June 24, 2024

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Sacramento Kings clinch first playoff berth since 2006, longest post-season drought in major U.S. sports

Sacramento Kings clinch first playoff berth since 2006, longest post-season drought in major U.S. sports

With a 120-80 win on Wednesday, the Sacramento Kings officially sealed their spot in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. That’s right: After 16 years, the program has… The longest drought the NBA has ever seen Now it’s official. Light up the friggin’ beam.

It took a few extra days, but the Kings got an emphatic win over the depleted Portland Trail Blazers to take control of their post-season destiny. “Light Beam” cheers erupted at the end of the game… in Portland.

The Kings became the third team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff berth, joining the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies. This is, to put it mildly, not what the pre-season edgy community expected; heading to training camp, betMGM He marked over/under Sacramento’s 2022-23 win total at 34.5 games. Those poor projections came in the context of a decade-and-a-half of disaster: The Kings hadn’t topped that mark in three seasons and have only beaten it twice since 2005-2006.

It wasn’t always like that. At the turn of this century, kings were among the permanent powers of the League. They’ve played eight straight playoff games under head coach Rick Adelman, winning 50 or more games in five straight seasons, including a league-best 61 during a smash-ending 2001-02 campaign (and potentially outrageous) conditions. Led by the likes of Chris Webber, Vlady Divac, and Peja Stojakovic, these Sacramento teams enjoyed fast breaks, ball movement, 3-point bombing, and finishing touches. Their style exuded gaiety and encapsulated substance to match.

But things started to turn around after Weber He tore his knee And old spinning chops like Divac, Doug Christie, and Bobby Jackson went on. After a pair were knocked out in the first round, the Kings He elected not to renew Adelman’s contract In the summer of 2006, we started the clock on a dark period that would see 11 different coaches working under four different CEOs for two different ownership groups, all facing the existential crisis of a near move to Seattle and failing to produce a single 500. season or Fifteenth place with defensive efficiency. (They won’t finish above average in the D this season either. Kings fans don’t seem too upset about that.)

There were fun moments: Kevin Martin averaged 25 games in a season, Tarrick Evans won Player of the Year, Isaiah Thomas went from Mr Airlevant to making it, the night scene was Peak DeMarcus Cousins, and what till then. On the radar, mostly overwhelmed by the steadfastness surrounding a franchise that has done things like fire a promising young coach while sidelining its best player with viral meningitis and taking Marvin Bagley III with the second pick in the 2018 NBA Draft – Next three players off the board: Luka Donjic , Jaren Jackson Jr., Trae Young – middle year after year of losing.

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The scenario changed this season, however, thanks in large part to one huge change the Kings made at the 2022 trade deadline — sending rookie young point guard Tyrese Haliburton and 3-point shooter Buddy Held to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for talented offensive center Domantas. Sabonis—and another they did in the offseason, hiring Mike Brown from the Champion Warriors’ bench to be their new head coach.

“What Mike […] He instilled confidence in us,” he said before the season started. “D’Aaron Fox, an All-Star guard recently he told Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “Hell, it might make you think you’re better than me. We go out every night expecting to win. You know you’re not going to win every game. But you go out there and expect to win.”

Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis celebrates after scoring a basket during a game this season. (Alonzo Adams/USA Today Sports)

As much as the Browns — who cut their teeth with the Spurs from Gregg Popovich, presided over elite defenses during his time in Cleveland and served as the chief defensive lieutenant to Steve Kerr at Golden State — would prefer the expected wins come via consistent strings of stoppages, these Kings, like their C-era predecessors -Webb, they win with their attack. Sacramento He has the highest points total this NBA season, scoring 176 points in the double-action thriller to beat the Clippers. She also had a share of the high score not made after overtime, thanks to her 153-point hanging over a Nets team that still featured Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the nationally televised ass-kicking that officially announced the Kings’ existence as a team of consequence.

“Every time we hit the ground, we have to prove our worth,” Brown told Yahoo Sports reporter Vincent Goodwill earlier in the season.

Many pundits and Kings fans alike slammed the Haliburton-for-Sabonis deal at the time, believing it foolish that a team that seemed so out of contention would turn out a low-paid 21-year-old playmaker with an All-Star game. (In fairness, Haliburton needed a full year to realize that upside.) As it turns out, though, the quid pro quo not only blighted the Sacramento backcountry’s lottery selection predicament and rebalanced a short-sized roster, it forced an order on a disparate group of talent, drawing a blueprint. for what was the best offense in the NBA this season, averaging 119.8 points per 100 non-trash possessions entering Monday’s games, according to cleaning the glasses.

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Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox—the only starting point guard left standing after Haliburton’s exit—started Developing chemistry in a two-player game Almost immediately last season, a pair of crafty southern paws caught opponents off-guard from unorthodox angles and took turns shoveling and heading for the basket. After watching the kings score like a Top three offense with Sabonis and Fox share the court After the trade, General Manager Monty McNair entered the offseason intent on giving his star backstop more room to work. With three moves—one free agent signing, one trade and one draft pick—McNair helped propel the Fox-Sabonis partnership into the stratosphere, take the top off the Kings offense and reimagine its potential.

a lot First draft of history Tours – Including Yahoo Sports – Sacramento included within the losers From the 2022 NBA Draft, the Pistons are among that it The winners, for his decision to take Iowa’s Keegan Murray with the third overall pick and allow Purdue’s Jaden Ivey to fall to Detroit. While the Kings will probably one day regret Ivey, today they are very excited for being chosen as a plug-and-play forward to join Harrison Barnes’ steady side in the starting lineup – especially one who shoots 41% from 3-point range on over six attempts per game. , and dig three times From the corners and over the breakwhich is one of the most prolific periodicals Archers pick up and shoot And On footsteps to break the record for Most 3 indicators ever made by a newbie.

After landing an immediate-impact shooting game in the draft, McNair acquired two more agencies that were opened at once, sending a package headlined by a 2024 lottery-protected first-round pick to the Hawks for Kevin Huerter and using a mid-level exception to snatch an old Fox associate at Kentucky. . Malik Monk away from the Lakers. Huerter proved a perfect fit alongside Fox in the starting lineup, posting world-class shooting percentages both inside and outside the arc at the highest utilization rate of his career. Monk has been one of the most dynamic reserves in the NBA, ranking among the league leaders in points And helps per game off the bench during production at his best career Minute rates. The trio of Murray, Hurter and Monk combined to make over 500 three-pointers – a huge reason Sacramento finished. 25 In 3s per game f 24 In team 3-point accuracy, he has risen to the top 10 in both categories this season.

The Sacramento Kings guard celebrates D & # 39;  Aaron Fox and Malik Monk during a match earlier this month.  (Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk celebrate during a game earlier this month. (Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

Flanking Sabonis – one of the Premier League’s premier attacking pivots and also the leading renegade – with multiple wingers who can shoot, pass, dribble and cut, opening up all kinds of possibilities for Sacramento’s offense. Brown reconstructed the offense around Sabonis’ ability to ease off elbows; No team finishes more possessions per game via dribbling deliverythere are no results for the team More points for each possession On those plays and the 26 year old big guy turns into Highest help rate From any position other than Nikola Jokic in the three-point era. All that cabin space and service from Sabonis helped unleash Fox, who earned his first All-Star spot along with Sabonis behind the career leading scorer and emerging as the league’s leading scorer this season.

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That formula—spreading the floor, hitting the offense with an astonishing array of deliveries, screens, runs and runs, and when it gets close to late, take the ball to Fox and run out of his way—produced Sacramento’s best season in nearly two decades. The question now: Can it result in postseason success?

While Sacramento will have the home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, it will also likely feature the worst defense of any team in the bracket. The Kings’ defense fundamentals under Brown are very sound – they’re excellent at blocking Relocation opportunities And Quick break points; They are close to the league average at how often They allow opponents to shoot at the edge or from behind the arc; They don’t get much wrong — but the results haven’t yet matched the process. They entered week 25 in Points allowed for each possession and 29 in The opponent’s field goal percentage. Sabonis is an elite rebel, but no edge protector; Opponents shoot Almost 70% in the basket against the Kingsfrom Block fewer shots as a team than anyone else but Heat.

How far the Kings ultimately go this spring likely comes down to whether they can string together enough stops for their offense to last the day. The good news: No matter who they face, this insult will be cruel. Monster to deal with.

“I think our potential is limitless,” Fox said recently told Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report. “We know we can score with anyone. Our season will continue if we can get stops, and that’s something we keep working on every day. If we become a better defensive team, we can win the championship.”

And this, admittedly, is a very noble goal. By qualifying for the playoffs, though, the Kings have taken the first step toward that – and given how far they’ve come and how quickly they’ve done it, we might suspect they’re in danger.