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It is another offseason in which the Kings, after missing the playoffs for the 14th year running, have undergone an overhaul. This time the new guy is Monte McNair, brought in to head the front office after the abrupt departure of Vlade Divac in mid-August, and while McNair inherits a team that has a reasonable level of young talent, he is also getting a flawed group. Chief among those flaws is star guard Buddy Hield, whose unhappiness with anyone holding a position of authority—coaches and front-office types alike—in Sacramento has been the team’s one constant.
Hield did not much like Divac, not after Divac offered what Hield called an insulting contract extension at this time last year. He remained displeased with Divac, even after the offer was raised and Hield signed on for four years and $94 million. Hield did not like his first season playing under Luke Walton, not after Walton moved him to the bench to mask his consistent defensive lapses. Hield was reportedly not returning messages from Walton. That was to be expected—Hield did not get on with Walton’s predecessor, Dave Joerger, who frequently called out Hield’s mental errors.
So Hield is not happy. He has made that plain, including in his final meeting with reporters in August, when he said, “Y’all know how I talk, y’all know how I feel with all the stuff. Y’all can read me well. So, I’ll let y’all answer that for yourselves.”
That sent the speculators into high gear, firing up the trade machine to see where Hield could land. Philadelphia was a popular pick, especially after Hield “liked” a social media post about the Sixers hiring Doc Rivers. But Atlanta has been a rumored destination, as have Oklahoma City and Orlando, among others.
The problem, though: As much as Hield might want to nudge his way out of Sacramento, McNair and the Kings do not appear to be eager to send him on his way.
“I think it makes a lot of sense, them trying to move him, start with a clean slate, they were better without him in the starting five, all of that,” one general manager said. “The logic is there. But there does not seem to be a lot of action there, not yet at least. It is not something where they seem to be shopping him very actively. Maybe it would be better to wait, to see how the season starts, but I don’t get the sense that they’re out there really laying the groundwork for a deal. They’re just not yet shopping him.”
Kings’ Harrison Barnes: ‘Buddy Is My Guy’
Perhaps McNair thinks he can get through to Hield in a way that Divac, Walton and Joerger have not. Perhaps McNair just knows that he will be able to pull together a deal for Hield quickly if need be, that even with his struggles on the defensive end, there will always be a market for a guy who is a career 41.1% shooter from the 3-point line.
Or perhaps McNair has been debriefed on the notion that what we have seen lately is just Buddy being Buddy, and that it is wise to learn to live with his occasional hotheadedness because of his top-shelf shooting ability.
That was the posture Kings forward Harrison Barnes seemed to take when I asked him about Hield’s behavior this offseason.
“Buddy is my guy,” Barnes said. “We talk often. Obviously, there’s a lot of rumors that go around on social media and things like that. But any time you miss your mark as a team, there is going to be frustration. Anything else beyond that stays in house.”
When he came on board in Sacramento last month, McNair held a similar position on Hield. McNair is coming from Houston, after all, and in his time with the Rockets, the team became the most prolific 3-point shooting bunch in NBA history.
“Buddy is an incredible young talent,” McNair said. “I think we all know in this league, spacing is of the utmost importance and Buddy is one of the elite shooters in the league and we’re going to be able to utilize that skillset as we implement our system.”
Everything appears lined up for the Kings to be shopping Hield. Except the fact that the Kings are not eager to make that move.