Sacramento Proud: Kings clinch first playoff berth since 2006, ending 16-year drought
Every NBA season begins and ends the same way in Sacramento with some sense of hope fading into the usual pain and frustration.
Not this time.
Not this team.
After 16 consecutive losing seasons, the Kings have clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2006, ending the longest playoff drought in NBA history and the longest active streak in North American professional sports.
The shame is gone. The suffering is over. The Kings are going to the playoffs with a chance to light the beam for the whole world to see.
“This means everything,” Kings guard Terence Davis said. “Kings fans have been waiting on this for almost two decades. It’s written in history how much the city of Sacramento loves the Kings, so to see the Kings succeed, it’s all the fans want.”
The Kings secured an automatic bid to the playoffs and homecourt advantage with a 120-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night at Moda Center. They became the seventh team in the NBA and the third in the Western Conference to clinch a spot in the playoffs, which will begin April 15. Game 1 of their first-round series will be played in Sacramento.
First-year coach Mike Brown keeps reiterating the Kings have bigger goals, but Sacramento’s run to the playoffs represents a crowning achievement for team owner Vivek Ranadive, general manager Monte McNair, assistant general manager Wes Wilcox and others who orchestrated the team’s turnaround.
“They all deserve it,” Brown said. “More importantly, everybody in this flipping city deserves it because they’re hard-working people who spend their money on this team, and they’ve been supporting this team from back in the day.”
Brown put the Kings on this path from the moment he was hired after six seasons as Steve Kerr’s lead assistant with the Golden State Warriors. From the first day of training camp, Brown talked about his values and beliefs, preaching trust, togetherness, and vertical and horizontal alignment throughout the organization.
“The connectivity of the group is fantastic,” Brown said the day training camp began. “There’s a great spirit, energy that you can feel out there from our guys, from our coaches. That spirit, especially on the competitive side, is something that we’re going to carry over to our daily routine. We want to be competitive at a high level, so I’m definitely excited. I’m looking forward to this. I can’t wait for this journey to begin.”
Right from the beginning, players talked about Brown’s brand of accountability, attention to detail and expectations.
“I think from the start of the year, coach Brown knew that people are going to be talking about the playoffs and the drought, but I think from the very start he kind of said he doesn’t want that to be the thing where we’re happy to be there,” Kings guard Matthew Dellavedova said. “We’ve got to try to push for more, and I think he’s done a really good job of continuing to raise the standards and expectations. Not the goal for the end of the season, but just the expectations on each possession of what needs to be done, and I think he’s done that from the very start of training camp.”
The Kings have staged a remarkable turnaround this season after going 30-52 a year ago. They are going to the playoffs for just the 11th time in 38 years since relocating to Sacramento in 1985. The Kings reached the playoffs in 1986, 1996 and then eight years in a row under coach Rick Adelman from 1999-2006, but they haven’t been back since.
This will be the first playoff appearance for All-Star point guard De’Aaron Fox, who endured years of frustration before McNair was hired in 2020 to reconstruct the roster and coaching staff. Fox is in his sixth season with the Kings. Veteran forward Harrison Barnes is in his fifth season. Richaun Holmes has spent four seasons in Sacramento.
They’ve felt the city’s pain — if only a fraction of it — and now they see the joy.
“I think what really puts it into perspective is when you go outside the arena, when you talk to fans who have been supporting the Kings for a very long time, and just to see the genuine appreciation and excitement they have for where we’re at,” Barnes said.
“For younger Kings fans, who’ve only known losing, to be in this situation, I think we have the opportunity to do something special. For me, who’s been here almost five years now, we’ve had our fair share of losing, but I think it’s nice to be part of something where you’re turning the corner. You have the opportunity to do something special and you’re with guys who have been in that situation with you.”
Prior to Wednesday’s game, Holmes talked about what it would mean to secure a playoff berth.
“I think coming from where the organization has been the last 16 years, just to be at this moment after struggling through those trying times and having the opportunity to clinch the playoffs finally for the city, I think everybody’s excited, and that runs deep,” Holmes said.
Fox has reminded Kings rookie Keegan Murray, the No. 4 pick in the 2022 NBA draft, how fortunate he is to experience this in his first NBA season.
“I talked to him yesterday about it, just the position I’m in and kind of how lucky I am, because a lot of rookies, especially at my draft position, don’t get this opportunity,” Murray said. “So just knowing that I’m fortunate to be in this position and knowing that he’s put a lot of work in to get to this spot, I’m grateful.
“What he’s gone through, I feel like it’s really a tribute to him because him and Richaun and HB are the guys who have been here the longest. It’s all the hard work they’ve put in, all the trying times they’ve had, so to be this close to the playoffs, I feel like it’s a tribute to those guys.”
And to the fans, who have waited so long to see winning basketball return to Sacramento.
“We have the best fans in the NBA,” Brown said. “The building is always electric. Guys look forward to playing in front of them. … They look forward to playing in front of them all the time because of how electric it is, and you hear from your opponents around the league when they come in here. Even the officials, they talk about how the energy here is really the best around the league, and so you love that.”
Earlier this week, when it became clear the Kings would soon punch their ticket to the playoffs, Fox was asked what message he wanted to send to the team’s fans.
“For me, personally, I’m extremely appreciative,” Fox said. “They brought me in like one of their own and it’s been six years, so people saw me when I came in the league at 19 and they see who I am at 25 now, so I just want to say thank you for being along this journey with me, but we have a lot more things to accomplish.”