He may not have been happy about it, but the move worked.
After six straight losses, Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton decided to bench star guard Buddy Hield on Friday, electing to start Bogdan Bogdanovic in his place.
By the end of the night, Hield had scored a team-high 21 points off the bench and led the Kings to a 98-81 win against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. The win only marked the Kings’ fourth since Dec. 17.
Fifteen of Hield’s 21 points came from behind the arc, too, where he shot an impressive 5-of-9 while adding eight rebounds in his 21 minutes off the bench. The 27-year-old has averaged 20 points and five rebounds per game this season, too, his fourth in the league.
Starting Bogdanovic in his place doesn’t sound outlandish at the surface. Bogdanovic isn’t far behind Hield on paper, averaging 14.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Hield, however, just signed a massive four-year, $86 million extension with the Kings. Benching a player who is earning that much money is certainly a bold decision.
Walton insisted before the game, however, that “it’s not a punishment to Buddy at all.”
"It's the same message I've given all year. We've had however many different starting lineups all season long and it doesn't matter," Walton said, via Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee. "We're a team and we're struggling to win games right now, so we're looking to see if different groups give us a better chance of doing that, so there's nothing permanent with it.”
Kings coach Luke Walton discusses decision to start Bogdan Bogdanovic instead of Buddy Hield against the Chicago Bulls. No other changes tonight. pic.twitter.com/IYC7OcrVap— Jason Anderson (@JandersonSacBee) January 24, 2020
Either way, it worked. The Kings held the Bulls to a measly 12 points in the final quarter and cruised to the 17-point win on Friday night.
Whether Walton keeps Hield coming off the bench in the future, though, remains to be seen.
“We’ll see how this goes and move forward from this,” Walton said before the game, via ESPN. “It’s about the team being ready to play and not being caught up in who’s in the starting lineup or not.”
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