The current No. 2 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference most certainly is not supposed to be there. Because they’re not even supposed to have a winning record, if you’re going by historical precedent or the preseason betting market.
And yet, less than a month until the NBA Playoffs get underway, the Sacramento Kings find themselves in an uncommon position – among the very best teams in the league.
There are lots of reasons the team has gotten here. Mike Brown, the unquestioned front runner for NBA Coach of the Year, has helped build the best offense in the NBA, and potentially a historically great one at that. The players on the floor, from Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox to Malik Monk and Matthew Dellavedova (yes – THAT Matthew Dellavedova), are finding ways to contribute at or near career-high levels almost across the board. Veterans like Harrison Barnes, rookies like Keegan Murray … on and on and around and around you see over-performance and immaculate vibes.
They even have opposing fans chanting for their beautiful beam that celebrates victories back home in Sacramento!
When the “enemy” is cheering for you, you know that the team other than the Philadelphia 76ers with the best record in the NBA over the last 10 games must be doing something right.
That is true of these Kings. They are giving off strong 2021-2022 Memphis Grizzlies vibes as a fun-loving squad that genuinely enjoys playing alongside one another, cultivating a culture of hard-fought wins and happy celebrations. It’s not about the winning, although that is fun to watch unfold. It’s about HOW they are winning. Teams can win in spite of bad circumstances (see the 2022-2023 Memphis Grizzlies over the last several weeks) or in spite of bad or inconsistent chemistry (the Atlanta Hawks, for example).
It reminds us all of why we fell in love with sports when we were younger. Easier times for almost everyone, just hanging out with friends, making memories and learning lessons about both the game and life. It FEELS like the Kings are doing that on the professional level – our eyes match those feelings. And Sacramento, who hasn’t had a winning season since 2005-2006, is more than deserving of such good mojo.
So why is there any distraction from the fact that the Kings are the most fun team in the NBA this season?
When the Kings get eliminated or if they regress next year, there will be tweets about the Hali trade and the win-now moves.
Look at how much fun the fans are having. Look at how happy they are.
Being a contender doesn’t mean you win it. Having one of these seasons is real.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 17, 2023
Social media post above aside (Matt Moore agrees with me), why even mention the trade that brought Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings? Tyrese Haliburton is having an excellent season for the Indiana Pacers, and surely the growth of Myles Turner doesn’t have Rick Carlisle and company longing for Sabonis. But De’Aaron Fox isn’t doing what he is doing now with a player like Haliburton alongside him – a shooter like Kevin Huerter is in a much better position to compliment Fox’s strengths. And Sabonis is having quite literally a historically great year in his own right.
Domantas Sabonis is on track to make history.
In his first full season with the Kings, Sabonis is averaging 19.2 points, 12.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game while shooting 61% FG.
Only one other player in NBA history has averaged 19+ points, 12+ rebounds and 7+ assists on… https://t.co/oGdV0jKMhh pic.twitter.com/WOoPBf5uCN
— Frankie Cartoscelli (@FCartoscelli3) March 19, 2023
Any time your name is legitimately in the mix with the legendary Wilt Chamberlain statistically, you’re doing something right.
Not every trade needs a winner or a loser. And if the Kings were to fall in the first round (which…maybe they won’t? Again, historically great offense) the amazing things Sabonis and his teammates would not simply fade in to oblivion.
Teammates like the aforementioned Fox, who leads the NBA in the new Clutch Player of the Year award pacing because of performances like this…
…have re-established themselves in the NBA hierarchy. Fox has been surpassed in the eyes of many by the likes of Ja Morant and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in recent years as comparable guards who either have better numbers (SGA) and/or better team success (Morant) than Fox. But this season that is not the case – and perhaps after the Ja Morant suspension De’Aaron Fox will find himself among the All-NBA team’s elite names.
He’s earned it. As have the rest of the Kings. And the surprising truth of that statement is where the attention should be – not on title aspirations.
There is no more fun time as a fan of a teams than the current state of the Sacramento Kings. Onward and upward – not sure when the ride will end, and not wanting it to. That’s not because Kings fans things this season is now “title or bust”. It’s because they’re love the team so much, and are having such a blast, that the eventual conclusion to that joy will be a disappointment beyond the end of a season.
It’ll be the end of – quite literally, for Kings fans – a generational experience.
How many Sacramento fans don’t remember that 2005-2006 team? How many weren’t ALIVE? The sheer madness of this Kings run and how it is being accomplished outweighs any trade grades or newly-attached expectations. Save championship aspirations for the underachieving Los Angeles Lakers or the top seeds of the Eastern Conference. Even the Memphis Grizzlies, after a strong season in 2021-2022, were expected to be in this mix.
But the Kings, undoubtedly, were not. And simply being in the chat is worth celebration.
In our sports culture, “rings” matter more than anything more often than not. Ask Klay Thompson, who flashed four fingers (for how many titles his Golden State Warriors have won) at Dillon Brooks and his Grizzlies as Memphis was kicking in the collective heads of the Warriors in a Golden State road game – a common occurrence this season. Klay has achieved the ultimate goal multiple times. He’s a made man – and Memphis has a ways to go.
But what Memphis has been recently, and what the Kings are now, is something the Warriors haven’t been at any point this season – happy and comfortable simply being in their own skins. Sacramento has found something organically that is to be cherished, not rushed. This journey may well, a year or two down the road, get loaded down with the weight of expectations and judgments for roster moves to further the final “goal” of every NBA team. The Kings will eventually be no different.
But for now, save the think pieces on Sabonis vs. Haliburton and first round matchups. Shut up and watch an unfortunately rare run of success for the Sacramento Kings, like their fans are. And let them reach whatever their end is in peace, with a smile on their collective face for the joy of the ride they’re on.
Because title or no title, the memory that remains will be more than worth whatever “pain” comes with that likely inevitable conclusion.