Sacramento Kings

Kings open the season against the Suns; five other series are key to playoff hopes

The last time the Kings opened a regular season on the road, they went to Phoenix and left with a win.

Sacramento will look to repeat the feat this season, as they will begin the 2019-20 campaign against the Suns on Oct. 23 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Just three years removed from that 113-94 victory, which was only the team’s third winning opener this decade, the Kings will run with a completely different roster. In fact, only one player from that game remains on the two squads: Devin Booker of the Suns.

Kings fans will have to wait two more days to see their team at Golden 1 Center, when the Portland Trail Blazers come to town. Last season Sacramento had played each Western Conference team at least once before hosting the Blazers on New Year’s Day, a 113-108 overtime loss. The Kings didn’t visit Portland until the regular-season finale April 10.

Sacramento will be featured on national TV eight times, including their lone ESPN appearance when they host the New Orleans Pelicans on March 11. The other contests will be on NBA TV.

The Kings are coming off their best season in 13 years, going 39-43 for their highest win total since their last playoff appearance in 2006. But a 12-win increase from 2017-18 wasn’t enough to end the NBA’s longest current playoff drought.

A lot has changed since the Kings’ season ended. They have a new coaching staff; they re-signed Harrison Barnes and acquired several free agents, including Dewayne Dedmon and Trevor Ariza; and they said goodbye to some players who logged multiple seasons with the club, most notably 2015 lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein.

With a lot of new personnel, both on the court and guiding the way, the Kings will look to run and shoot past their opposition in a bid to reach the postseason.

Along with these games, here are five key contests to mark on your calendar:

Dec. 15 at Golden State Warriors

The last time these teams met, the Warriors held on for a two-point win that had All-Star forward Kevin Durant showing some love to the Northern California neighbors.

“It’s the fourth game that we deserved to lose against this team,” he said after a 125-123 victory over the Kings on Feb. 21 in Oakland which capped a season sweep by a combined 12 points. “They just lack in experience in my opinion. I think they’re going to be one of those teams to be reckoned with soon.”

Things will be a lot different this time around.

Durant is gone, as is another All-Star in former Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins. In is yet another All-Star guard in D’Angelo Russell. Also, for the first time in 48 years, the Warriors have a new home. This will be the first matchup at Chase Center, Golden State’s new arena in San Francisco across the bridge from Oakland’s Oracle Arena.

There will be some familiar faces there to greet the Kings.

Cauley-Stein, who spent his first four NBA seasons with Sacramento, is now a Warrior. Also on Golden State’s roster is Alec Burks, who joined the Kings via trade and played in 13 games last season.

The Kings’ last two wins over the Warriors came at Oracle Arena two seasons ago. A victory at Chase would make the short trip back to Sacramento a bit sweeter.

Other matchups: Jan. 6 (H), Feb. 25 (A), April 15 (H, regular-season finale)

Nov. 15 at Los Angeles Lakers

The team most Kings fans love to hate will boast three big All-Stars in LeBron James and two new additions in Anthony Davis and Cousins. Also in are two notable 3-and-D players: Danny Green and Avery Bradley.

This game marks the first time the Kings’ new coach faces his former squad.

Luke Walton, introduced as the team’s coach April 15, spent three seasons at the helm with the Lakers before coming to Sacramento on a reported four-year deal.

The Kings went 1-3 against the Lakers last season, with the lone victory coming on Bogdan Bogdanovic’s buzzer beater that sent the Golden 1 Center crowd into a frenzy.

Other matchups: Feb. 1 (H), April 4 (H), April 14 (A)

Dec. 31 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

If you ask most Kings fans what team they dislike, the Lakers (and maybe the Warriors in recent years) will be a popular choice.

It might be time to focus some of that disdain toward the other team in Los Angeles.

The Clippers have won nine in a row over the Kings and have been dominant in Sacramento since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, losing just twice in the capital city during that span. The last time the Kings beat them at home? It was on March 19, 2013.

Getting wins over the Clippers could be even more difficult now.

Los Angeles added some serious firepower this offseason, bringing in NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard from the Toronto Raptors and Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Between them they boast nine All-Star bids, nine All-Defensive nods and eight All-NBA honors.

Other matchups: Jan. 30 (A), Feb. 22 (A), April 2 (H)

Jan. 4 vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson was favored to be the No. 1 pick long before the Pelicans took him first overall in June’s NBA Draft.

Kings fans will get their first live look at the former Duke phenom when New Orleans visits Golden 1 Center.

“You can hear people say things like, ‘Oh, that it was likely I was going to go No. 1,’ but I guess you don’t know until you actually go through it,” Williamson told the media at the draft in Brooklyn on June 20. “Hearing my name called, and I was able to make it on stage without a tear, but in the interview my mom was standing beside me and my emotions just took over.”

Williamson joins a team that said goodbye to a six-time All-Star in Davis but made several additions to a roster which includes veteran point guard Jrue Holiday.

Other matchups: March 11 (H), March 22 (A)

Nov. 6 at Toronto Raptors

Leonard and Green are gone to different L.A. teams, but several key players from last season’s championship squad remain, including All-Star pedigree in guard Kyle Lowry and center Marc Gasol, as well as Pascal Siakam, who was voted the NBA Most Improved Player Award on a ballot which included the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox.

The Kings have been swept by the Raptors in consecutive seasons after doing so to them the previous two campaigns.

Other matchups: March 8 (H)

Sacramento Kings 2019-20 schedule

Oct. 23: at Phoenix, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25: vs. Portland, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26: at Utah, 6 p.m.

Oct. 28: vs. Denver, 7 p.m.

Oct. 30: vs. Charlotte, 7 p.m.

Nov. 1: vs. Utah, 7 p.m.

Nov. 3: at New York, 3 p.m.

Nov. 6: at Toronto, 4:30 p.m.

Nov. 8: at Atlanta, 4:30 p.m.

Nov. 12: vs. Portland, 7 p.m.

Nov. 15: at L.A. Lakers, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 17: vs. Boston, 12:30 p.m.

Nov. 19: vs. Phoenix, 7 p.m.

Nov. 22: at Brooklyn, 4:30 p.m.

Nov. 24: at Washington, 3 p.m.

Nov. 25: at Boston, 4:30 p.m.

Nov. 27: at Philadelphia, 4 p.m.

Nov. 30: vs. Denver, 2 p.m.

Dec. 2: vs. Chicago, 7 p.m.

Dec. 4: at Portland, 7 p.m.

Dec. 6: at San Antonio, 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 8: at Dallas, 4 p.m.

Dec. 9: at Houston, 5 p.m.

Dec. 11: vs. Oklahoma City, 7 p.m.

Dec. 13: vs. New York 7 p.m.

Dec. 15: at Golden State, 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 17: at Charlotte, 4 p.m.

Dec. 20: at Indiana, 4 p.m.

Dec. 21: at Memphis, 5 p.m.

Dec. 23: vs. Houston, 7 p.m.

Dec. 26: vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.

Dec. 28: vs. Phoenix, 6 p.m.

Dec. 29: at Denver, 5 p.m.

Dec. 31: vs. L.A. Clippers, 2 p.m.

Jan. 2: vs. Memphis, 7 p.m.

Jan. 4: vs. New Orleans, 7 p.m.

Jan. 6: vs. Golden State, 7 p.m.

Jan. 7: at Phoenix, 6 p.m.

Jan. 10: vs. Milwaukee, 7 p.m.

Jan. 13: vs. Orlando, 7 p.m.

Jan. 15: vs. Dallas, 7 p.m.

Jan. 18: at Utah, 6 p.m.

Jan. 20: at Miami, 2 p.m.

Jan. 22: at Detroit, 4 p.m.

Jan. 24: at Chicago, 5 p.m.

Jan. 27: at Minneapolis, 5 p.m.

Jan. 29: vs. Oklahoma City, 7 p.m.

Jan. 30: at L.A. Clippers, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 1: vs. L.A. Lakers, 7 p.m.

Feb. 3: vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.

Feb. 7: vs. Miami, 7 p.m.

Feb. 8: vs. San Antonio, 7 p.m.

Feb. 10: at Milwaukee, 5 p.m.

Feb. 12: at Dallas, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 16: All-Star Game (Chicago), TBD

Feb. 20: vs. Memphis, 7 p.m.

Feb. 22: at L.A. Clippers, 12:30 p.m.

Feb. 25: at Golden State, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 27: at Oklahoma City, 5 p.m.

Feb. 28: at Memphis, 5 p.m.

March 1: vs. Detroit, 3 p.m.

March 3: vs. Washington, 7 p.m.

March 5: vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

March 7: at Portland, 7 p.m.

March 8: vs. Toronto, 7 p.m.

March 11: vs. New Orleans, 6 p.m.

March 15: vs. Brooklyn, 6 p.m.

March 17: vs. Dallas, 7 p.m.

March 19: at Houston, 5 p.m.

March 21: at Orlando, 4 p.m.

March 22: at New Orleans, 4 p.m.

March 24: at Cleveland, 4 p.m.

March 26: vs. Atlanta, 7 p.m.

March 29: vs. Indiana, 6 p.m.

March 31: vs. San Antonio, 7 p.m.

April 2: vs. L.A. Clippers, 7 p.m.

April 4: vs. L.A. Lakers, 7 p.m.

April 5: vs. Cleveland, 6 p.m.

April 7: at San Antonio, 5:30 p.m.

April 9: at Minnesota, 5 p.m.

April 11: at Denver, 6 p.m.

April 14: at L.A. Lakers, 7:30 p.m.

April 15: vs. Golden State, 7 p.m.

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Noel Harris is a sports reporter for The Sacramento Bee, with a focus on the Kings. He’s been in professional journalism for more than 18 years. His roles have included sports editor at The Modesto Bee and news editor at two smaller California newspapers, as well as online producer and copy editor.