Brown said he will consider all options and Huerter isn’t the only one under the microscope as he looks to optimize his rotation early in the season. However, Brown is clearly searching for answers at the shooting guard spot as the Kings prepare to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday at Golden 1 Center.
“Kevin is not the only one that made mistakes tonight,” Brown said. “There are plenty of guys who made mistakes, and when I evaluate the team, I’m not just looking at Kevin and thinking about taking Kevin out of the starting lineup.
“There are other changes that can be made, so I always — with the flexibility we feel we have with this team — that’s something that I always have to take a look at. And, again, not just with Kevin but across the board, I’ve got to take a look at it to see how I can put our team in the right position to win a ballgame.”
Huerter went 0 of 5 from the field and did not score in a 122-114 loss to the Warriors in Sacramento’s home opener at Golden 1 Center. Huerter was held scoreless for just the second time since the Kings acquired him in a July 2022 trade with the Atlanta Hawks. The only other time he failed to score for the Kings was a March 16 game against the Brooklyn Nets when he suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter.
Huerter started 75 games last season, helping the Kings go 48-34 to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. He averaged a career-high 15.2 points per game while shooting career bests of 48.5% from the field and 40.2% from 3-point range.
The Kings (1-1) have only played two games this season, but Huerter is averaging just 3.5 points while shooting 21.4% from the field and 10% from 3-point range. Huerter has also been a focal point on the defensive end with Brown demanding more physicality and better defense from his team.
Following the loss to the Warriors, Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox was asked what he would say to his struggling teammate.
“You stay the course,” Fox said. “This league, it’s 82 games. We’ve played two. Last year, we were coming in here and (saying), ‘Oh, Kev’s shooting 60% from 3, so those things happen. But you want him to stay the course. He got to this level for a reason. He’s stayed at this level for a reason. He got his (contract) extension for a reason.
“Those things don’t happen by accident and you go through tough spells. The best shooters in the world go through rough spells, so we want him to continue to be him. Obviously, we’re asking him defensively to chase guys and fight through screens. Obviously, that wears on you. That wears on your legs, but that’s part of being a professional and that’s part of being a professional two-guard in this league. You have to do that and you have to go to the other end and make shots. He knows what his job is and he’s just struggling right now, so we’re fine. We want him to stay the course.”
Brown started Chris Duarte at shooting guard in one of Sacramento’s preseason games, but that experiment was cut short when Duarte suffered a bone bruise in his left knee. Duarte went 1 of 7 from the field and 0 of 4 from 3-point range in Friday’s loss to Golden State, but Brown praised his defense against Warriors star Stephen Curry.
Huerter’s struggles date back to last season when he shot 20.5% from 3-point range in a seven-game playoff series against the Warriors. They continued during the preseason with Huerter shooting 32.4% from the field and 22.7% from beyond the arc.
“He’s one of the best shooters — if not the best shooter — on our team, so (he should) just keep being consistent with everything he’s doing,” Kings forward Keegan Murray said. “I know he’s working hard every single day. ... We all have faith in him. I have complete faith in him. Every time he shoots the basketball, I think it’s going in.”
Huerter, 25, is in his sixth season since coming out of Maryland as the 19th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. He is a career 38.4% 3-point shooter. He will earn $15.7 million this season in the second year of the four-year, $65 million contract he signed with the Hawks in 2021.
“He’s been in the league long enough to where he’s been through some stuff,” Brown said. “I think his mental toughness, us encouraging him as much as we can, us telling him, ‘Hey, if you’re open, let that thing fly,’ us continuing to try to work with him in the areas that we feel he can be better at.
“At the end of the day, he’s been in the league long enough. In my opinion, he’s going to figure it out. He’s shot the ball extremely well throughout his entire career, so I don’t see anything different happening this season. I think eventually his shooting is going to be where it needs to be for him to feel good and help us win some ballgames.”