The Sacramento Kings Are Nationally Relevant Again

It has been a quick minute. Scratch that: it has been a while — A long time. Actually, an eternity, since my Sacramento Kings were nationally relevant. In fact, it is tough to remember the last time I witnessed such attention from national sports media and personalities discussing on television, writing articles about, and tweeting about Sacramento.

I recollect a minor splash in 2010 when Tyreke Evans had his infamous 20-5-5 Rookie of the Year season, but that was extremely short lived. You have to go back to the glory Chris Webber days of the late 90’s and early-to-mid 2000’s to truly recall such attention.

Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Grantland, Bleacher Report, The Starters, and more have extensively covered this season’s team. Major basketball media personalities such as Bill Simmons, Chris Broussard, Ric Bucher, and Marc Stein have also given Sacramento an unusual amount of attention.

Some factors for this include, but are not limited to:

The Unexpected Start

Even after blowing two large leads this past week against Dallas and Memphis, the Kings are a respectable 6-4 to start the season. It is very early in the NBA season, and suggesting a playoff berth at such a young stage is extremely premature.

But one should remember and consider the difficulty of Sacramento’s schedule thus far. Sacramento owns quality home wins over Portland and San Antonio, and road wins against Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the dreaded back-to-back in Denver.

Boogie’s Cult Following

As predicted in my season preview, DeMarcus Cousins has been an absolute monster these first ten games. Matching up against tough Western Conference opponents, he is averaging 22 and 11 in just 30 minutes per game. Cousins is also 4th in the NBA with a Player Efficiency Rating of 27.1.

“Boogie” also has a cult following throughout the NBA. Many analysts see him as vastly underrated and as an underdog playing in a small market. His mannerisms, catchy nickname, and raw emotion have made him a fan favorite. His dominance this past summer on Team USA also gave viewers outside Sacramento a better look at the big man, as he was regularly on national television for the first time in his career.

Rudy’s Extension

Rudy Gay and the Kings just agreed to a 3 year, $40 million extension, with the third year being a player-option. Rudy is the biggest acquired name to resign with Sacramento since Chris Webber did so in 2001.

The signing helps give the team and city further credibility in the eyes of the national media. It also does so amongst other players and general managers, further rinsing previous Maloof-era cheapness and un-favorability. Gay isn’t a perfect player, but his extension proves the Kings are far from the free agent destination afterthought many previously believed.

A Band of Misfits

Darren Collison. Omri Casspi. Carl Landry. While not world beaters, these additions (I don’t count Landry’s injury plagued “season” last year) have paid dividends to Boogie’s Kings. Collison has sped up the tempo and is averaging career highs across the board.

Landry’s bench scoring and Casspi’s unselfishness and motor have given Sacramento affordable pieces to plug around their “Big 2”, Ben McLemore, and other holdovers. At the time of their signings, these additions were head-scratchers. But their play has given an “entertaining” vibe to this Kings team, finally making them watchable after years of isolation basketball.

In a nutshell, the Kings are watchable for the first time in years. The ball is moving and they’re actually playing defense. Winning in the West is not easy, and Sacramento still faces numerous challenges. But this season has the makings of an encouraging step in the right direction.