For just the second time in franchise history, the Kings will host the Utah Jazz to begin the season.
The NBA released the Kings’ 2018-19 regular-season schedule Friday, and Sacramento welcomes Utah to Golden 1 Center on Oct. 17. The only other time these teams have met to tip off a season was on Oct. 11, 1980, when the Kings were still in Kansas City.
The Kings open at home for the fifth time in six seasons. However, they play seven of their next nine games on the road, including a four-game Eastern Conference swing between Oct. 29 and Nov. 4.
Sacramento has lost three of its last four season openers and eight in all during its 12-season playoff drought, the longest current streak in the NBA. Only three teams in the nation’s top four pro sports leagues have a longer hiatus: the Miami Marlins (Major League Baseball) at 14, the Cleveland Browns (NFL) with 15 and the Seattle Mariners (MLB) at 16.
One positive for the Kings: In the Sacramento era, they have gone 23-10 in their home openers.
The team will be on national TV at least five times this season, all at home. Four games on NBA TV and a Nov. 29 date against the Los Angeles Clippers on TNT. They are not currently scheduled to play on ESPN or ABC.
The Kings, who play 14 back-to-back sets this season, will look to improve on last season’s 27-55 record in hopes of returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Here are five games to mark on your calendar:
Feb. 21 at Warriors
Golden State, coming off its third championship in four seasons, added a fifth All-Star to its potential starting lineup this offseason with the acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins.
The big man spent the first 6 1/2 seasons of his career with the Kings and made the All-Star team three times before being traded in February 2017 to the New Orleans Pelicans. He was selected for a fourth berth in the league’s mid-season showcase, but blew out his Achilles’ tendon in January.
In three games against the Kings, Cousins put up big numbers, averaging 38.7 points, 15.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals. In the lone loss on Dec. 8, 2017, he turned the ball over eight times and got into it with Kings veteran forward Zach Randolph, who told him, “In my hood, bullies get bullied.”
Cousins isn’t expected to be ready for the first three Kings-Warriors meetings, but he could be in the lineup when the teams meet at Oracle Arena.
Oh, and in case you forgot, the Warriors only lost 24 regular-season games in 2017-18. Two of those were to the Kings and both were in Oakland.
Nov. 10 vs. Lakers
For the past 15 seasons, the Kings only had to worry about facing the “King” twice. That number will increase starting in 2018-19.
Now that LeBron James — arguably the best player in the game today — is playing in the Western Conference for the first time in his career, the Kings will see James and the Los Angeles Lakers four times, double the trouble from when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat.
Add to it that he’s with the Lakers, a team Kings fans love to loathe, and that should help spark even more excitement.
Included in the four games with Los Angeles is a back-to-back set in late December: Dec. 27 at Golden 1 Center and Dec. 30 at Staples Center.
Dec. 10 at Bulls
This game will give the Kings a look at the player they wanted but didn’t get.
Zach LaVine signed a four-year, $78 million offer sheet from Sacramento in July, but Chicago quickly matched it, keeping the shooting guard with the Bulls.
Chicago also signed former Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, a player the Kings were said to be interested in during free agency, although nothing came of that speculation.
Dec. 16 at Mavericks
After the Kings took Duke forward Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, Dallas traded up to get Doncic third overall.
This will give Sacramento fans their first look at the former Real Madrid star.
Dec. 4 at Suns
The top two picks of June’s draft, Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton and Bagley, have already met in summer league and will face off in the preseason as well, but this will be the former prep teammates’ first meeting in an NBA regular-season tilt.