Ten moments that defined the Kings' 2016-17 season
With a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, the Kings wrapped up their 2016-17 season.
The Kings had some success against a few teams, but the season as a whole wasn’t as prosperous. Sacramento finished 32-50 and, for the 11th consecutive season, traded playoff tickets for lottery balls.
Despite the struggles in wins and losses, the Kings gave fans, media and others plenty to talk about this season in the form of a new home, some statement victories and saying goodbye to a star.
Here’s a look at 10 events that defined the Kings’ season:
10. FEASTING ON PHOENIX
The Kings’ regular season began in Phoenix, and what a good start it was.
Behind a combined 46 points from DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, the Kings beat the Suns 113-94 on Oct. 26.
Veteran Ty Lawson and rookies Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield had career nights against the Suns this season.
Labissiere scored a season-high 32 points in a 107-101 win in Phoenix on March 15. On Tuesday, Hield scored a season-high 30 points and Lawson had a triple-double as the Kings scored their highest total in a game this season, beating the Suns 129-104 at Golden 1 Center.
If not for Devin Booker’s buzzer beater off the glass on Feb. 3 in Sacramento, the Kings would have notched a four-game sweep over the Suns.
9. COUSINS SCORES 55
A mouthpiece almost put a huge damper on DeMarcus Cousins’ best scoring night of the season.
Late in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Cousins made a lay-up while getting fouled. To celebrate, he let the Blazers’ bench know about the basket. In the process, he lost his mouthpiece and was charged with a second technical, ending his night.
Following a review, officials allowed Cousins to return, believing the mouthpiece fell out inadvertently. It was originally thought that he spat it toward Portland’s bench.
Cousins scored 55 points, one off his career high set a season earlier, to help the Kings win 126-121.
8. COUSINS’ ALL-STAR NOD
DeMarcus Cousins was often criticized for his attitude, but his skills were rarely questioned.
The NBA took notice of those skills and named the big man to his third consecutive All-Star roster this season, matching the three appearances earned by sharpshooting forward Peja Stojakovic.
In the Sacramento era, only Hall of Famer Mitch Richmond (six) and Chris Webber (four) were picked for the NBA’s annual showcase game.
7. LAWSON’S TRIPLE-DOUBLE
Ty Lawson signed with the Kings as a free agent with a contract that wasn’t guaranteed. While he’s shown flashes of being a top-tier NBA guard, he’s been dogged by off-court troubles.
Lawson often came off the bench for Sacramento, playing behind Darren Collison at the one guard. However, in a starting role Tuesday, Lawson showed his skill set and finished with a career night.
In the final game of the season at Golden 1 Center, Lawson earned his first career triple-double with 22 points, 12 assists and a career-high 11 rebounds in a 129-104 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
6. BEATING THE CAVALIERS
At a time when the Kings were facing the defending champions for the second time in less than two weeks, Sacramento still had aspirations of breaking its long playoff drought.
At 17-27 entering that contest, the Kings didn’t really have any wins against top teams, other than sweeping Toronto.
The Kings got their first major win of the season on Jan. 25, surviving LeBron James’ triple-double in a 116-112 overtime victory at Quicken Loans Arena.
It was the first time since Jan. 2, 2013, that the Kings won in Cleveland. Of course, James wasn’t on that roster. He was still with Miami.
The victory also sparked some funny reaction on social media.
5. HIELD’S HONOR FOR MARCH
Buddy Hield has played in just 25 games for the Kings. That hasn’t stopped him from making an impact.
He was honored by the NBA as the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for March, becoming the sixth King to win the honor and the first since Ben McLemore in November 2013.
In 16 games last month, Hield led West rookies in scoring (14.1 points) and 3-pointers made (37).
The sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft, Hield played his first 57 games with the New Orleans Pelicans.
4. BEATING THE WARRIORS
In recent seasons, the Northern California rivals have gone in different directions.
The Kings have been a lottery for 11 consecutive seasons while Golden State has made two consecutive NBA Finals appearances, set the record for regular-season wins in 2015-16 and won its first championship the previous season, ending a 40-year title drought.
The Kings, who had lost 13 in a row to the Warriors, gave their home fans a treat with a 109-106 overtime victory on Feb. 4 at Golden 1 Center.
The Warriors avenged the loss 11 days later and again on March 24, both times at Oracle Arena, but the Kings’ long skid was finally ended.
3. FURIOUS RALLY STUNS CLIPPERS
The Kings visited Staples Center on March 26 for a matinee game with the Los Angeles Clippers.
They appeared to be on their way to a fifth consecutive loss ... then they did something that hadn’t happened in 20 years.
The Kings trailed 94-76 with 4:59 left in the game before closing on a 22-3 run for a 98-97 victory.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, NBA teams leading by 18 or more points with five minutes to play over the last 20 seasons were 6,746-1 in that situation.
2. COUSINS TRADED
For the better part of his 6 1/2 seasons with Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins was the face of the Kings.
Depending on who you ask, that wasn’t always a good thing.
He was often called the best big man in the NBA, averaging 23.8 points and 12.2 rebounds as a King. But, he was also known for his high rate of technical fouls and some said Cousins complained too much on the court.
As the NBA was on its All-Star break, the Kings decided it was time to break it off with their three-time All-Star.
The Kings traded Cousins right after the All-Star game, sending him to New Orleans for rookie guard Buddy Hield, former Kings first-round pick Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and 2017 first- and second-round picks.
The Kings were in contention for the final Western Conference playoff spot at the time and won their first game after the break, but the trade was one that clearly focused on the future, rather than ending the team’s playoff drought, which is now at 11 seasons.
1. GOLDEN 1 CENTER OPENS
Without a doubt, the new downtown arena’s opening is the top story of the Kings’ 2016-17 season.
Golden 1 Center is the newest NBA arena (until Little Caesars Arena opens this fall in Detroit) and has been compared to a Tesla for its technology.
It replaced Sleep Train Arena (more commonly remembered as Arco Arena), where the Kings played since 1988.
The arena’s opening has often been called “bigger than basketball” for downtown Sacramento, but the main attraction is the Kings.
Home was not always welcoming, though. The Kings lost their opener, 102-94 to the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 27, and finished 17-24 at home, one fewer victory than the previous season, the last at Sleep Train.
Sacramento put on a party for the Kings’ first game at Golden 1 Center, which is definitely a winner for the city. That party will be even bigger if the team can become a winner, too.