Buddy’s Blunder Reminds Kings Why They’re Better Off Without Him

It’s the nature of Buddy Hield to be a walking contradiction, a man who thinks one thing and does the exact opposite. He’s the guy who wears Kobe Bryant’s number, but has the poisonous bite of an earth worm. He’s got the three-point stroke of a sharpshooter, yet his own hubris is the best defense against that threat. Quite literally, he will put in little effort to think things through while also trying to do too much at the same time.

This was the case Wednesday night when the Kings traveled to Indiana to take on Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield’s Pacers. 

For all basketball fans, it was pleasant to watch Haliburton chatting away with De’Aaron Fox as well as the former Kings players reuniting with their onetime assistant coach Rico Hines. Despite the business operations of the league, it’s always reassuring to see that no hard feelings arose between players, coaches, and other team personnel. 

Buddy Hield was all smiles when reminiscing about shooting the breeze with former teammates and coaches, noting after the game that they all caught up the night before at dinner.

“Those guys are great guys down there,” Buddy noted, before making it about himself. “They know that I was over there [in Sacramento] for a longtime and [it was] time to change the scenery.”

Without really being asked to address it, Buddy was quick to harp on his former organization and his role in it.

Prior to proclaiming that everyone witnessed the plight of poor Buddy Hield while he was playing for the Kings, the sharpshooter danced right into whining about his time there. The question asked wasn’t even about Sacramento, it was actually regarding any positives the guard might take away from a game that ended roughly for him.

Buddy babbled on about how recognizing the positives is important, expressing the fact that the Pacers “are not going to make the playoffs” and that the team is working to improve every day.

It was a fair response—similar in substance to what the Kings think of themselves at this point—but any feeling of humility was quickly scrubbed away as Hield continued talking.

“I’m proud of myself,” he said as he made his impromptu transition. “I was doing a lot of things I was not able to do over there in Sacramento. I make plays for my teammates, Rick [Carlisle] has trust me a lot to do more, and [that’s] something I wanted to do and Sacramento didn’t let me do – I’d just stand in the corner and just catch and shoot.”

“Change is great for me, I’m happy to change. Now I’m happier when I play, I’m happy with the way my basketball is going. I’m more freed up and I’m more [at] peace with myself now [that] I can play basketball again.”

Not only was that kind of answer arguably unwarranted given the question asked, it was also a sentiment Buddy Hield seems adamant about expressing.

In the lead up to the reunion of old teammates and coaches, The Indy Star published a story about who Haliburton and Hield were most looking forward to seeing. The piece highlighted the high regard both players have for Kings assistant coach and leader of player development Rico Hines, but also included among the positivity was Hield’s deeply held belief that he has a “better opportunity” with the Pacers.

What was interesting about that “better opportunity” is that it literally lost the Pacers the game on Wednesday.

With 18.7 seconds left on the clock and being up by one point, all Indiana had to do was secure the ball and wait to get fouled. Haliburton inbounded the ball into the backcourt to Justin Anderson, who then passed it off to Buddy Hield, who had just raced back beyond the halfcourt line. The one thing Hield had to do was get the ball beyond the line before an 8-second violation was called, but Buddy took it a step further on the disaster scale and dribbled the ball off his foot, losing the possession and his team’s opportunity to win.

On the other end, Davion Mitchell dribbled into a double team before kicking it to Barnes, who passed it to an open Trey Lyles for three. The deep shot missed, but with nobody blocking him out, Damian Jones leaped and tipped the rebound back in to put Sacramento up with 0.2 to play.

Credit to him, he did say the loss was his fault, but that only came after Hield had, out of nowhere, tried to direct blame elsewhere regarding all his dissatisfaction with the Kings.

There’s no way of telling how Hield will handle it if the Pacers get better and he’s asked to come off the bench. It’s hard to definitively say that he’ll be a flat-out drama queen if he doesn’t get to close games in the future if the team is winning. It is not even possible to know for sure if Hield would be a baby about being used primarily as a catch and shoot threat on a better Indiana squad. 

There’s no crystal ball to study that will bring on any clarity, but the prospects don’t look good. In fact, it seems infinitely true that many people and franchises around the league don’t know the real Buddy Hield.

A month ago, after the Kings traded for Domantas Sabonis, there were a lot of strong opinions. The primary source of this came from the breakup of Haliburton and the Kings fanbase, which produced its own set of torn emotions. It wasn’t that the consensus was against adding an all-star like Sabonis, but losing Haliburton was a tough ask for many fans. Nevertheless, big deals require big commitments, and Sacramento finally chose a direction to proceed towards. It’s clear that the move of Haliburton can feasibly be rectified if, and only if, success follows.

Though, that wasn’t the thought process of the large proportion of “experts” and fans from around the NBA who seemed deliberate in their ignorance. They were absolutely correct regarding Tyrese Haliburton, who is an excellent player with a bright future. But they were flat out wrong in terms of Hield, and thus the deal as a whole.

J.J. Reddick’s face is probably still frozen in disbelief after the trade. He originally referred to the trade as “malpractice,” which makes sense to some degree because Reddick is apparently very close with Haliburton, so to see him as flabbergasted as the guy who actually got dealt is not surprising. However, the extremely low opinion of the move was underlined by the accompanying fact that Sacramento “traded away one of the most prolific three-point shooters in NBA history.” 

The belief that the Pacers were the clear winners in the trade—which is really impossible to distinguish so early on—rested on the misunderstanding that Buddy Hield wanted to be in Sacramento. More than that: the misunderstanding that Buddy is somehow a net positive for the team he plays for.

There’s no doubt that Hield is one of the best three point shooters in the league, but he’s also one of the worst ball-handling guards in the league, a ghastly defender, and not even remotely known for having a high basketball IQ. Of course, a player like that still has tremendous value, but even Buddy finds ways to undermine it.

All the talent he does have evidently goes to his head, clouding out his perception of his own shortcomings in a way that hurts his team. Whether it’s pulling up for a three early in the shot clock, or putting the ball on the floor, or losing possessions, he’s a net negative, and fans often found themselves saying things to this effect.

And like he did on the Kings for several years, Buddy Hield illustrated just how far he can take a team before ultimately throwing it all away with his Wednesday night blunder— a mistake strangely similar to countless embarrassing instances of his while in Sacramento.

That’s not to say that either the Kings or the Pacers outright “won” the trade—again, that’ll be decided in time, and in the end, there may not be a clear winner—but it is to say that the perception of last month’s move was massively skewed due to the widely overestimated value of Buddy Hield.

The Kings didn’t lose Haliburton and Hield by getting Sabonis, Holiday, and Lamb. Rather, the Kings lost Haliburton and finally dumped Hield in order to get the package that included the two-time all-star.

If Hield wants to rationalize that reality with his pouting, that’s fine, but it should be known that it is complete fantasy.

Funnily enough, in the same week, another former King had a strong opinion that’s totally detached from reality. 

Marvin Bagley III, likely in an attempt to revise history for the good of his self-esteem, marveled at his new teammates Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes’ ability to throw him lobs.

It would be interesting to know if by “a minute” Bagley meant about a month, because it was just over a month ago that he was playing with Tyrese Haliburton, whose ability to throw up lobs is pretty well regarded and would definitely have been more beneficial for Bagley if the former No. 2 overall pick was healthier and wasn’t doing so much to keep himself on the bench.

There’s no reason to say Hield or Bagley should be on their knees thanking the Kings for anything, but it certainly says a lot about their character—and by extension, their value as players—considering neither of them seem willing to ever legitimately hold themselves accountable for their time in Sacramento.

If those two can only blame the franchise they were on for their less prolific stints with Sacramento, then Indiana and Detroit may want to consider that surprises may be coming their way.

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[…] teams played last season in Indiana in the time following the deal (remember Buddy’s blunder?), but Domantas Sabonis had just suffered a bone bruise to his knee against Phoenix and did not […]


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