The Sacramento Kings haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2005-06 season. The Sacramento Kings haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2005-06 season. The Sacrament Kings haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2005-06 season. Ok. That didn’t work. I thought that if I said it to myself enough times it would sting less. Nope. Still stings.
What are we doing? The Kings just finished their ninth-straight ‘rebuilding’ season. Do you know how much incompetence that takes? You can make the playoffs by accident once in nine years! But I digress; this isn’t that kind of column.
I wanted to take a look back at that 05-06 team with the disclaimer that I’m doing this mostly from memory. I was a teenager with league pass at the time, so I’d like to get my apology out of the way now if some of the details elude me. It’s been that long.
It was a weird season altogether. Chris Webber was moved in that horrible Kenny Thomas, Corliss Williamson, and Brian Skinner trade the previous season. That had more to do with shedding Webbers contract than anything else. The point being, the Kings were trying to retool their roster on the fly so they didn’t have to start from scratch. Doug Christie was out, Vlade Divac was out, Chris Webber was out, and Peja Stojakovic was on his way out.
On January 25th, 2006, the Sacramento Kings officially traded Peja Stojakovic to the Indiana Pacers for Ron Artest, and everything changed.
It was an odd trade to begin with. Artest had requested a trade earlier in the season and was put on the Pacers inactive list. Stojakovic was having a tough season, part of which was injury related if I remember correctly. Either way, Geoff Petrie just traded a fan favorite for someone with a checkered history (to say the least) who (according to some rumors) wasn’t thrilled about being traded to Sacramento.
Fun anecdote time: I was in Boston for Ron Artest’s Sacramento Kings debut. Growing up, I tried to go to every Kings/Celtics game in Boston because it was my only opportunity to see my favorite team play live. We had those tickets months in advance, and the game just so happened to fall right after the Artest trade went through. It was also Wally Szczerbiak’s Boston Celtics debut, but that is neither here nor there.
The Kings went 17-24 before the Artest trade, and went 27-14 after the Artest trade. That move propelled the Kings into the eighth seed, beating out the Utah Jazz by three games.
Twitter wasn’t a thing back then. I frequented (and still frequent) KingsFans.Com in those days to talk about the team, and everyone was legitimately excited about playing the Spurs in the first round. The Spurs were the best team in the Western Conference all year (some things never change) but the Kings were hot. Most of the NBA analysts on TV those days thought the Kings could pull off an upset here. I thought so too.
The Kings were destroyed 122-88 in game one. It was terrible, and it was about to get worse.
Ron Artest was suspended for game two because of a ‘forearm to the head’ of Manu Ginobili that occurred in the third quarter. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find the Artest forearm on YouTube. I remember being somewhat shocked by the suspension. It felt like a reputation suspension more than anyone else. This was Ron Artest. The NBA hated Ron Artest (for somewhat good reason, to be fair), but as Sacramento Kings fan, this was a major bummer. Blown out in game one, Artestless in game two.
For what it’s worth, I was able to find a Ginobili elbow that landed on Artest in the first quarter. I’m not bitter, I swear.
Game two was amazing.
started in Ron Artest absence, and he delivered 26 points in 45 minutes. He went to the free throw line TEN times. Do you know how rare it is for a second year guard to get to the line in the playoffs ten times? Against the Spurs? It doesn’t happen. That is the Kevin Martin we would get to know quite well.
Also, I hated
after this game. His dumb corner three that bounced off everything before going in at the end of regulation will haunt me forever.
Bonzi Wells was also amazing. He was amazing all series, really, but more on that later. The Kings played tough without Artest, but fell to the Spurs 128-119 in overtime. The Kings head back to Sacramento down 0-2.
Game three can boiled down to one clip. Watch it, then watch it again.
This play, man. Artest’s defense here was phenomenal. Ginobili had to start his move from half court, and just amazing awareness and help defense from
to knock the ball loose. Of course, that finish by Martin around
was not easy. I miss these days.
Bonzi Wells was fantastic again in game four. The Kings defeated the Spurs 102-84, and it was never really in doubt. The homer in my teenage self was feeling pretty good at this point. The Kings had tied the series up at 2-2, and could have easily been up 3-1 if it weren’t for that ridiculous Brent Barry corner three. I’M NOT BITTER.
Game five was THE Bonzi Wells game. 38 points and 12 rebounds on .650 shooting. Is that good? I think that’s good. Unfortunately Wells and Artest were the only Kings who really showed up in this one. They were able to tie the game with about three minutes left, but the Spurs buckled down and really dominated crunch time.
I was afraid that the team had finally run out of gas. The Kings weren’t supposed to beat the Spurs, and they didn’t. Game six was a relatively easy 105-83 Spurs victory, but this series was close.
Sacramento fell in love with Ron Artest after that. His defense down the stretch and throughout the playoffs was absolutely incredible. It was unlike anything I had ever really seen. He earned a spot on the All-Defensive First Team for his efforts, and even offered to donate his salary towards whatever it would cost the Kings to retain Bonzi Wells after his herculean playoff performance. After Wells signed with Houston, Artest turned his attention toward Rick Adelman, offering to donate his salary there as well.
Adelman was not brought back. Eric Musselman was hired in his place, and the rest is history.
Here we are, nine years, seven coaches, two owners, and exactly zero playoff appearances later. I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but Sacramento will get back to the playoffs someday. We’re due.
Until then, enjoy the playoffs. I have a feeling these are going to be good.
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