One of the most relieving breaks in the monotony of an offseason stranded in the middle of August is the official release of the NBA schedule. And this week, it’s here, ready to guide basketball fans away from the void between one season and the next.
Let’s dive right into it.
Kings fans learned a bit earlier that their team would open up on October 25 in Utah before coming toThe Golden 1 Center for a Friday night home opener against the Warriors on ESPN, the first of 22 total nationally televised games. That total includes NBA TV games, but more important to highlight is the fact that five will be broadcast on ESPN and six will be on TNT.
That’s a notable bump in terms of exposure on a national stage. Last season, the Kings were delegated just five total, and all but one of them were on NBA TV—which, as one can tell, does not carry the same prestige as the other channels—with the lone exception being a mid-week game in January against the Rockets that was scheduled to be on ESPN before ultimately getting pulled to nobody’s chagrin.
As a playoff team and one of the clubs that should be vying for a spot near the top of their conference, the Kings appeared to be fairly treated. Of course, that has practically everything to do with the fact Sacramento finally emerged as a winner, but it also has to do with the riveting style the group exhibits on the floor.
Like last season, they’ll again have 15 back-to-back’s, which they can claim as being tied for the most among the league, though the not-so-distant figure of 13 is the fewest a team has. Still, a game or two in the standings can make all the difference, so it’s critical to keep in mind. Furthermore, seven of those pairs of back-to-back’s fall in the final 28 games following the all-star break. In other words slightly less than half of their back-to-back’s populate about one-third of the season.
But that’s sort of a matter of balance because the first two-thirds of the season feature 23 scheduled home games and 30 road games, which is made up for by the fact that 17 of the final 28 games are going to be played at home.
Shifting the attention to the road, Sacramento will face eight road trips of three or more contests. Alongside four three-gamers, the Kings will have one of each of a 4-, 5-, 6-, and 7-game roadie.
The six-game trip comes in mid-November and goes until the day after Thanksgiving on the 24th of the month. They’ll go down to play the Lakers, head east out to San Antonio, then play in Dallas before playing two in New Orleans, and they’ll finish off up in Minnesota. The games against the Spurs and Timberwolves will be two of the four in-season group play games for the newly implemented—and entirely arbitrary—tournament (more on that in a minute).
That along with two three-gamers fall before the turn of the new year with the other five coming after. In fact, once 2024 comes along, the road trips will come at them in full force.
In early to mid-January, the Kings will hit Detroit, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Phoenix. But here’s the kicker: after that, they’ll have two games at home before embarking on their seven-game trip that’ll take them to San Francisco, Dallas, Memphis, Miami, Indiana, Chicago, and Cleveland. Then they’ll have two more home games before riding into the All-Star break with a three-game trip that goes from Oklahoma City to Phoenix and then up to Denver. Between January 9 and the break, Sacramento will play 15 of 19 games on the road.
There will then be a three-game trip well into March, which isn’t all that crazy, but then they will have a four-game east coast trip in early April that will have them traveling to New York, Boston, and Brooklyn before going to OKC.
Of course, as already alluded to, the big difference this year is the first ever NBA Cup that features an in-season tournament precipitated by four group stage games. There are six groups and the group play games will occur amid the season throughout the month of November on Tuesday’s and Friday’s. The top team from each group along with two wildcard teams will advance to an elimination tournament scheduled between December 4 and 9. The semifinal and final will be held in Las Vegas.
Sacramento is in a group with the Warriors, Timberwolves, Thunder, and Spurs. Group stage games go as follows: Oklahoma City will visit on November 10, the Kings will visit the Spurs on the 17th and the Timberwolves on the 24th prior to playing at home against Golden State on the 28th.
As noted in this space before, the in-season tournament has a predictable goal, and while it does feel completely unnecessary, it’s another one of those things fans will just get used to.
Excluding those noted group stage games, here are some other key contests:
– Oct. 25 @ Utah: Opening night. What more could you ask for?
– Oct. 27 vs. Golden State: Not only is this the home opener, it’s a chance for the Kings to play the team that knocked them out of the playoffs in April. Moreover, Draymond Green will face The Golden 1 Center crowd again. No wonder this will be the main card for ESPN’s first Friday night of the NBA season.
– Nov. 19 @ Dallas: The Kings will get their first glimpse at Richaun Holmes in a Mavericks uniform. Also, they’ll get to see Olivier-Maxence Prosper, who was selected at the 24th spot in the draft that went to Dallas in the trade that moved Holmes. Not a blockbuster necessarily, but worth noting.
– Dec. 2 vs. Denver: The champions come to town. Besides that, it’ll be fun to watch Jokic and Sabonis play against one another. They faced off in only one of three contests between the two teams. The first time they missed each other was because of Sabonis’ avulsion fracture—his lone absence—and the second because it was the final game of the regular season and the big Serbian did not suit up.
– Dec. 22 vs. Phoenix: It’ll be the first matchup with the Suns, which not only means Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, but also Bradley Beal, whom the Kings pursued this offseason before Phoenix snagged him. Oh, Sac will also see old friend Chimezie Metu again.
– Jan. 18 vs. Indiana: Kings-Pacers games will always carry some added weight. They’ve made a few notable moves over the last year and a half. Of course, there’s Sabonis-Haliburton, but it will be the first time the Pacers see Chris Duarte in another NBA uniform. (They’ll play again in Indiana a few weeks later on Feb. 2.)
– Feb. 18; the All-Star Game in Indianapolis: Speaking of Indiana, that’s where All-Star festivities will be held. Fox and Sabonis made the cut for the All-Star team a season ago, Keegan Murray competed in the Rising Stars game, and Kevin Huerter—albeit in forgettable fashion—was a contestant in the three-point contest. What will 2024 have in store?
– April 14 vs. Portland: Okay, so games worth highlighting between March and the end of the year are difficult to pinpoint. There’s a good chance, given the Kings ability to compete, that all of those contests will be big games in some form. But on April 14 against the Trailblazers, it’ll be the last of the regular season, so there’s that.
But that’s pretty much it. No need to linger much longer on what feels like a pretty simple and widespread feeling of the season to come: people are just excited to see what heights the Sacramento Kings can climb to.