SACRAMENTO -- The All-Star break is over and the Sacramento Kings are ready to get back to work. They welcome a familiar face Friday night when former head coach Michael Malone leads his Denver Nuggets into Sleep Train Arena.
The Kings have plenty of work to do if they hope to climb back into the playoff race. They currently trail the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets by four games for the eighth and final spot in the west. With 29 games remaining, they have very little margin for error if they hope to play in the NBA’s second season.
Denver is 5-3 over their last eight games and they come in just a half game behind the Kings in the standings. This is the first look the Kings will get at rookie point Emmanuel Mudiay. Mudiay refused to interview with the Kings during the pre-draft combine in Chicago and turned down their invites to come to Sacramento for a workout leading up to the draft. With very little information to work with, Sacramento passed on Mudiay with the six pick, choosing big man Willie Cauley-Stein instead. Mudiay went to Denver with the next selection.
Kings by 4
WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 22-31, third place in Pacific
Nuggets: 22-32, fourth place in Northwest
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Rudy Gay vs. Danilo Gallinari -- The trade deadline has passed and Rudy Gay is still a Sacramento King. The 29-year-old wing needed the break to heal up from a variety of ailments, including a sprained ankle, sore heal and scratched cornea. He faces off with Gallinari who leads Denver in scoring, dropping in 19.7 per game form the small forward position.
Kings: F Omri Casspi (wisdom tooth) out, G Marco Belinelli (tooth extraction) out, PG Rajon Rondo (turf toe) probable, G Ben McLemore (wrist) probable.
Nuggets: F Wilson Chandler (hip) out for the season, F Darrell Arthur (quad) probable, Jameer Nelson (wrist) out.
This is the first of three matchups between these two teams this season. The Nuggets holds a 83-86 advantage over the Kings overall and a 61-60 lead during the Sacramento-era.
“It’s the first time I’ve been back in a while, since I was fired Dec. 14 (2014). I remember the date, it’s a day that will live in infamy.” - Nuggets coach Michael Malone on his return to Sacramento