SACRAMENTO, California – When “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, Sacramento Kings player Keegan Murray was counting down the days until his sixth birthday, and Owen Wilson had just made his screen debut as Lightning McQueen in “Cars.”
For everyone connected to the Kings, May 2006 must seem like an even longer time ago.
Sacramento hasn’t participated in an NBA postseason game in nearly 17 years, but after making strides this year, supporters at the Golden 1 Center will finally have something to celebrate once the 82 regular-season games are through.
Following the team’s 120-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, the Kings secured a spot in the postseason. With a current record of 46-30, they join the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies as the third team to clinch a playoff position in the Western Conference.
There is optimism that Sactown’s return to the NBA Playoffs won’t just be a passing trend but rather a portent of things to come in the coming years, led by De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.
When the Kings decided to trade outstanding, young point guard Tyrese Haliburton to the Indiana Pacers in early 2022, many issues were voiced.
Haliburton was selected by the Kings with the No. 12 overall pick, and many considered him to be the team’s future starting point guard. After his debut season in the league, the 6-foot-5-inch playmaker placed third in the voting for Rookie of the Year and was chosen to the 2021 NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Haliburton maintained his pace during his sophomore season after averaging 13 points, 5.3 assists, and three rebounds in his rookie campaign. He opened his second campaign with a career-high 38 points and 17 assists.
Haliburton was eventually traded to the Pacers in a blockbuster deal as the Kings started to question his compatibility with Fox in their backcourt over the long run.
The guard was followed to Indiana by Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson, while Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, a 2023 second-round pick, and, most crucially, Sabonis, went to California.
Sabonis was a standout on a squad that wasn’t very well built around his skill set, much like Fox was with Haliburton.
Since moving to Sacramento, the Lithuanian has flourished, and the 2022–23 NBA season is one of his best. As of this writing, Sabonis, the son of Hall of Fame center Arvydas Sabonis, is averaging career highs in rebounds and assists and has already made the All-Star squad three times in his short career.
Before the 2022–23 season began, the Kings hired Mike Brown, the Golden State Warriors’ associate head coach, as their new head coach.
Brown was tasked with bringing some of his winning strategies to Sactown after helping the Warriors defeat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.
The 53-year-old has entirely changed the Kings’ strategy for playing the game and has made the team’s offensive one of the most thrilling in the league.
Sacramento has turned things around this year and won over its supporters by playing run-and-gun, fearless basketball, regardless of what happens in the playoffs.
Throughout the postseason, everyone in Sactown will be praying they keep shining the light.