The upcoming season for the Sacramento Kings figures to be one of the team's most anticipated campaigns in recent memory.
With the ownership change, the franchise's future in Sacramento cemented and a completely rebuilt front office and coaching staff, the fanbase has a lot to look forward to. In fact, the rate of season tickets sales have been described as "unprecedented," which is saying a lot considering the team's historically loyal following.
And with the recent unveiling of the 2013-14 NBA regular-season schedule, we can now circle the best games on our calendars. Whether it's a homecoming for a former player, a chance to start the new regime off right or an opportunity to see some of the sport's biggest stars, there are plenty of games to look forward to.
Wednesday, October 30, 7:00 p.m. PT
It's opening night. If there's any game worth anticipating, opening night is surely it. And judging based on the recent opening nights, you know the fans will be out in full force cheering their team on.
But there's more to it than that. This will be the first regular-season game under the new regime. It will be fans' first opportunity to fill Sleep Train Arena and show their appreciation toward everyone that worked so hard to keep this team here.
When you almost lose something forever, as Sacramento fans did with the Kings, you appreciate it even more. And since the franchise has always been a cornerstone in the community, it's going to be crazy to see the appreciation everyone has for all involved in the effort.
Feeding off the energy in the building will be key for the Kings. It's almost a given in a situation like this, but they'll need it as the Nuggets are a good team.
The Kings will also need to use their definitive size advantage in the backcourt. Ty Lawson may be quicker than Greivis Vasquez, but Vasquez is undoubtedly bigger. He can use his size to disrupt the smaller point guard.
Beyond that, rebounding the ball and getting back on defense will be paramount. That sounds like a pretty obvious key for most games, but it's even more so against Denver. The Nuggets want to push the pace every chance they get. By gathering rebounds and getting back on defense, the Kings can limit their opportunities in the open court.
Sacramento Kings 116, Denver Nuggets 111
Saturday, November 2, 7:30 p.m. PT
Any game between these two is significant. How much of a rivalry there is between the actual teams is debatable; however, there's definitely an emotional connection between the two fanbases. If you're a Northern Californian, like I am, you probably know plenty of Warriors fans. So along with this game comes bragging rights for the fans of whichever team wins.
There's also a more intriguing storyline in this one. Basically all of the Kings' new management group has ties to Golden State. Owner Vivek Ranadive was a minority owner of the Warriors before purchasing the Kings. Head coach Mike Malone was the lead assistant on Mark Jackson's staff the last two seasons. General manager Pete D'Alessandro was an understudy for Golden State before moving on to Denver.
With so many close ties between the two organizations, this will be the first chance for Malone and Ranadive to play in Oakland against their former franchise.
While the Warriors are clearly the better team, Sacramento actually took three of four from them last season. And when the Kings were clearly the superior team in the early to mid-2000s, Golden State always played them tough. For that reason, we can expect a spirited game from both sides.
For the Kings, staying honest on defense will be a key. The Warriors tend to live and die by the three-pointer...living by it more often than not. Therefore, the defense needs to stay disciplined and not leave shooters open on the perimeter. Golden State is going to knock down its share of threes regardless, but forcing an impeded look, versus an open look, will be to the Kings' advantage.
Also, if the Kings can keep this one close, they have an advantage in the post with DeMarcus Cousins. DMC made Andrew Bogut look like he was on ice skates last season, as the Australian couldn't move his feet quick enough to stick with the fleet-footed Cousins. The same goes for Golden State's other bigs—none of them can match up with Cousins.
Sacramento Kings 118, Golden State Warriors 115
Friday, November 15, 7:30 p.m. PT
You may be wondering why a game against the Detroit Pistons is worth anticipating. Well, there are a few reasons. For one, it's a chance to see a matchup between two of the most promising frontcourt players in DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe. Not to mention, Detroit also has another rising prospect in Andre Drummond.
Beyond that, what's intriguing is the individual performances we tend to get from this matchup. In last year's first tilt against Detroit, a Sacramento victory, Monroe recorded a triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Yet his performance was eclipsed by Sacramento's teamwork in that one, as seven different players finished in double figures.
In the teams' second matchup, a Pistons win on New Year's Day, it was Cousins getting the better of Monroe, finishing with 21 points, 14 boards, three steals and two assists. But this time Detroit played a better brand of team basketball, having three different players finish with 15 or more points.
It would seem one of the keys for Sacramento is to prevent a Pistons player from having a career-defining game.
To dig deeper, a lot of the Kings' chances will hinge on their ability to force the newly acquired Josh Smith to shoot from outside of the key. The former Hawk shot 77.1 percent within three feet of the basket last season but only 32.1 percent away from the hoop. Luckily for Sacramento, he may take the onus on himself, as Smith hoisted 674 jump shots last season, despite only hitting 30.7 percent of them.
Utilizing the home-court advantage will also be instrumental for Sacramento. The Kings were 20-21 on their own court last season and a dismal 8-33 off of it. If they have a chance to beat Detroit in one of their two meetings, odds are it will come at Sleep Train Arena.
Sacramento Kings 109, Detroit Pistons 104
Monday, December 23, 7:00 p.m. PT
This game will mark Tyreke Evans' first time playing in Sacramento since he was traded to the Pelicans. Considering Evans was a popular player and a fixture in the community, I'd expect nothing but a warm welcome.
To a lesser degree, it's also a homecoming for Ryan Anderson. The Sacramento native has already played numerous games in his hometown, but it's always interesting every time he does. The game is also Grevis Vasquez's first game against his former team.
For Sacramento, its depth will be paramount in this game. Both teams have deep backcourts, although New Orleans' is certainly more prominent. The Kings will need to find a way to slow Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon, plus Evans coming off the bench. With a rotation of Greivis Vasquez, Ben McLemore, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Ray McCallum and Jimmer Fredette, there's a lot to throw at the Pelicans.
The same goes for the frontcourt. New Orleans has a rising star in Anthony Davis, an improving player in Al-Farouq Aminu and deep bench headlined by Ryan Anderson. Yet the Kings have Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Jason Thompson, Luc Mbah a Moute and others to match up with the Pellicans.
New Orleans Pelicans 112, Sacramento Kings 105
Friday, December 27, 7:00 p.m. PT
Since the Kings and Miami Heat are in different conferences, fans in Sacramento only get one chance per season to see the defending champs in person. Seeing the league's premier franchise is reason enough to catch this game.
However, there's also the added bonus of getting an up-close look at LeBron James. For those lucky enough to catch James' NBA debut, which came in Sacramento, this is nothing special. But any chance to watch a player of his caliber is worth remembering.
Having the Heat in town should fire up the Kings. And Sacramento actually played tough in its lone visit to Miami last season, falling to the champs in double-overtime.
Realistically, the Kings will likely need a perfect storm to capture this, even in Sacramento. They'll need to play one of their best games of the season and hope to catch Miami on an off-night.
The Kings' best chance is to get hot from three-point range. That's what kept them in that previously mentioned game at Miami—they got hot from three-point range, hitting 14 of 27 looks from downtown. Sacramento's not going to stop the Heat from scoring, so maximizing possessions with three-pointers is a must.
Miami Heat 117, Sacramento Kings 103
Thursday, January 2, 7:00 p.m. PT
This game is significant for a couple different reasons. Most notable is the return of Spencer Hawes. Now, Hawes has played in Sacramento numerous times since he was traded.
However, after his openly vocal support of the Kings moving to Seattle last season, many Kings fans are looking for an opportunity to boo him. And if the treatment he received on March 25 of last season is any indication, he can expect some anger coming his way.
Not to be overlooked is how terrible the Philadelphia 76ers project to be next season. On the one hand, that might make the game less anticipated. On the other hand, if the Kings aren't very good themselves, then having Philly come to town should be a good shot at getting a win.
To be honest, just playing up to their capabilities should be enough for the Kings to get the victory in this one. The 76ers might be the NBA's worst team. And their one promising addition, rookie Nerlens Noel, is still nursing his torn ACL from last season. He may not be ready to go by the time the two match up.
Looking up and down the lineups, the only position the 76ers have a clear advantage is at power forward with Thaddeus Young. So Sacramento should have a more talented team and the home-court advantage on its side.
Sacramento Kings 115, Philadelphia 76ers 99
Saturday, April 12, 12:30 p.m. PT
This is the Kings' last road game of the season. Given how dismal they were on the road last year, this contest will provide a chance to go into the offseason on a high note. However, doing it against the Clippers, who will likely be jockeying for playoff positioning, doesn't figure to be an easy task.
Beyond that, it's always fun whenever DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin match up against each other. The two always seem to clash. In fact, one of the better moments between the two was when DMC called Griffin "an actor."
The Kings need to get production up and down their lineup to win this one. The Clippers are one of the deeper teams the league has to offer. And since Los Angeles also has a superior starting five, Sacramento will need its bench players to step up.
If Sacramento can do a good job of covering the passing lanes, it can also limit some of the Clippers' easy scoring opportunities. For as big and athletic as DeAndre Jordan and Griffin are, they're actually fairly limited when it comes to creating their own scoring chances.
The two are also liabilities at the charity stripe, so being able to prevent easy baskets, and fouling when they do get those chances, should give the Kings a shot.
Los Angeles Clippers 105, Sacramento Kings 93
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