March 5, 2020
Sacramento Kings Coach Luke Walton sent Grand Bahama native Buddy Hield, the best shooter on the team, to the bench several weeks before the NBA All-Star break and has maintained the team structure following the classic.
Walton might be interested only in getting the best team performance. The Kings are playing slightly above .500 during the period, and, Walton no doubt, will be inclined to go with the current formula because it is working better for him.
It’s an unfortunate situation for Hield. Walton has placed him at a pivotal point in his career. At 27, Hield, came into the current season following one in which he had a breakthrough all-star like showing. Hopes were high for him to solidify star status in the NBA, but under new Coach Walton, early in the season, the Kings settled into the bottom category, among the lowly teams in the Western Conference.
The truth be told, after Walton decided to utilize Hield coming off the bench, in the second unit, there has been an upgrade. In fact, the Kings after Sunday night, were 26-34, just three games out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, after point guard starter De’Aaron Fox and Hield offensively engineered a comeback from 21 points down to beat the Detroit Pistons 106-100.
Fox led the scoring with 23 points while the Bahamian native Hield came off the bench to contribute 19 points in 25 minutes of court time. After the game with the Pistons, the Kings were left with 22 more before the end of the regular season, that amount of opportunities to make the adjustment into the playoff group.
It’s a huge challenge, it appears, Walton is prepared to continue rolling the dice with Hield on the bench. He can argue, being satisfied with the production of Hield of the bench, leading the second unit. This kind of thinking would be considered a high compliment by many players, but for a one on the borderline of full stardom in the NBA, it could be unsettling.
Walton has relegated him to a role player, by taking him out of the starting lineup. Throughout the history of the NBA, role players have seldom been selected as all-stars, and given the star label.
Hield is an awesome shooter. He evolved over last season, and the one before, into a player with good court sense. He became one of the great three-point scorers and was on his way (with the full accompaniment of starting minutes), arguably, to record-breaking numbers from beyond the arch.
He cemented his ability to score from downtown by winning the three-point contest during the recent all-star weekend.
Hield is indeed poised for stardom in the NBA. Hopefully for him, he does not get fully re-classified as a bench player. Thus far, Hield has been the ultimate contributor off the bench, prepared to do whatever he can to make the team more successful.
He has star skills, though, and perhaps could grow into a superstar.
Hield wants to be considered an authentic NBA star.
For his sake, hopefully the bench assignment is only for a relatively brief moment in time.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org or on WhatsApp at 727-6363).