Kevin Huerter wishes he was ‘out there more’ after loss to Denver

Feb 29, 2024, 3:37 PM | Updated: 3:56 pm

Kevin Huerter #9 of the Sacramento Kings goes for a lay up during the first quarter of the game aga...

DENVER, COLORADO - FEBRUARY 28: Kevin Huerter #9 of the Sacramento Kings goes for a lay up during the first quarter of the game against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena on February 28, 2024 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alysa Rubin/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alysa Rubin/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images)

Coming into Thursday night against the defending champion Denver Nuggets, De’Aaron Fox’s status was unclear. He ultimately could not participate due to a right knee contusion, and the Sacramento Kings struggled in his absence. After the game, Kevin Huerter seemed to express frustration with his lack of playing time.

With Fox unavailable, Davion Mitchell moved into the starting lineup for the fourth time this season. The Kings got off to a hot start, jumping out to a 15-point lead by the eight-minute mark of the second quarter, with triples falling left and right.

From there, it all went downhill. The Nuggets scored 33 points in the remainder of the second quarter compared to Sacramento’s 10, heading into the half with a 65-55 advantage.

The situation didn’t improve in the third quarter, where the Kings were outscored 35-17, and the game was over from there.

While there are notable takeaways from the game itself, Huerter’s postgame comments were a curious layer to the night.

Kevin Huerter wishes he was ‘out there more’

Kevin Huerter has had an up-and-down season. After being traded from Atlanta to Sacramento in 2022, he was an essential piece to their offensive explosion during his first season playing for the team in California’s capital.

The shooting (and, more importantly, spacing) he, Malik Monk, and Keegan Murray provided for Fox and Sabonis flattened out defenses and spread the floor tremendously. His pace in the fullcourt and halfcourt added to their unpredictable, highly successful offense. Huerter’s defense left plenty to be desired, but that could also be said for most of his teammates.

Coming into 2023-24, head coach Mike Brown emphasized finding ways to improve the defense, even if that came with a slight negative impact on their offense with postseason success in mind.

It seems as though Huerter has suffered the most during that transition. Earlier in the season, Sacramento elected to start Chris Duarte instead of Huerter, but it was shortlived.

In their last two showings, teams have hunted him in mismatches. The Miami Heat used Duncan Robinson to screen for Jaime Jaquez Jr so he could go to work on Huerter, and he found success. Denver was effective in doing the same.

Again, Huerter is not the lone Sacramento player who struggles in this aspect, nor fully deserving of the blame for either losses, but it’s factored in.

Due to those deficiencies, Huerter has had games where his minutes were notably limited. Wednesday night in Denver, Huerter checked out at the 8:12 mark of the second quarter and never saw the floor again — albeit all five starters played minimal minutes in the fourth due to the insurmountable lead.

It’s the 15th time this season he’s logged less than 20 minutes, which occurred on just six occasions during his first season with Sacramento.

When asked what went wrong during the second and third quarters Wednesday night, Huerter expressed his frustration to reporters in Denver.

“I don’t know if I can put my finger on just one of them, but I wish I was out there to help us more,” he said.

Chris Biderman, who covers the Kings for The Sacramento Bee, was in Denver and outlined the night in more detail.

His frustration is understandable, given the constant trade rumors that featured Huerter and Barnes leading up to the deadline. Last season, he seemed happy with his new NBA home and role, but things change dramatically and quickly in the association.

It’s a challenging spot for the Kings, with 24 games remaining in 2023-24 as they fight to avoid the play-in tournament in the Western Conference. Huerter’s defensive deficiencies are apparent, but his offensive capabilities are as well.

The 25-year-old sharpshooter is averaging 11.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three on 5.6 attempts per night in 25.2 minutes.

Now, Coach Brown is faced with a potentially delicate situation. Maintaining high spirits and internal belief in the locker room is essential to any successful team, but winning games will always take priority.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will finish this tough two-game trip on Friday night when they face the Western Conference’s top seed, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Kings have split the first two matchups against Minnesota this season, with the road teams winning each matchup thus far. On November 24th, Sacramento handed the Wolves their first home loss behind a significant effort from De’Aaron Fox (36 points, seven rebounds, 12 assists).

In the most recent meeting between the two West foes on December 23rd, Minnesota defeated the Kings by a final of 110-98 at Golden 1 Center.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Timberwolves coverage, beginning at 3:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 5:00 PM PST tip-off from Minneapolis.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Friday, March 1st – Sacramento Kings @ Minnesota Timberwolves – 5:00 PM PST
  • Monday, March 4th – Sacramento Kings vs. Chicago Bulls – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, March 6th – Sacramento Kings @ Los Angeles Lakers – 7:30 PM PST
  • Thursday, March 7th – Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs – 7:00 PM PST
  • Sunday, March 10th – Sacramento Kings vs. Houston Rockets – 3:00 PM PST

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