

The Kings took a step back in the standings this season, winning five fewer games on the way to a 27-55 record that left them out of the playoffs for the 12th straight season, the longest active drought in the NBA.

But with most of Sacramento’s key players age 25 or younger, there might be some reason for optimism for a franchise that seems to be in perpetual rebuilding mode.

”They’ve seen enough to know how to react now,” veteran Vince Carter said. ”They have a legitimate chance to contend. The challenge now is learning how to sustain leads. That’s the next part.”

The Kings are looking to build a pair of rookie guards in last year’s first-round pick De’Aaron Fox and European import Bogdan Bogdanovic. Each showed good flashes at times throughout the season and improved as they got more responsibility when Joerger turned things over to the youth movement.

”Just be ready to take on a load,” Fox said about his next step. ”I came off the bench, was able to feel out games and it just kind of molded me into a starting point guard. Next year, I just have to be more efficient, just elevate my game.”

Guards Buddy Hield and Frank Mason III, swingman Justin Jackson and big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere also got significant playing time as the Kings try to finding building blocks to turn the franchise around.

Sacramento went 9-12 after the start of March in what the team hopes is a good sign for the future.

Here are some other takeaways from the season and the upcoming offseason:

BIG DRAFT

Sacramento enters the draft with the sixth-best chance at winning the top pick. This will be a key draft for the Kings, who don’t have a first-round pick in 2019 because of previous deals. With top free agents hesitant to sign with a struggling franchise, Sacramento needs to find impact players in the draft in order to rebuild.

WAITING FOR GILES

The Kings have high hopes for forward Harry Giles, who sat out his rookie season rehabbing a knee injury. Sacramento acquired Giles in a draft day deal but held him out of games all year in order to strengthen his knee. Giles was one of the top recruits coming out of high school before injuring his knee as a senior. He played one year at Duke, starting just six games, but has impressed Kings officials in workouts this season.

PROTESTS

The most notable part of another losing season in Sacramento surrounded the protests of a police shooting and the Kings’ reaction to it. Protesters kept most fans from entering the arena for two games following the March 18 fatal shooting by police of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man. Kings players and owners supported the protesters and partnered with local groups to create a multiyear partnership that supports education, workforce preparation and economic development efforts in the community.

ONE MORE YEAR

Carter plans to come back for one more season, whether it’s in Sacramento or somewhere else. Carter, who turns 42 next January, is eligible to become a free agent this summer and wants to play a 21st season in the NBA. Carter averaged 5.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game in his one season with the Kings.

”Every day I want to be here, I want to play this game,” Carter said. ”I enjoy this league and I enjoy this game so much. I want to be able to play and be able to compete with younger guys.”

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