ROUNDBALL DAILY

Frank Mason, Buddy Hield playing well for the young Sacramento Kings

Frank Mason has played well for the Kings, especially considering not much was expected of him coming into the season. (Photo: NBA.com)

There hasn’t been much to cheer about in Sacramento over the past, oh–decade or so.

The Kings (10-20) haven’t made the playoffs in 11 years, and in that time, have devolved to rival the Jacksonville Jaguars and half of the NHL’s Western Conference as the most irrelevant franchise in sports. The only time anybody ever talked about Sacramento over the last few years was to hypothesize on where Boogie was getting traded, or to make a joke about how bad they were.

The now Cousins-less Kings have embarked on yet another long rebuild, but after a painfully dreadful start, things are finally starting to look up in Sactown.

The Kings beat the struggling Sixers, 101-95 on Tuesday night, to sweep the season series with Philadelphia.

They were led by the ageless Zach Randolph, who went for 27 on 12-of-19 shooting and put Philly’s frontcourt through a veritable big man camp with his dryer-like moves in the post.

“I feel like I’m still in my prime,” Randolph said after the game, which he treated as a clinic in barely-elevating-off-the-ground-but-still-making-BBQ-chicken-out-of-you post moves.

Even more encouraging was the lift rookie point guard Frank Mason gave the team. The second-round pick (34th overall) scored 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and played solid defense, including two blocks and a steal.

Not much was expected of Mason this year, despite the fact that he won the National Player of the Year award as a senior at Kansas, and he fell in the draft simply because of his height (5-11).

But the Kings felt Mason had a lot to bring to the table, and they jumped at the chance to grab him early in the second round after grabbing the lankier De’Aaron Fox with the seventh overall pick. The duo, along with former Oklahoma standout sharpshooter Buddy Hield, has a chance to develop into one of the league’s best young backcourts.

Mason was key in the win over the Sixers, and he’s averaging 15.1 points, 6.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, which are impressive stats for a rook. He’s also shooting 42.4% from three.

Hield was also impressive in the Kings’ win Tuesday night, putting up 24 on 9-of-19 shooting. He’s shooting 45% on the season, and 46% from three.

Sacramento has a reputable coach in Dave Joerger, some nice young talent in Mason, Fox (13.6 points per-36, 5.4 assists per), Willie Cauley-Stein (10.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Skal Labissiere, and Justin Jackson.

It’s going to take some time, but Kings fans can solace in the fact that their young talent has shown promise while assimilating into the league.

Sacramento looked like one of the worst teams in the NBA during the first month and a half, but it’s clawed its way to 10 victories, including three in its last six games.

Mason looks like a legit rotation guy (pretty good for a second-round rookie), and if Hield and Fox can keep developing, they’ll be in decent shape.

Might they still be irrelevant? Sure, they’re in Sacramento. But start winning again, and the rest of the basketball world will be forced to pay notice.

 

Related: De’Aaron Fox will make you feel old

The Lost Champions: The 2002 Sacramento Kings and the Fixed Western Conference Finals

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