As the summer months commence their closing stretch, the NBA schedule for the 2022-23 season was released yesterday to the momentary relief of impatient basketball fans everywhere.
For those with allegiance to the Kings, the anticipation must produce a mix of both enthusiasm and anxiety, if not one or the other exclusively. After all, it’s another season, a fresh chance for something different, with feelings of—if one dares to say it—hope, especially after discernible improvements have been made. However, there are still daunting challenges of ending a playoff drought accompanied by fears of keeling over and simply adding another year to it while the nightmare continues.
But before either getting lost in the clouds with a head full of optimism or getting bogged down in the pessimistic swamp, it might be best to take a moment to just absorb the newly released schedule and savor the imminent return of basketball.
Here are some highlights worth noting.
After 4 preseason contests, Sacramento will host Portland on Wednesday, October 19th for opening night, providing the first regular season look at this team in action. After showing signs of promise to close last year following the acquisition of Domantas Sabonis to pair alongside De’Aaron Fox, observers will begin to learn and feel out what they’re capable of.
Of course, other substantial additions include sharpshooters Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk as well as the drafting of Keegan Murray at No. 4 overall. Placing them among the aforementioned duo—plus guys like Harrison Barnes, Davion Mitchell, Trey Lyles, Richaun Holmes, and Terence Davis—with a new coaching staff under Mike Brown, and it’s understandable why the Kings are undoubtedly an interesting team to keep an eye on.
Out of the first 5 games, 4 are at home. For the second game of the year, Sacramento hosts the Clippers on the 22nd before heading to San Francisco on the 23rd to take on the champion Warriors. As Mike Brown returns to the Chase Center, it will also be the Kings’ first road game as well as their first second of a back-to-back.
They have 15 pairs of back-to-back’s scheduled this upcoming season, comprised of 5 each of road-road, home-home, and mixed sets. That’s the second most total back-to-back’s in the league. After one in each of the first two months, the Kings have 3 back-to-back’s in December, 2 in January, 3 in February, and 5 in the final 6 weeks of the season.
Amid a 3-game road trip on the East Coast, the Kings will visit the Magic on November 5th in a game where the 4th overall pick will take on the 1st overall selection. Murray and Paolo Banchero faced off in the Summer League in a relatively memorable exhibition game that saw Neemias Queta drill a three-ball, which allowed the 4th pick to follow it up with a game-tying three to send it to overtime. Banchero and the Magic won in the end, and though the result is meaningless, a regular season matchup seems poised to impress.
As for the other three top-5 selections in June’s draft, just a few weeks later Murray and the Kings will host Jaden Ivey and the Pistons on November 20th, allowing those with praise and those with criticism, as well as those stuck in the middle, to feast their eyes on the two best players available when it was Sacramento’s turn to pick.
Jabari Smith Jr. and the Rockets will visit on January 11th in a nationally televised game (more on those later), and then a little over a week after that, on January 20th, Chet Holmgren and the Thunder come to town.
There are 2 separate 3-game road trips to the East Coast fairly early in the season, one starting at the end of October into November (CHA, MIA, ORL) and the other in late November (MEM, ATL, BOS). The second trip includes the adored road back-to-back between Memphis and Atlanta.
However, as fans know, things can get worse. More ominous than those early 3-gamers is the 6-game trip in mid-December. That stretch starts in Milwaukee on the 7th before hitting Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia with Toronto the next night, and ending in Detroit on the 16th before coming home for the bulk of the holidays.
And worse, there’s a tough 7-game road trip that begins in late January and into February. It begins with 2 games over 3 nights on January 28th and 30th in Minnesota against the new partnership of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. This is followed by a trip to San Antonio on the 1st of February before Sabonis returns to Indiana against Tyrese Haliburton (more on him later) and the Pacers. Then comes a back-to-back from New Orleans to Houston before closing the trip with another game against the Rockets.
Twice on that trip do the Kings play 2 games in 3 nights on the road against the same team and in the same town, meaning there’s an off-day with no travel in between. It also happens at the end of February in Oklahoma City and in Portland later in March.
What’s interesting is that it is being featured twice in a long road trip because it raises the question as to whether it could take a load off the traveling if the team is only going to 5 cities total. Of course, it’s still professional basketball on the road with a back-to-back wedged in the middle: nothing’s easy.
By the time the All-Star break passes, the Kings heavier stretches of travel appear to be behind them for the most part. Though there is still a moiling four game road trip in mid-March—which, if things go right for Sacramento, could be in the thick of a battle for a play-in and/or playoff spot—starting in Chicago on the 15th with Brooklyn right behind it on the 16th, then Washington, and off to Utah on the 20th before catching a flight for a game against the Celtics at home the next night. And then there’s also the fact that 5 of the final 7 games are on the road, so challenges persist at lurking in every corner.
As alluded to a few times already, the Kings are scheduled to play 5 nationally televised games. On December 28th, on the second of a back-to-back, Sacramento will host Denver on NBA TV. The Rockets come in on January 11th for a game on ESPN. Later that month on the 23rd, the Grizzlies visit for a contest on NBA TV. And then in March the Kings play the Pelicans on the 6th and the Celtics on the 21st, both at home and on NBA TV.
Other notable games include the following:
November 11th @ Los Angeles Lakers
For one, this is the first matchup with the Lakers for the season ahead, but it is also Malik Monk’s return to his former team in their home building. It’s also interesting due to the fact it’ll be the first glimpse at Darvin Ham as a head coach. Ham was among the 7 candidates being interviewed virtually for the Kings’ head coaching vacancy. Additionally, fans will get to see Damian Jones again despite the pain of seeing him in a Lakers uniform. And, for fun, Mike Brown will return to the city where he last made the playoffs as a full-time head coach.
November 23rd @ Atlanta
Similar to the above note on Monk’s return to LA, this game will be Kevin Huerter’s return to his former team. Different than Monk, who signed with Sacramento, Huerter was traded, calling the sudden change his “official welcome to the NBA moment.” Returning to the team that traded him could produce a performance worth watching from the sharpshooter.
November 30th vs Pacers
Conversely, some familiar faces will be making their return to the Golden 1 Center for the first time. Tyrese Haliburton will come back to play in front of Kings fans for the first time ever in another uniform, and Buddy Hield will be doing so for the first time since his time as a rookie in New Orleans. Both left some kind of imprint on the organization, but the return of Haliburton in particular is packed with loads of anticipation.
December 9th @ Cleveland
Since the subject of returns remains fresh, this will be Mike Brown’s first return to Cleveland, which was where he was last employed as a head coach for the 2013-14 season and where he prominently spent an earlier stretch of five seasons between 2005-10 amassing many of his head coaching victories as well as a trip to the Finals.
December 21st vs Lakers
This will be their first visit to the Golden 1 Center and it will be the first opportunity for fans to scowl at LeBron James and the Lakers.
December 30th vs Jazz
Fans will get a firsthand look at another guy who was on the Kings initial list of coaching candidates. Replacing Quin Snyder and leading Utah as the franchise heads in a whole new direction, Will Hardy is a young head coach any NBA fan might consider keeping an eye on, especially if your team considered bringing him on.
February 3rd @ Indiana
As mentioned, this is Sabonis’ return to the town where he transformed into a two-time all-star. The big man had just hurt his knee and did not travel with the team when Sacramento visited last March, so this has been long awaited. Being perhaps the best player on this Kings team, his return in particular could also be very entertaining.
The 2023 NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, Utah. Could we possibly see Fox, Sabonis, or both suit up for this honorary game?
April 9th @ Denver
This is the final game of the season, a potentially big day for those with high hopes.