DETROIT — The Sacramento Kings are in a constant quest for respect in their turnaround season, a battle that extends beyond the field and onto the sidelines.
Sometimes it spills out onto the field from the sidelines when first-year head coach Mike Brown was ejected a few nights ago in Toronto for angrily contesting a series of appeals that went against of his team.
The reaction was certainly overdone, and for what it’s worth, the Kings bounced back to defeat the Raptors as Brown watched from the locker room. It cost him $25,000 in fines from the NBA, but it probably earned him a lot of respect and admiration from his players.
“Every time we step on the ground, we have to prove our worth,” Brown said Friday night before the Kings beat the Pistons. “There’s a part of me that doesn’t like that this happened because I’m the first to tell our guys, ‘Hey, no excuses.'”
Rarely do you hear a coach recognize what is in plain sight. While Brown was racking up rings as a member of Golden State’s coaching staff, the Kings were in the wilderness — a perennial lottery team since 2006 and their last playoff victory was two years prior.
But Brown, in his fourth position as head coach, pushed this team to become one of the best offensive units in the league. Brown has long been considered an excellent defensive tactician, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007.
He has the Kings spraying the ball on the floor, leaving teams lopsided recalling his time at Golden State and San Antonio – the latter where he spent time under Gregg Popovich from 2000 to 2003.
They are expected to do more than just compete, and Brown holds them to that standard.
“Even if the referees have a bad night, we have a bad night or, you know, the buses broke down. Hey, let’s go,” Brown said. “Because we’re in a good, ‘Let’s believe.’ You know, having that belief no matter what is huge, especially if you want to take it to the next level.
This is a large enough sample size to believe that what is seen is sustainable. Keegan Murray is an impressive rookie, with plenty of room to grow. Malik Monk adds instant scoring and Harrison Barnes has some championship sense.
Domantas Sabonis was acquired in a trade with Tyrese Haliburton last season, a trade that could be described as a win for both teams.
He and De’Aaron Fox have been working magic together, with Fox arguably having his best season — at least his best from the standpoint of driving game-winning basketball — and the two should be given strong All-Consideration. Star this season.
Brown chasing the officials began when Fox received a technical on a free throw; Fox was walking away from the official, an act Brown said officials usually let slip.
“Awesome, man, just knowing your coach has your back through thick and thin,” Fox said after the Kings used a third-quarter push to beat the Pistons, 122-113, at Little Caesars Arena to end a long swing on the eastern road at 3-3. “It starts from the top, goes top to bottom, trying to build a culture.”
They are on track to surpass last season’s modest 30-win campaign, more than half of that mark so far.
Whether it’s the media boogeyman, opposing fans or even officials, teams feel it and want the respect and recognition to grow into a credible franchise. Fox feels it – literally.
“I go in the lane and get hit a lot,” Fox said. “So if we don’t have that respect, for us it’s just about going out there and winning every game.”
The Kings were called “Kangz” for their dysfunctional ways, and even in his heyday, Shaquille O’Neal derisively called them the “Queens” during the height of the controversial and entertaining Lakers-Kings rivalry of the early 2000s.
But that quest for respect became vocal, with Brown still self-aware enough to turn the camera inward.
“And just as I ask players to go out there and fight and compete, and earn the stripes and the respect that we think we deserve, I have to fight and compete and do the same with them,” said he declared. . “And we’re going to get that respect someday.”
It could happen a day sooner than anyone ever imagined.
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