Kings Have Prominent Role In NBA History
Kings Have Prominent Role In NBA History
The Sacramento Kings trace their roots all the way back to the birth of the NBA. In 1949 the franchise was one of 17 charter members of the new league that was created by the merger of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League. Originally located in Rochester and known as the Royals, the club has also been known as the Cincinnati Royals, the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, and the Kansas City Kings. The franchise moved to Sacramento in 1985.
It has been a long road for the Kings. The team won a championship in 1951, but since then the franchise has mostly known frustration. Since the 1955-56 season the club has been a sporadic visitor to the playoffs. From 1968 to 1978 the Kings made only one postseason appearance. In 1995-96, the Kings reached the playoffs after a nine-year absence.
But the franchise has had its share of bright lights, too. The club's all-time roster boasts NBA greats Jack Twyman, Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, Happy Hairston, and Nate "Tiny" Archibald. And Bob Cousy, Cotton Fitzsimmons, and Bill Russell have all put in time as head coach.
The franchise's glory years are now a distant memory. In the late 1940s and early 1950s the Rochester Royals ranked as one of the powerhouses of professional basketball. The franchise joined the National Basketball League in 1945 and promptly claimed the NBL crown. The Royals' roster included future coaching legend Red Holzman, pro quarterback Otto Graham, major league catcher Del Rice, and Chuck Connors, who would go on to greater fame as The Rifleman. The next season Rochester broke the NBL's color barrier by signing Dolly King.
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1948-50: Royals Leave NBL For BAA
Prior to the 1948-49 campaign, Rochester, the Minneapolis Lakers, the Fort Wayne Pistons, and the Indianapolis Kautskys abandoned the NBL and moved over to the Basketball Association of America.
The NBA was formed the next year, and the Royals were placed in the Central Division along with Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, the Chicago Stags, and the St. Louis Bombers. That season the Royals set a handful of franchise records that still stand four decades later, including a .750 winning percentage, a 15-game winning streak, and a string of 23 consecutive victories at home. For the season, the Royals were 33-1 in Rochester, for a .971 winning percentage, the second-highest mark in NBA history. (The 1985-86 Celtics racked up a .976 mark by going 40-1 at Boston Garden.)
Lacking a powerful offensive threat-top scorer Bob Davies averaged only 14.0 points and did not crack the league's top 10 in scoring-the 1949-50 Royals won mostly with defense, holding opposing teams to a league-low 74.6 points per game. The Royals took 15 straight at the end of the regular season to match the Minneapolis Lakers' 51-17 record, but the Lakers topped the Royals, 78-76, in a one-game playoff to claim the Central Division crown. The Royals were then swept in the playoffs by the Fort Wayne Pistons.
Following the 1949-50 season the new league went through a major shakedown as six teams folded. However, with the best players from those defunct franchises being picked up by the remaining 11 squads (trimmed to 10 after Washington folded in midseason), the NBA was suddenly a much tougher circuit. Rochester played in the newly formed Western Division along with archrivals Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, the Indianapolis Olympians, and the Tri-Cities Blackhawks.
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1950-54: Title Time
The franchise reached its high-water mark in 1950-51. Coached once again by owner and General Manager Les Harrison, the Royals featured a lineup of wily veterans that included Davies, Bobby Wanzer, and Arnie Risen, who finished ninth in the league in scoring at 16.3 points per game and hauled down 12.0 rebounds per contest as well.
The Royals finished the campaign at 41-27, three games behind the Lakers. The regular season included a pair of notable marathon contests. On January 6 Indianapolis edged Rochester in a game that lasted through six overtime periods and still stands as the longest in NBA history. Seventeen days later the Royals and the New York Knickerbockers battled through four overtimes before Rochester finally nailed down the win.
The Royals bounced Fort Wayne in the first round of the playoffs, then dispatched Minneapolis, three games to one, to reach the Finals. Rochester demolished New York in Game 1 of the championship series by a convincing 95-62 score, then took Game 2 by 15 points. The series moved to Madison Square Garden for Game 3, and the Royals found themselves up three games to none after a 78-71 win.
Then the Knickerbockers fought back. New York staved off a sweep with a late rally in Game 4, then stole Game 5 at the Edgerton Park Sports Arena in Rochester, 92-89. A Knicks win in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden stretched the series to the limit. Game 7, played back in Rochester, was a tightly contested affair. With 40 seconds remaining and the score knotted at 75, Davies canned a pair of free throws to put the Royals up by two. The rules mandated a jump ball after successful free throws during the last three minutes of a game; Rochester controlled the tip, and a Jack Coleman layup sealed the victory. Davies, Risen, and Wanzer combined for 57 of the Royals' 79 points, and the trio pulled down 27 rebounds. Four decades later that championship remains the franchise's sole NBA title.
The next season the defending NBA champs claimed the league's best record at 41-25, edging the Lakers by one game for the Western Division title. On February 24 Rochester pounded the Baltimore Bullets, 124-100, to establish a new NBA mark for most points in a single game.
The Royals featured a trio of All-Stars during the 1951-52 campaign. Risen, who ranked ninth in the league in scoring and fourth in rebounding, made the first of four straight All-Star appearances. Davies, the NBA's fourth-best assists man that season, played in the All-Star Game for the second year in a row. Wanzer, who would appear in a string of five All-Star Games, made his All-Star debut.
The Royals made short work of the Fort Wayne Pistons in the division semifinals, sweeping the best-of-three series. But after topping the Lakers in the first game of the Western Division Finals, Rochester lost three straight and was bounced by Minneapolis.
Fielding essentially the same lineup, the Royals put together back-to-back winning seasons during the next two campaigns. Runners-up to the Lakers in both years, the Royals were a surprise first-round playoff loser to Fort Wayne in 1953.
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1954-57: Shot Clock Spells Doom For Royals
With the advent of the 24-second shot clock in the 1954-55 season, the older, slower Royals tumbled out of contention in the Western Division. Playing in the new 10,000-seat War Memorial and Exhibit Hall, the Royals posted the first losing season in franchise history, at 29-43. After barely squeaking into the playoffs, the club was eliminated in the first round by Minneapolis.
At the end of the campaign owner Les Harrison gave up his coaching duties and named Bobby Wanzer player-coach. Arnie Risen was shipped to Boston, and Bob Davies retired. The Royals fielded seven rookies in 1955-56, with three first-year players in the starting lineup-forwards Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman, and guard Ed Fleming. Stokes earned NBA Rookie of the Year honors by averaging 16.8 points, 16.3 rebounds (first in the league), and 4.9 assists. He also earned a spot in the NBA All-Star Game. On January 14 Stokes set a franchise record by corralling 38 rebounds.
Although the young club showed a two-game improvement over the previous season, the Royals missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
In 1956-57 Stokes led the NBA in rebounding with 1,256 total boards, was third in the league in assists (4.6 apg), and ranked 13th in scoring (15.6 ppg). His 1,256 rebounds set a new NBA single-season record. Twyman also had a solid year. But with the St. Louis Hawks, Minneapolis Lakers, and Fort Wayne Pistons all tied for the top spot in the weak Western Division at 34-38, the Royals finished out of the playoffs with a 31-41 record.
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1957-59: Franchise Moves To Cincinnati
Harrison moved the franchise to Cincinnati during the offseason. There the club settled into the 14,000-seat Cincinnati Gardens. The Royals were solid up front during the 1957-58 campaign. Clyde Lovellette, acquired from Minneapolis, finished fourth in the league in scoring at 23.4 points per game, and Stokes was second in rebounding with 18.1 boards per contest.
After having missed the playoffs the previous two years, the 33-39 Royals were headed for postseason play when the team was struck a terrible blow. Playing in Minneapolis on March 12, the final day of the regular season, Stokes hit his head on the hardwood and was knocked unconscious. On March 15 he played in Game 1 of the Royals' first-round matchup with the Detroit Pistons. One day later he fell into a coma. The first diagnosis was encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), but doctors later determined that the coma and the paralysis that followed were due to the earlier head injury. Detroit swept Cincinnati, and Stokes never played again.
The Royals hit rock bottom after that. A 3-15 start in 1958-59 led to the sacking of fourth-year coach Bobby Wanzer, and Tom Marshall was installed as player-coach. The team finished with a league-worst 19-53 record. The only thing Cincinnati fans had to cheer about was fourth-year player Jack Twyman, who racked up 25.8 points per game and finished second in the NBA scoring race, behind Bob Pettit (29.2 ppg).
The following season brought more of the same. The Royals again won only 19 games, dropping 14 straight in one stretch. For the second year in a row Twyman finished second in the league in scoring. This time he averaged 31.2 points, but he trailed rookie sensation Wilt Chamberlain by more than six points per contest. Twyman also established a franchise record when he scored 59 points in a 122-118 win over the Lakers on January 15, 1960.
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1959-63: Happy Days Are Here Again: "The Big O" Debuts
There were a few positive developments during the abysmal 1959-60 season. Coach Marshall resigned, and Charles Wolf was hired to take his place. More importantly, the Royals used a territorial pick prior to the 1960 NBA Draft to select University of Cincinnati star Oscar Robertson.
The 1960-61 edition of the Cincinnati Royals showed promise. The team opened the campaign by beating the Lakers (now the Los Angeles Lakers), 140-123. Cincinnati won its first four games, then lost 17 of its next 22 contests en route to a 33-46 record. Despite the 14-win improvement over the previous year, the club still finished in the Western Division cellar, one game out of the playoffs.
Robertson was sensational throughout the season. "The Big O" nearly averaged a triple-double. The league's Rookie of the Year, he was third in the league in scoring, averaging 30.5 points, and he pulled down 10.1 boards per contest. He also led the league with 9.7 assists per game to set a new NBA single-season assists record with 690. In just his first year of NBA basketball, the 6-5 Robertson established himself as the most complete player in the game.
After a three-year absence the Royals returned to the playoffs in 1962, losing to Detroit in the first round. Fielding a team that included veteran standout Jack Twyman and youngsters Bob Boozer and Wayne Embry (who would later go on to serve as vice president and general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers) across the front and a backcourt of Robertson and Arlen Bockhorn, the Royals won 43 games and posted a winning season for the first time since 1953-54.
The team's success was built on offense and rebounding. The Royals scored at least 100 points in all but two games and averaged 123.1 points to set a franchise record. Cincinnati also corralled 70.8 rebounds per game. All five starters posted double-figure scoring averages, led by Robertson, who averaged a triple-double (30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg) and led the league in assists for the second consecutive year.
Before the 1962-63 season got underway the NBA rearranged divisions, moving Cincinnati to the Eastern Division, where the club joined the Boston Celtics, the Syracuse Nationals, and the New York Knickerbockers. The Royals' starting five remained the same, and the regular-season results changed little from the previous year's. All five starters averaged double figures in scoring, with Robertson finishing near the top of the league in scoring, and the team won 42 games.
After an early exit from the playoffs in 1962, the Royals made a strong postseason showing in 1963. Cincinnati bested Syracuse, three games to two, in a first-round series, taking the decisive game on the Nationals' home court in an overtime contest. The Royals then took the Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Division Finals before bowing out, 142-131, in Game 7 at Boston Garden.
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1963-65: "Mr. Inside" Joins "Mr. Outside"
Despite back-to-back winning seasons, Coach Charles Wolf stepped down in the offseason. The club brought in Jack McMahon, who had played guard for the Rochester Royals in the mid-1950s. Cincinnati also welcomed rookie Jerry Lucas, whom the Royals had made a territorial draft pick in 1962.
The combination of Lucas and Robertson gave the Royals a formidable one-two punch. In their first season together the pair combined to average 49.1 points, 27.3 rebounds, and 13.6 assists. Lucas, who had sat out the previous season after casting his lot with the short-lived American Basketball League, pounded the boards for 17.4 rebounds per game and was named NBA Rookie of the Year. He set a franchise record by pulling down 40 boards in a game against Philadelphia on February 29. Robertson averaged a career-high 31.4 points while leading the league in assists (11.0 apg), earning him the NBA Most Valuable Player Award.
The Royals chased the Celtics throughout the 1963-64 campaign but finished four games back with a 55-25 record. (Three decades later that win total still stands as a franchise record.) Cincinnati held off the Philadelphia 76ers in a five-game tussle in the division semifinals but fell to the Celtics in the Eastern Division Finals, winning just one game in the best-of-seven series.
The 1963-64 season would prove to be the high point for the Robertson-Lucas Cincinnati Royals, though the team won a respectable 48 games the following year. Robertson averaged 30.4 points and 11.5 assists, and Lucas hauled down 20.0 rebounds per contest. Nevertheless, the team finished a distant second to the Celtics in the Eastern Division and made a first-round exit from the playoffs thanks to the Philadelphia 76ers. The All-Star Game was the highlight of the campaign for the Royals as Robertson and Lucas led the East to a 124-123 win. Lucas earned All-Star MVP honors with a 25-point, 10-rebound performance, while Robertson added 28 points and 8 assists.
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The Royals were still a threat entering the 1965-66 season. Happy Hairston, a 6-7 center playing in his second NBA campaign, was starting to come into his own; he averaged 14.1 points, primarily while coming off the bench. The duo of Robertson and Lucas was as potent as ever: The Big O averaged more than 30 points (31.3 ppg) for the fifth time in his six seasons, and Lucas averaged better than 20 rebounds (21.1 rpg) for the second year in a row.
But once again the Royals loomed larger at the All-Star Game than in the playoffs. That year the midseason classic was played at the Cincinnati Gardens, and the All-Star MVP was Royals guard Adrian Smith, who scored a game-high 24 points in the East's 137-94 romp. Robertson and Lucas also contributed, combining for 27 points, 29 rebounds, and 8 assists.
After finishing in third place in the Eastern Division, the Royals squared off against the Celtics in the first round of the 1966 NBA Playoffs. Cincinnati took two of the first three games, but the Celtics quashed any hopes of an upset by taking the next two games to win the series.
The offseason saw the end of an era when Les Harrison, who had owned the franchise since the days of the old National Basketball League, sold the team to a pair of brothers named Max and Jeremy Jacobs.
During the 1966-67 season, with Robertson and Lucas still in their prime, the Royals figured to challenge once again in the Eastern Division. After a 1-3 start, Cincinnati climbed back to .500 at 9-9. But the club stumbled through a seven-game losing streak, then hovered around the break-even point. A record of 39-42 ended a string of five consecutive winning campaigns. For the third year in a row the Royals were ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
The end of the season brought Jack McMahon's four-year tenure as head coach to a close. McMahon resigned after the playoffs to accept a job as general manager and head coach of the expansion San Diego Rockets. He left the Royals with an overall record of 187-134, good for a .583 winning percentage, the second-best mark in franchise history behind former coach and owner Les Harrison. McMahon's replacement was former University of Cincinnati Head Coach Ed Jucker.
The 1967-68 Jucker-led Royals lit up the scoreboard. The team walloped the expansion Seattle SuperSonics, 153-133, in late November. It was the first of 13 games in which Cincinnati topped 130 points. A thigh injury sidelined Oscar Robertson for 17 games, but he still managed to lead the league in scoring (29.2 ppg) and assists (9.7 apg).
The Royals acquired guard-forward Tom Van Arsdale and forward John Tresvant in a late-season trade, sending Happy Hairston and Jim Fox to Detroit. The swap helped Cincinnati win 8 of the season's final 12 games, but it wasn't enough; the Royals wound up 39-43 and trailed the Pistons by a single game for the last playoff spot.
The Royals improved to 41-41 in 1968-69, Jucker's second season at the helm. But that translated to only a fifth-place finish in the expanded Eastern Conference, and it wasn't enough to crack the postseason. Once again Royals players made the most noise during the All-Star Game. Appearing in his ninth consecutive midseason classic, Robertson scored 24 points, snared 6 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists to earn his third All-Star MVP trophy. The East won the game, 123-112.
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1969-72: Cousy Named Head Coach
On May 9, 1969, four days after the Celtics had toppled the Lakers to claim a ninth championship in 10 years, Royals owner Max Jacobs dropped a bombshell. At a press conference he announced that Hall of Famer Bob Cousy was taking over as head coach of the Cincinnati ballclub.
Cousy, who had retired in 1963 after an illustrious 13-year career with the Celtics, actually played in seven games for the Royals during the 1969-70 season. His main goal, however, was to convert Cincinnati into an up-tempo team like the Celtics squads he had played for. Ten days into the new season, he made it clear he intended to reshape the team when Jerry Lucas was traded to the San Francisco Warriors for guard Jim King and forward Bill Turner. (King and Turner would combine to average 10.1 points and 5.7 rebounds for the Royals that season.) No one was sacred to Cousy, who also attempted to engineer a swap that would have sent Robertson to Baltimore for Gus Johnson. The Big O exercised his right to nix the trade.
By the time the season had entered the home-stretch run, "the Running Royals" seemed to be getting the hang of Cousy's system. Cincinnati topped the 110-point mark in each of the campaign's final 21 contests, and during a six-game span in mid-February the team averaged 127 points. On March 12 the Royals exploded for 165 points and beat the San Diego Rockets, who countered with 151 of their own. Four days later Cincinnati fell to the Chicago Bulls by a 142-140 count.
The 1969-70 season was Oscar Robertson's last with the Royals. On April 21 he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk. The Big O had put up remarkable numbers in 10 seasons with the Royals, averaging 29.3 points, 10.3 assists, and 8.5 rebounds.
That offseason Cousy engineered a fruitful draft. The Royals used their first-round pick to take 6-10 center Sam Lacey as the No. 5 overall selection. In the second round Cincinnati acquired 6-1 Nate "Tiny" Archibald.
The 1970-71 Royals were a quick, young team that included Norm Van Lier, a second-year guard who led the league in assists with 10.1 per game. The club continued its fast-breaking, high-scoring ways and was held below 100 points only four times all season while breaking the 130 mark 11 times. The team's 116.0 scoring average was good for third place in the NBA. Unfortunately, Cousy was no defensive wizard, and opposing teams racked up 119.2 points per contest, second most in the league. At 33-49, Cincinnati finished out of the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
Not much changed on the court the next year. The 30-52 Royals missed the playoffs once again and tied a franchise record by dropping 14 straight during one stretch. Archibald finished second in the league in scoring (28.2 ppg) and third in assists (9.2 apg).
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1972-78: Kansas City Here We Come
Off the court, however, the franchise was undergoing a major upheaval. Prior to the 1971-72 campaign, the club was sold to a group of 10 Kansas City businessmen, who paid $5 million for the team. The new ownership left the franchise to dangle in Cincinnati for a season. On March 26, 1972, the club played its final game as the Royals, felling the Cavaliers in Cleveland. At season's end, the Royals headed west, to be reborn as the Kansas City-Omaha Kings.
The transformation was strictly cosmetic. The Kings were a one-player team, and that player was Tiny Archibald. He became the first player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season, as he averaged 34.0 points and 11.4 assists in 1972-73. He scored 40 or more points on 18 occasions and dished out more than 20 assists three times. But with a lackluster supporting cast, the Kings could manage only a 36-46 record and a last-place finish in the Midwest Division.
The following season it became apparent just how one-dimensional the Kings had become as Archibald missed all but 35 games with an Achilles tendon injury. The team got off to a 6-16 start before Cousy stepped down as head coach, then lost three straight under Draff Young. When Phil Johnson finally took over, the team stood at 6-19. He managed to coach the club to a 27-30 record to end the season, but the Kings still missed the postseason, finishing at 33-49.
After an eight-year absence the Kings emerged as a playoff team in 1974-75. With Archibald healthy and five of his teammates-Jimmy Walker, Nate Williams (who was traded to New Orleans late in the season), Sam Lacey, rookie Scott Wedman, and second-year player Ron Behagen-scoring in double figures, second-year coach Johnson produced a 44-win season for Kansas City-Omaha, earning himself the NBA Coach of the Year Award. Runners-up in the Midwest Division, the Kings faced the Chicago Bulls in the Western Conference Semifinals and lost in six games.
It would be four years before Kansas City fans would enjoy playoff action again. The promise of the 1974-75 season did not carry over into 1975-76. Now called the Kansas City Kings (although the team did play six games in Omaha), the club won 13 fewer games than they had the previous year, finishing in third place in the weak Midwest Division, seven games back of the division-winning Milwaukee Bucks, who ended up 38-44.
After the season the Kings dealt Archibald to New Jersey for Brian Taylor, Jim Eakins, and two first-round draft choices. Kansas City also picked up Ron Boone in the dispersal draft after the American Basketball Association disbanded.
Although Coach Johnson was fielding a predominantly no-name crew, the retooled Kings surprised everyone in 1976-77. With 10 games to go the team stood at 39-33 and held a four-game lead over Chicago for the final Western Conference Playoff spot. But Kansas City collapsed down the stretch, losing 8 straight road games and 9 of 10 overall to finish at 40-42. The Bulls, meanwhile, took 7 of 10 down the stretch, and Kansas City missed the playoffs once again.
The Kings late-season tumble at the end of the 1976-77 campaign carried over into the following season, and after a 13-24 start in 1977-78, Coach Johnson was fired. In his stead, Assistant General Manager Larry Staverman was given the reins, with similar results. Despite respectable seasons from Boone (17.7 ppg), Scott Wedman (17.7 ppg), and rookie Otis Birdsong (15.8 ppg), the Kings shared the cellar of the Midwest Division with Indiana, finishing 17 games off the pace at 31-51.
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1978-83: Ford Drives Kings To Postseason
Staverman lasted just half a season. On May 10, 1978, the Kings hired Cotton Fitzsimmons as their new coach. With the second pick in the 1978 NBA Draft, Kansas City selected North Carolina guard Phil Ford.
When the dust had cleared from the 1978-79 regular season, Coach of the Year Fitzsimmons and Rookie of the Year Ford had catapulted the Kings (48-34) from the cellar to the penthouse in the Midwest. On April 4, playing in the 80th game of its schedule, Kansas City downed the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime to clinch the Midwest Division title. It was the first division crown for the franchise since the Rochester Royals won the Western Division in the 1951-52 season. The Kings didn't survive a semifinal playoff matchup with Phoenix, however, bowing out in five games.
Six weeks after the playoffs ended, a freak storm packing 70 mile-per-hour winds swept through downtown Kansas City and tore the roof off Kemper Arena. The Kings moved to the 9,333-seat Municipal Auditorium for the first 64 games of the 1979-80 season. The change of venue didn't seem to hurt the team much. The Kings were 38-26 and dueling for the lead in the Midwest with Milwaukee when they played their first game in the newly refurbished Kemper Arena, which had been expanded to seat 16,886 fans. Kansas City did not disappoint the home crowd that night as Ford canned a jump shot at the buzzer to drop the SuperSonics by two points.
The Kings were unable to repeat as the Midwest Division champs and, at 47-35, finished two games behind the Milwaukee Bucks. In a first-round playoff matchup against Phoenix, Kansas City lost to the Suns for the second straight year.
Fielding essentially the same ballclub the following year, the Kings once again took second in the Midwest, but they managed to do so with a losing record. Playing in a realigned division, both Kansas City and Houston finished at 40-42, a dozen games behind the San Antonio Spurs.
The Kings mounted an impressive postseason run in 1981, ousting Portland in a best-of-three first-round series, then shocking Phoenix in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Suns, who had finished the regular season with a .695 winning percentage, were lucky to take Kansas City to seven games after the Kings jumped out to a three-games-to-one lead. On April 19, the Kings closed out the series with a 95-88 win in Phoenix.
The 40-42 Kings found themselves playing the 40-42 Rockets for a chance to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. The teams split the first two games in Kansas City, but the Rockets took the next three to win the series, four games to one.
After piloting the Kings to a pair of winning seasons and a visit to the conference finals, Fitzsimmons saw his team self-destruct in the offseason. Otis Birdsong went to New Jersey in a trade, and free agent Scott Wedman moved to Cleveland when the Kings refused to match the Cavaliers' offer sheet. With the loss of the team's top two scorers, the Kings plummeted from second place in the Midwest to fourth, finishing at 30-52 in 1981-82. It was the team's lowest win total in a decade.
But the Kings bounced back in 1982-83. The emergence of Larry Drew as a 20-point scorer and a productive season from second-year sharpshooter Eddie Johnson had Kansas City dueling with Denver for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The two teams squared off on the last day of the season, and the Nuggets came away with a 125-116 win. As a result, even though the two teams finished with identical 45-37 records, Denver got the nod by virtue of a better conference mark.
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1983-86: New Owners, And Soon A New Home
The Kings made offseason news six weeks later when the franchise was purchased by a group from Sacramento. The price was $10.5 million.
On the court in 1983-84, Kansas City got a solid performance from Johnson (21.9 ppg), who never met a shot he didn't like. The team also added guard Reggie Theus by way of a midseason trade with Chicago. The Kings backed into the playoffs with a 38-44 record, then were swept in the first round by the Los Angeles Lakers. On May 10 Fitzsimmons stepped down as head coach to accept a job with San Antonio. His six-year tenure with the Kings yielded a 248-244 regular-season record and four trips to the playoffs. Five days later Jack McKinney signed on as Kansas City's new coach.
McKinney lasted all of nine games in the 1984-85 season. The team bumbled to a 1-8 record before he resigned. Phil Johnson, who had last coached the Kings in 1977-78, returned as head coach. With the threat of a move to Sacramento hanging over the franchise, the Kings played in front of crowds that often numbered less than 4,000. Despite a handful of good players (Johnson, Theus, Otis Thorpe, and LaSalle Thompson), the Kings finished out of the playoffs at 31-51. The franchise played its final game in Kansas City on May 14, losing to the Lakers, 122-116, before 11,371 fans. Two days later the NBA Board of Governors voted unanimously to allow the club to relocate to Sacramento.
The Sacramento Kings drafted 7-foot bruiser Joe Kleine in the first round of the 1985 NBA Draft. The team settled into the 10,333-seat Sacramento Sports Arena-rechristened ARCO Arena-and sold out every game. Somehow the club parlayed a 37-45 season into a trip to the playoffs, where they were swept easily by the Houston Rockets in the first round. That short playoff appearance would be the team's last for a very long time.
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1986-89: Bill Russell Could Play, But Can He Coach?
The Kings brought back the same cast of characters to start the 1986-87 season. The club was 8-20 going into the new year and 14-32 a month later, when Phil Johnson was fired. Assistant Coach Jerry Reynolds was hired as Johnson's interim replacement, but he went 15-21 and the Kings finished 29-53. Nine days after the end of the regular season, Sacramento introduced Bill Russell as the new coach of the Kings. Willis Reed joined him as an assistant one month later.
Russell was not the answer in 1987-88, and on February 29 Reed departed Sacramento for the head coaching position with the New Jersey Nets. On March 7 the 17-41 Kings relieved Russell of his coaching duties and brought back Jerry Reynolds. Phil Johnson found himself back on the Kings' bench as well, this time as Reynolds's assistant. However, Reynolds and Johnson couldn't do much for the undermanned Kings, who finished the season at 24-58. Not that the fans seemed to mind-for the third season in a row the Kings averaged 10,333 fans per game, 100 percent capacity at ARCO Arena.
The Kings moved into a new ARCO Arena for the 1988-89 campaign. The new facility had a capacity of 16,517, yet the woeful Kings still managed to fill it for every home game. A constant shuffling of players didn't stem the tide of losses. Before the new campaign got underway, the club sent Reggie Theus to Atlanta for Randy Wittman, picked up guards Ricky Berry and Vinny Del Negro in the draft, and traded Otis Thorpe to the Rockets for Rodney McCray and Jim Petersen. In February the Kings dealt Wittman and LaSalle Thompson to Indiana for Wayman Tisdale and a draft choice, then sent Joe Kleine and Ed Pinckney to Boston for Danny Ainge and Brad Lohaus. Despite the new arena and the new faces, the team finished 30 games out of first place in the Pacific Division with a record of 27-55.
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1989-92: Rough Times On And Off The Court
On May 21, 1989, the Kings won the first pick in the NBA Lottery. A month later the club took 6-10 center Pervis Ellison of Louisville with the No. 1 choice. That summer, guard Ricky Berry, who had just completed a solid rookie season with 11.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game, was found dead at his home. The promising young player had committed suicide.
The reeling Kings continued to tinker with their roster. Antoine Carr, Ralph Sampson, and Greg Kite appeared on the scene. Sacramento also tried another change of coaches, bringing in Dick Motta at midseason to replace Jerry Reynolds. But the 1989-90 Kings continued to struggle, winning only 23 games.
The Kings reaped the rewards that come with sub-.500 records and three years of constant trades. During the 1990 NBA Draft, the Kings became the first team in NBA history to wield four first-round draft choices. The harvest included forward Lionel Simmons, guard Travis Mays, center Duane Causwell, and forward Anthony Bonner.
Although the faces had changed, the results were pretty much the same. The Kings set an NBA record for consecutive road losses with 37 and posted a meager 25-57 record, yet the Sacramento faithful filled the ARCO Arena to capacity for every home game. The low point of the campaign came on January 10, when the Kings were drubbed by the Charlotte Hornets, 101-59. The Kings' point total was the lowest by an NBA team in 36 years.
An encouraging sign was the performance of Lionel Simmons, who averaged 18.0 points and was runner-up to the Nets' Derrick Coleman for NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
The Kings' revolving door continued to spin in 1991-92: Spud Webb and Mitch Richmond were in; Travis Mays, Antoine Carr, Ralph Sampson, and unsigned first-round draft pick Billy Owens were out. The same held true at the coaching spot as Motta was relieved of his duties and Rex Hughes was named interim head coach. The Kings failed to crack the 30-win plateau but did end their NBA-record 43-game road losing streak with a win at Orlando on November 23, 1991.
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1992-93: Kings Hire A "Saint" To Save Team
The Kings finished in last place in the Pacific Division again in 1992-93, this time with Garry St. Jean shouldering the coaching burden. The club was at .500 as late as 10 games into the season, but injuries eventually took their toll, with opening-day starters Mitch Richmond, Spud Webb, Duane Causwell, Lionel Simmons, and Wayman Tisdale all missing action at one time or another. At 25-57, the team owned a seven-year string of seasons with fewer than 30 victories.
Richmond and rookie Walt Williams were the bright spots on a team whose young talent showed promise for the future. Richmond (21.9 ppg) became the first player in the Kings' Sacramento era and the 18th in franchise history to earn an All-Star berth, though he did not play in the game because of a season-ending thumb fracture suffered just two days after his selection. Williams, a 6-8 swingman from Maryland, was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team after averaging 17.0 points.
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1993-94: High Hopes End With Hurley's Injury
The 1993-94 Kings offered no respite from the franchise's losing ways in a season that unfolded in near tragedy. The Kings had big expectations for top draft pick Bobby Hurley, a 6-foot point guard who had established the NCAA record for career assists and led Duke University to two NCAA titles. But 19 games into the season Hurley was involved in a life-threatening automobile accident. His injuries included a fractured back, multiple rib fractures, a fractured shoulder, a torn trachea, and torn knee ligaments. Although lost for the season, Hurley made a remarkable recovery and returned for the 1994-95 campaign.
Second-year swingman Walt Williams also missed action, sitting out 25 games, while center Duane Causwell missed 41 contests. The injuries didn't leave the Kings with much firepower, and they finished 28-54. On the positive side, Mitch Richmond led all NBA guards with 23.4 points per game (seventh in the league) and was the first Kings player to start in an All-Star Game since Nate Archibald did so in 1975. Olden Polynice was acquired from the Detroit Pistons at midseason and finished fifth in the league in rebounding with 11.9 boards per game.
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1994-95: Kings Post Crowning Season In Sacramento
The Kings had their best season ever in Sacramento in 1994-95 but fell one game short of making their first trip to the playoffs since 1985-86. The club finished at 39-43 and participated in the last bit of drama of the regular season. Sacramento was tied with the Denver Nuggets for the last Western Conference Playoff spot on the last day of the season. Fittingly, the two teams met on the final day, with Denver prevailing and advancing.
The Kings won 12 more games in 1994-95 than they had the previous season, the fourth-best improvement in the NBA for the year and the franchise's best record since the 1982-83 Kansas City Kings went 45-37.
Much of the team's success could be attributed to its defense. The Kings held opponents to an average of 99.2 points per game, tied for eighth best in the NBA, and to a .453 field-goal percentage, tied (with three teams) for second in the league. The previous season Sacramento had given up an average of 106.9 points per game and a .479 field-goal mark. In 1994-95 the Kings led the circuit in defending shots from behind the three-point arc, allowing a .304 percentage.
The team's defense, rebounding, and inside play improved with the arrival of rookies Brian Grant and Michael Smith. Grant (13.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) pounded his way into a starting position on the squad, and Smith provided solid work in relief. On the offensive end, Mitch Richmond led the team in scoring at 22.8 points per game, tops among NBA players at his position. He was also the Most Valuable Player in the All-Star Game with 23 points in 22 minutes. Spud Webb recorded the league's highest free-throw percentage at .934, and Olden Polynice ranked 10th in field-goal percentage at .544.
At season's end Grant was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, and Richmond was selected to the All-NBA Second Team.
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1995-96: Finally! Kings Earn Playoff Berth
After nine years on the outside looking in, Sacramento fans had a taste of playoff fever for the first time since 1985-86, the team's first year in Sacramento. The 1995-96 Kings made it the hard way, advancing despite a series of injuries and a period from February through mid-March in which they lost 16 of 17 games.
The Kings almost played themselves out of the playoff picture, but rallied to win 14 times in their final 24 games. The leader of the pack was Mitch Richmond, who scored a team-high 23.1 points per game, and earned his fourth straight All-Star berth. Richmond became only the 7th player in NBA/ABA history to average 21.0 points or better in each of his first eight seasons.
ARCO Arena fans, who had sold out their building for 11 consecutive years, finally had something to cheer about when the Kings finished 39-43, equaling their best finish during the Sacramento era. For their efforts, the Kings were rewarded with a first round playoff matchup against the Seattle SuperSonics, winners of 64 games during the regular season.
Sacramento surprised everyone by winning Game 2 of the series at Seattle's KeyArena, bringing the series back to Sacramento tied at 1-1. The Sacramento crowd did everything it could to inspire its team to victory, and it worked. The Kings extended their lead to eight points in the fourth quarter of Game 3. The Sonics, who would eventually go to the Finals, rallied back to win Game 3 and closed the series out in four games.
In addition to Richmond, Coach Garry St. Jean had many talented weapons. Olden Polynice, Brian Grant and Michael Smith gave the team a physical presence, Sarunas Marciulionis complemented Richmond with his outside shooting. Billy Owens, acquired in February with Kevin Gamble for Walt Williams and Tyrone Corbin, added versatility. Rookie point guard Tyus Edney was incredibly efficient running the offense, averaging 6.1 assists, 18th in the NBA.
1996-97: Kings Battle Injuries, Expectations
The previous year's playoff run captivated the city of Sacramento, but also created expectations for this year's club. An early indicator of the Kings' fortunes came when Brian Grant went under the knife to repair a torn rotator cuff only a week into the season.
His injury, and a tough early-season schedule, mired the Kings in an 8-17 start. They improved to 28-32, and seemed headed for their second straight playoff performance when the wheels fell off. The Kings dropped the next seven contests (including home losses to Cleveland, Toronto and Dallas), prompting Kings Vice President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie to fire Garry St. Jean, who had coached the Kings for the past four-plus seasons. The Kings posted a subpar 28-39 record under St. Jean, and finished the season only 6-9 under Jordan.
Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reynolds disagreed with those who suggested the players quit on St. Jean.
Despite the absence of a playoff platform, Mitch Richmond continued to prove that he is one of the finest players in the NBA. Richmond made the All-Star team for the fifth consecutive season, and finished fourth in the league in scoring.
His presence was complemented by the additional outside threat of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and the inside bulk of Olden Polynice and Michael Smith, who each finished among the league's top 20 rebounders.
1997-98: Kids Reign in Kings Lineup
By season's end, Kings' faithful had grown very familiar with the quartet of talented rookies. Michael "Yogi" Stewart, Anthony Johnson, Tariq Abdul-Wahad and Lawrence Funderburke each stepped into the Kings' lineup and excelled at times, providing Coach Eddie Jordan with a youthful core upon which the Kings can continue to build on their 27-55 season.
Stewart, the former Kings' ball boy who won a job in training camp, was more than just a heartwarming story. The 6-10 center won a starting job and was one of the NBA's top shotblockers, averaging 2.41 bpg, including a season-high 9 in a Jan. 6 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
After coming off the bench to start the season, Johnson eventually won the starting point guard job, and averaged 7.5 ppg and a team-high 4.3 apg. Funderburke (9.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and first-round pick Abdul-Wahad (6.4 ppg) provided depth off the bench at the forward position, with Abdul-Wahad showing flashes of offensive brilliance in a 31-game effort on the final day of the season.
For all that was made of the contributions of the rookies, make no mistake the Kings still belonged to Richmond, who was once again played at an All-Star level despite looming trade rumors for much of the season. Before being sidelined with a sore knee for much of April, Richmond was his steady self, averaging a team-high 23.2 ppg, 4.0 apg, and finishing among the league's top ten in scoring and free throw percentage.
Almost lost in the shuffle was Williamson, a candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player. The third-year forward from Arkansas averaged 17.7 ppg and 5.6 rpg, highlighted by a 40-point outburst on March 4, in a 109-89 win over Detroit.
Despite their youth, the Kings, when focused, were up to the challenge of playing with the NBA's best. Their first win of the season was against a surprised New York Knicks team that was shut down in an 86-78 Kings' win. The Kings twice downed the powerful Utah Jazz and dominated Seattle in a 111-92 win on Jan. 26.
With some fine-tuning and a summer of hard work for the young core of players, the Kings hope to take a few more teams by surprise in 1998-99.
1998-99: Sac-Town on the Rebound
Thanks mostly to Williams' playmaking and jams by Webber, late-night highlight shows were filled with clips from Kings games. And beneath the style there was plenty of substance: Sacramento finished the lockout-shortened season 27-23, the franchise's first winning record since the 1982-83 Kansas City Kings went 45-37.
Webber had perhaps his finest season as a pro, averaging 20 points, 2.12 blocks and an NBA-best 13.0 rebounds per game. Williams averaged 12.9 points and 6.0 assists.
Sacramento went the distance with defending Western Conference champion Utah in their first-round playoff series, where the Kings lost Game 5 in overtime, 99-92. Divac led Sacramento with 16.2 points and 10 rebounds per game despite spending sleepless nights worrying about friends and family in Yugoslavia, his war-torn homeland.
The Kings rebuilt their roster for the 1998-99 season, keeping only Corliss Williamson, Tariq Abdul-Wahad and Lawrence Funderburke as key contributors from the previous season.
The renovation began shortly after the 1997-98 campaign, when Sacramento acquired Webber from Washington for perennial All-Star Mitch Richmond and veteran forward Otis Thorpe. One month later, the Kings signed Predrag Stojakovic and selected Williams with the seventh pick in the draft.
Rick Adelman was hired as head coach in September, and Divac, Vernon Maxwell and Jon Barry signed as free agents when the lockout ended in January. When reserve center Scot Pollard signed in February, the rotation was set. After all the wheeling and dealing, general manager Geoff Petrie was named as NBA Executive of the Year.
And when the team began winning, the fans took notice. Sacramento's 13.4 percent increase in home attendance was the NBA's largest for the season.
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1999-2000: Playoffs Again
The Kings forced the eventual NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers to a deciding fifth game in the opening round of the playoffs.
2000-01: One Step Closer
Making the playoffs for the third straight year, the Kings compiled a 55-27 mark, matching the franchise record for wins set by the 1963-64 Cincinnati Royals, who went 55-25.
With a 3-1 victory over the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, Sacramento advanced to the second round for the first time in 20 years, where they met the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite being swept 4-0 in the second round by the Lakers, it was a banner season for the club. The Kings matched and set many franchise records. It was the first time in the Sacramento-era that the Kings made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. The last time the Kings made the playoffs three seasons in a row was when the Kansas City Kings accomplished such a feat in 1979, 1980 and 1981.
Sacramento posted a franchise record for the most road wins in a season with 22, surpassing the previous record (20) set by the 1948-49 Rochester Royals. The Kings' 33 home wins tied with San Antonio as the most in the NBA this season and matched a franchise record set by the 1948-49 Rochester Royals.
Sacramento set a new NBA record for the most overtime wins in a season with nine. The Kings played 13 overtime contests, matching the 2000-01 Los Angeles Clippers and 1950-51 New York Knicks for the second-most overtime games played in a season in NBA history.
The Kings finished the season with the NBA's fourth-best record behind San Antonio, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers. Sacramento's franchise-high 55 wins bettered last year's team mark by 11, which, at the time, was the most wins in the Sacramento-era history (44).
After winning the regular season opener in October, Sacramento posted a 9-4 mark in November. In both December and January, the Kings went 10-4. Sacramento's February record was 8-6, which was followed by an 11-4 and 6-5 March and April finish, respectively.
The Kings were heavily represented in the 2001 NBA All-Star Game at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. on February 11th. Sacramento Head Coach Rick Adelman and his coaching staff manned the Western Conference All-Star bench as a result of the Kings owning the Western Conference's best record at the All-Star break. Sacramento forward Chris Webber was named as a starter for the first time in his career (third All-Star Game appearance), while Kings center Vlade Divac made his All-Star Game debut, having been selected to the team as a reserve. Sacramento forward Peja Stojakovic placed second in the Three-Point Shootout, but not before winning the 2ball contest with Monarchs standout Ruthie Bolton.
Webber was named NBA Player of the Week on two occasions this season. On December 11th, he was named NBA Player of the Week for games played December 4th through 10th, upon leading Sacramento to a 3-0 record for the week by averaging 28.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 3.33 blocks. He led the Kings to a 3-1 record, averaging 30.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 3.25 blocks to win the award for a second time (sixth of his career) for games played January 15th through 21st. Webber had a career night versus Indiana on January 5th when he recorded a 51-point, 26-rebound performance, setting several new career highs, as well as Sacramento-era and franchise records.
The Kings finished the 2000-01 campaign with several players in the running for NBA awards. In addition to earning a spot on The Sporting News All-NBA First Team, Webber was the fourth-leading vote-getter for the Most Valuable Player award, while Peja Stojakovic finished second in the voting for the NBA's Most Improved Player award. Doug Christie, who led the league in total steals (183, 2.50 spg), was named to the NBA's All-Defensive Second Team, becoming only the fourth Kings' player in franchise history to be named to the All-Defensive Team. Reserve guard Bobby Jackson finished fourth in the voting for the NBA's Sixth Man award. Reserve swingman Hedo Turkoglu was selected to the NBA's All-Rookie Second Team. Additionally, Adelman, who notched his 100th career win with the Kings just three months into his third season with the club (101-89 win over the LA Clippers on 1/27), is a leading candidate for the NBA's Coach of the Year award.
Kings' President, Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie was named The Sporting News 2000-01 NBA Executive of the Year for the second time in the last three seasons. Petrie's nine votes topped Billy King of the Philadelphia 76ers (six) among a panel consisting of NBA owners, presidents and general managers. Petrie, who won the award in 1998-99, became the first person in NBA history to win both the NBA's executive and rookie of the year honors.
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2001-2002: Championship Run
The Sacramento Kings enjoyed its best season in franchise history, finishing the regular season with the best record in the NBA at 61-21, assuring the Kings the home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Sacramento’s 61 wins eclipsed the previous franchise high of 55 victories, set by the 1963-64 Cincinnati Royals and 2000-01 Kings. The last time the Kings finished the regular season with the best record in the league was when the Rochester Royals recorded a 41-25 mark in 1951-52. Sacramento is making its fourth straight playoff appearance.
The Kings soared to new heights during the 2001-02 campaign, winning Sacramento’s first-ever Pacific Division title (fifth title in franchise history), despite injuries to All-Stars Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic, who missed 28 and 11 games, respectively. Sacramento set new franchise records for most wins in a season (61), most home wins in a season (36), and most road victories in a season (25). Their home mark of 36-5 marked the best in the NBA. Additionally, the Kings rattled off a franchise-best nine straight road wins.
Statistically, Sacramento finished in the league’s top five in several categories, including defensive rebounding (1st), scoring (2nd), rebounding (2nd), steals (3rd), field goal percentage (2nd), and assists (4th). The Kings were 44- 7 when scoring 100 points or more. The only other team to reach 100 points more times than Sacramento this year was Dallas (47-10 in such outings).
The Kings were well represented in Philadelphia for the 2002 NBA All-Star Weekend on February 10th. Webber made his second consecutive All-Star start and fifth All-Star appearance, recording eight points, three rebounds, four assists, and one steal in 20 minutes. Stojakovic, making his first appearance, tallied 11 points, two rebounds, and one assist in 18 minutes. He also was the winner of the 1 800 CALL ATT Shootout in overtime. Hedo Turkoglu participated in three of the weekend’s events. In addition to playing for the sophomore team in the ‘got milk’ Rookie Challenge, he finished second to Philadelphia’s Eric Snow in the Fleer Shootaround. Turkoglu capped off his All- Star Weekend experience by sinking the game-winning three-pointer in sudden-death overtime to give Sacramento the inaugural 3-on-3 989 Sports Hoop-It-Up title. Lastly, rookie forward Gerald Wallace finished second in the NBA.com Slam Dunk contest presented by RealOne.
Individually, the Kings won several honors during the 2001-02 season. Adelman was named IBM Coach of the Month for January. Stojakovic was named 2001 Euroscar, La Gazzetta dello Sport’s annual award to the top European basketball player, while Webber was named Western Conference Player of the Week (12/31-1/6) and Western Conference Player of the Month for January.
Webber and Stojakovic teamed to form one of the most potent tandems in the NBA. The Kings were 43-8 when Stojakovic scored 20 or more points and 32-9 when Webber tallied 20 or more. Stojakovic scored 20 or more points in 30 of his last 43 games, including 11 of the last 17. He led the team in scoring in 32 games, rebounding in four, and assists in four. Webber reached the 20-point plateau in 38 of his last 47 games and recorded 31 double-doubles this season. He narrowly missed a triple-double by one assist three times during the 2001-02 campaign. Webber led the team in scoring on 35 occasions, rebounding 33 times, and assists in 17 games. Sacramento concluded the 2001-02 season with Webber (Most Valuable Player candidate), Turkoglu (Most Improved candidate), Doug Christie (All-Defensive Team candidate), Bobby Jackson (Sixth Man of the Year candidate) and Adelman (Coach of the Year candidate) in the running for NBA awards.
2002-2003: Overcoming Odds
The Sacramento Kings enjoyed their fifth consecutive winning season since Rick Adelman assumed head coaching duties before the 1998-99 season. Sacramento’s 59 victories mark the second-most wins in franchise history behind last year’s total of 61. Prior to the lockout-shortened campaign in 1998- 99, the club participated in the postseason only twice during the Sacramento-era (1986 & 1996). It marked the Kings’ fifth straight appearance in the NBA Playoffs, where they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round in seven games.
Beleaguered by injuries from the onset of training camp in October, Adelman and his staff juggled 13 different starting lineups, four more than a year ago when the club marched to an NBA-best 61-21 record. Despite major injuries to key ingredients in Adelman’s mix, Sacramento captured its second Pacific Division crown in as many seasons. The off-season acquisition of free agent forward-center Keon Clark and the pickup of free agent swingman Jim Jackson early in December buoyed the bench play and eased the losses of Chris Webber (14 games), Mike Bibby (27 games), Peja Stojakovic (10 games), Bobby Jackson (22 games) and Scot Pollard (56 games). When the dust settled on April 16, every Kings player on the roster had missed at least one regular season game due to injury, illness or suspension.
Statistically, Sacramento was once again an imposing club on paper, ranking high in several major categories. Two mainstays—scoring and passing, continued to highlight the Kings’ offensive strength, finishing third in both scoring (101.7 ppg) and assists (24.8 apg). Sacramento’s long-range shooters flourished from beyond the arc, ranking fourth after hitting 38 percent of their 3-pointers. For the second straight season, Sacramento led the league in defensive rebounding with 33.6 per game, helping them finish third in overall rebounding (44.5 rpg). Defensively, the Kings had a vice grip on rival shooters, holding opponents to an NBA-low .420 field goal percentage. Additionally, Doug Christie helped a ball hungry defense swipe 8.98 steals per game, second-best in the Association.
Nursing a sprained left ankle, Chris Webber was forced to sit out what would have been his fifth consecutive All-Star appearance. Peja Stojakovic was named his replacement and was the lone Kings’ representative in Atlanta for the 2003 All-Star game on February 9th, recording five points, three rebounds and one assist in his second All-Star appearance. For a second straight year, Stojakovic defeated Wesley Person in the final round to win back-to-back 1 800 CALL ATT Shootouts. He is the first player to win consecutive three point titles since Cleveland’s Mark Price in 1993 and 1994.
The Kings achieved a variety of individual accomplishments this season, most notably Head Coach Rick Adelman reaching the 600-win plateau on April 6th at Philadelphia. The victory moved Adelman into elite company, becoming just the 18th coach in NBA history to reach the milestone. Chris Webber was named the Western Conference Player of the Week (12/9 - 12/15) and Western Conference Player of the Month for December after averaging 24.4 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 5.5 apg and 1.8 bpg. Peja Stojakovic also garnered Player of the Week accolades (3/17 – 3/23).
En route to asserting themselves as a championship contender in 2002-03, the Kings tallied the most home wins in the NBA with 35, the second consecutive season they’ve led the league in home victories. Sacramento especially stifled Eastern Conference opponents at ARCO, becoming just the fourth Western Conference team in NBA history to go unbeaten at home vs. the East (15-0). The team also added 24 road victories, joining Dallas, San Antonio and Philadelphia as the only teams to register 20+ road wins three straight seasons (1999-00 – 2002-03).
The season concluded with several Kings in the running for postseason awards, including Rick Adelman for Coach of the Year, Chris Webber for Most Valuable Player, Bobby Jackson for Sixth Man of the Year/Most Improved Player and Doug Christie for Defensive Player of the Year.