NBA Rumors: Sacramento Kings’ Benching Of Nemanja Bjelica Part Of Franchise’s Plan
While he’s failed to play in multiple games recently due to what the team has labeled “personal reasons,” the benching of Sacramento Kings big man Nemanja Bjelica may actually be a calculated move. Per a report from The Sacramento Bee‘s Jason Anderson, the decision to keep Bjelica off the court is actually part of the franchise’s broader rebuilding plan.
According to sources with knowledge of the situation, there are no personal issues with the Serbian sharpshooter, who has continued to travel with the Kings in spite of the fact that he hasn’t played since Sacramento’s January 9 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Instead, as relayed by Anderson, he’s being held out as part of Kings GM Monte McNair’s effort to build around star guard De’Aaron Fox.
Fox, the club’s leading scorer and a former no. 5 overall pick, recently inked a five-year, $163 million contract extension.
When asked about the decision to hold Bjelica out of games, head coach Luke Walton made a point to say that it’s not indicative of a lack of belief in the 32-year-old or his abilities as a basketball player. However, he failed to elaborate on his or the team’s motives in keeping him on the bench.
“Me and him have talked,” Walton said.
“Again, we’re all on the same page as far as where we’re at, but there’s some — he’s not [sitting out] due to a lack of trust with us. There’s some personal stuff and I’m just going to leave it at that, but we have been in communication and we are very confident in the player he is still.”
Although he has been limited to just 10 appearances and 15 minutes per contest this season, Bjelica is fresh off a career year with the Kings during the 2019-20 campaign. Starting 67 games in relief of the injured Marvin Bagley III, the 6-foot-11 forward-center averaged a career-best 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest last season, as tracked by Basketball-Reference.
He continued to space the floor at an elite level as well, connecting on nearly 42 percent of his three-point attempts.
Bjelica joined the Kings in 2018 when then-GM Vlade Divac signed him to a three-year deal worth $20.5 million. They had the option to waive him before his 2020-21 salary became guaranteed in November but opted instead to keep him on the roster.
As noted by Anderson, the Kings explored trading Bjelica ahead of the 2020 NBA draft. It is likely they’ll continue to explore their options if they ultimately decide he isn’t part of their long-term plans.
Earlier this month, The Inquisitr reported on one suggested trade that would see Bjelica join the Los Angeles Lakers.