The Sacramento Kings are off and running, with a plus-.500 record through eight games entering Thursday.
Now it’s their G League affiliate’s turn.
The Stockton Kings open their inaugural season in California with a date against the Oklahoma City Blue on Friday at Stockton Arena.
“We are excited to tip off Stockton Kings basketball and make history here in the Central Valley,” Dustin Toms, the team’s president of business operations, said in a statement. “The support from the community and fans has been overwhelming and we can’t wait to bring NBA basketball to Stockton as we celebrate our inaugural season.”
The team moved to California in April after spending its first 10 years as the Reno Bighorns.
“Our NBA G League team has been an incredible asset to help prepare players for NBA action and bringing the team closer to Sacramento will allow us to continue to build on that success and increase efficiency to this valuable development tool,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said when the move was announced.
The team will be guided by Ty Ellis. This is the second time he will be the head coach for a G League team’s first season in a new city. He led the Northern Arizona Suns in 2016 after the team moved to Prescott Valley, Ariz., from Bakersfield.
Ellis said during the team’s media day Oct. 25 that he’s “very thankful that the community has embraced us with open arms” and discussed what he expects on the court.
“I can’t promise you guys wins, but I promise you we will compete, we will run and try to score as many points as possible, but our identity: We are a defensive team. That’s who we are, that’s who I was as a player and that’s the culture we want to set,” he said.
The roster features two two-way players in Troy Williams and rookie Wenyen Gabriel, who have both seen action with the parent club this season.
It’s unknown if Williams will be available for Stockton’s opener. He played for Sacramento in victories over Washington and Orlando but was ruled out of Thursday’s victory in Atlanta with a sore right ankle.
Williams has appeared in 53 NBA games with three teams. He wants to use that experience to make his Stockton teammates better prepared should they get the call up to the NBA.
“I’ve played with a lot of vets,” Williams said, who mentioned a handful of players, including former King Vince Carter, Marc Gasol, James Harden and Chris Paul. “I just take the stuff I learned from them and I to apply it to what I do and try to help out others.”
Gabriel hasn’t played in a regular-season game with Sacramento, but the rookie did appear in five preseason games last month. The 6-foot-9 forward could see time at all three frontcourt positions in Stockton.
He says he’s not really locked into a position, but he’s just working on the concepts of being where needed on both sides of the floor.
One aspect he likes in Stockton is the time players get to hone their skills.
“They put us aside a lot of the time for us to work in ball-handling, work on shooting, things you need to work on personally,” said Gabriel, who added that in the NBA, that’s something usually done on your own time.
He may be one player who should see action with Sacramento, but it’s not something that puts him ahead of anyone in Stockton.
“There’s no egos here,” Gabriel said. “We all generally like each other.”
Ellis is aware that players hope to reach the NBA someday, but knows that it takes hard work to get there.
He said sometimes players and coaches “try to skip steps, but you can’t. ... That’s why I don’t promise victories. I can’t, it’s impossible.
“I don’t get into the personal goals. I recognize them and I understand them because this is professional sports,” he said. “Just do your job and the rest will take care of itself.”
Along with the two-way players, Stockton’s roster will have former Sacramento State star Cody Demps, a few players who saw time with the Kings this preseason in Kalin Lucas and Cameron Reynolds, and a former hometown star in St. Mary’s High School product Gabe Vincent.
When action tips off Friday, this will be more than basketball for the city of more than 310,000 less than an hour south of Sacramento.
“Opening day for Kings basketball in Stockton is more than just a game for our community, it is a sign of civic pride,” Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs said. “We are looking forward to a great inaugural season and a partnership that we know will make many memorable moments for years to come.”