The Beam Team Kings restored faith to Sacramento


The Sacramento Kings’ win beam was a spectacular disaster waiting in the wings.

This summer, the Kings announced the addition of a purple light that would shine directly into the air from the Golden 1 Center after each Sacramento victory.

Non-major market teams employ gimmicks like this to inspire new fans and re-engage existing ones, but typically, they act as distractions from a below-average product on the floor.

A team that last eclipsed the .500 mark in 2006 chose to use a beam in the sky to signify wins.

That requires brash foresight from the Kings organization.

Yet somehow, a team marred by ineptitude avoided creating a frivolous garnish that serves more as a reminder of loss than a signifier of wins.

Instead, the Kings brought to life the Beam Team, driven by a fun, cohesive roster, a rejuvenated head coach and a fanbase starved of meaningful basketball.

Sacramento’s playoff drought ends in 2023 after winning the Pacific Division and securing a home postseason series in the process.

Naysayers might want to discredit the Kings’ championship potential, but Sacramento’s season is an ice cream sundae: it’s about joy, not sustenance.

The Kings could lose four straight games by 50 points and any Kings fan would turn around and look at this campaign with a smile–well, okay, maybe that wouldn’t be so great against the Warriors of all teams.

No, the regular season was not Sacramento’s championship.

But it serves as a reminder to a group of loyal sports fans in northern California that darkness can only last so long.

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About 20 years ago, Chris Webber fell to the court with a non-contact knee injury that sidelined the Kings star for just shy of a calendar year, signaling, in hindsight, the end of the Kings successful stretch in the early 2000s.

A simple lack of star talent plagued the Kings for years prior and many seasons following.

From 1985, when the Kings arrived in Sacramento, to the 2022 season, the organization offered just six All-Stars to the history books.

Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac–he’ll come back later–and Webber act as stewards of the hearty days of the Kings’ early 2000s run.

Mitch Richmond was the Band-aid on a garbage bag of a six-year run that included exactly zero 40-win seasons.

DeMarcus Cousins was the last star that took the task of revitalizing a broken team, and despite his valiant efforts, vitriolic passion and vulgar language, his tenure ended with a winning percentage below .400 in Sacramento.

That context paints a better picture for the love De’Aaron Fox and Domas Sabonis deservedly receive from local and national media alike.

Fox’s story is one of completion: rounding out incredible talent and athleticism into a decisive young leader.

Fox’s team-leading 25.2 points per game and 1.2 steals per game don’t explain his success nearly enough.

When his team needs him, he shows up.

Fox leads every starter in the NBA with 5.0 clutch points per game. His field goal percentage goes up nearly a point-and-a-half down the stretch. His free throw shooting goes from around 77 percent to upwards of 85 percent.

Compare that to his clutch stats last season when his field goal percentage dipped nearly five percent in late game situations.

Perhaps part of that growth is because Fox no longer feels the need to bear that load alone.

If Fox is the gas pedal, Sabonis is the engine.

Sabonis’ high-post ability, both in passing and scoring senses, offers an invaluable security blanket to nearly every possession.

Sabonis makes two-thirds of his shots within eight feet of the basket, and he averages 7.2 assists per game ranks 12th in the league to pair with the second-most triple-doubles by any player.

The Fox-Sabonis buddy-cop movie proves the importance of balance within star talent, and the Kings reinforce their impressive compatibility every night on the floor which is a welcome sight after little success in that department for the better part of four decades.

…oh, also Brad Miller. He was an All-Star, too. 2004.

About 14 years ago, the Sacramento Kings owned a league-worst 17-65 record yet fell to the fourth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, narrowly missing All-NBA talent in Blake Griffin and James Harden and setting a tone of draft malaise–partly from luck and partly from ineptitude–for the organization.

When your team plays in a largely unexciting mid-market with somewhat shallow basketball history like Sacramento, it can be hard to lure top talent.

That’s where the NBA Draft comes into play, and it is perhaps the apex of Kangz-ian failure.

Despite being terrible in the aggregate for around 40 years, the Kings have made only one No. 1 overall selection: Pervis Ellison.

Yes, it is insanely easy to make fun of Sacramento’s draft history amid its postseason drought.

It’s so easy to tease that it’s almost not fun to enumerate. But, if you did, it would go something like:

  • Accepting $11 million in extra salary and moving down three picks in 2011 to select not Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson, but Jimmer Fredette
  • Following it up the next season by selecting Thomas Robinson, certified glass eater, over Damian Lillard
  • Going on a stretch from 2013 to 2015 that included first round selections of Ben McLemore, Sauce Castillo and Willie Cauley-Stein
  • Trading back in 2016 to secure Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson and Skal Labissiere
  • Dumping Mr. Castillo and a handful of other players as well as pick swaps that, in turn, moved the Kings down two spots to the fifth pick and trading down out of the tenth pick to select Justin Jackson and Harry Giles
  • Vehemently denying, despite all of my cries, the chance to draft Luka Doncic in favor of Marvin Bagley

And that all happened in under a decade.

Yet, the NBA draft has distinctly shaped the Beam Team.

Ironically, it begins with 2017’s swap fiasco that led the Kings to take Fox.

The blossoming of 12th-overall selection Tyrese Haliburton allowed a rare win-win trade between the Kings and the Indiana Pacers that brought Sabonis to Sacramento.

Davion Mitchell and Keegan Murray are both pivotal pieces of the rotation that Sacramento selected directly in the first round.

Even as one of the biggest flops in recent years, Bagley was shipped to Detroit for Trey Lyles who aids Sabonis and Murray in key minutes nearly every game.

It is impossible to ignore how many draft failures deterred the Kings from returning to the postseason earlier than this.

But now, a handful of strong picks has directly crafted the team that ends that drought.

About eight years ago, the Kings fired Michael Malone and then hired Tyrone Corbin and then fired Tyrone Corbin and then hired George Karl–all in a single season–en route to 29 wins.

Since Rick Adelman left his post as head coach of the Kings in 2006, ten different coaches have manned the sidelines in Sacramento to varying degrees of mediocrity.

Multiple former coaches–Karl and Paul Westphal–reportedly failed to meet eye to eye with the former star Cousins, leading to a firing.

Another–Michael Malone–was nixed despite efforts to mend that bridge.

But the most recent entrant from the revolving door created a cohesion that Kings fans haven’t seen in nearly 20 years.

Mike Brown’s resume makes for one of the most confusing in the league.

He got his first shot as an NBA head coach at just 35 years old, and his job was one of the most important: help turn all-time basketball prospect LeBron James into a winner in Cleveland.

The task was as ambitious as it was difficult given the Cavaliers’ roster outside of James and the brutally emotional team ownership of Dan Gilbert.

Brown was fired in what was likely an attempt to persuade James to stick around.

That didn’t work, and then Gilbert penned a letter denouncing James’ departure as a “cowardly betrayal,” re-hired Brown just over two years later, called the original firing a mistake, and then fired Brown again the next season.

Oh, and in the meantime, Brown spent two seasons coaching one of the most overhyped yet underwhelming teams of all-time with the Los Angeles Lakers led by Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

Brown seemed only to be the main character in his own story when somebody else needed a scapegoat.

The exact opposite could be said of his tenure with the Golden State Warriors.

Associate head coach Luke Walton left in 2016 to become head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, so former Lakers coach Brown stepped into Walton’s former role.

Blossoming stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green led by head coach Steve Kerr commanded all the attention while Brown was able to hone his craft and contribute to a winning culture.

Getting canned once happens to most NBA head coaches. Getting canned twice makes for a hard sell at the next interview. Getting canned three times typically means the phone will stop ringing.

But Brown and the Kings shared one common goal that drove the eventual hiring: reclamation.

The Kings players have sung his praises, and soon, Brown will all but certainly win NBA Coach of the Year.

After years of failure and more years of learning, Brown put a stamp on one of Sacramento’s most important basketball teams ever.

About six years ago, then-president of basketball operations Vlade Divac traded All-Star Cousins before admitting to having a better offer for the big man on the table just days prior.

In the NBA, over half of the league makes the playoffs.

You have to specifically stink to miss for over a decade and a half–you don’t just fall into that.

If the NBA was a local newscast, the Kings were that weird commercial for Uncle Eddy’s Sandwich Shop that looked like it was filmed on a flip phone.

There seems to be a general lack of respect for the Kings organization throughout the media landscape, and that’s probably because the Kings have seemingly not respected themselves for some time.

Constant turnover from coaching to management to ownership has proven to be mostly fruitless in turning the losing tides, but since Monte McNair arrived late in the summer of 2020, the Kings have made coherent and deliberate moves to change that narrative.

McNair’s tenure began unceremoniously, failing to finalize a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks for Bogdan Bogdanovic before opting not to match an offer sheet placed on him by the Atlanta Hawks.

Letting a proven talent like Bogdanovic walk for nothing in free agency felt like more of the same in Sacramento, but that changed.

Two months after being hired, McNair inked Fox to a long-term extension to secure a guard spot.

McNair worked to replace the lost backcourt help through the draft with guards like Haliburton and Mitchell in back-to-back years.

The 2022 trade deadline was McNair’s biggest lunge. Of course, he facilitated a deal that centered around a flip of Haliburton and Sabonis, but he also cut bait on Bagley in exchange for late draft picks and Lyles.

The first move felt like a kick to the stomach after finally nailing a potential superstar in the draft. It got even worse when the second move was a reminder of how the Kings almost never manage to do that.

But, in hindsight, both added key cogs to the Beam Team.

The 2022 offseason was a hole-filling masterclass. Drafting Murray, signing Malik Monk, and then trading a protected first-round pick for Kevin Huerter, all of whom are critical rotational pieces for the Kings, nailed down the final necessary spots of the roster.

McNair even avoided potential disaster in the head coaching hiring process. While the Kings were inexplicably linked to Mark Jackson, a coach whose most notable career points include being fired by a team that won a championship the following season, they instead went for Brown.

Critically, the media and fans did not praise all of these moves immediately. Allowing proven talent to leave for nothing, hiring a three-times fired head coach, and trading away a budding young star do not exactly instill instant excitement.

You know what does, though? Winning.

About three years ago, under the tutelage of head coach Luke Walton, the Kings received an invitation to join the NBA bubble amidst Covid-19 spread to compete for a spot in the playoffs. They went 3-5 and failed to qualify.

Even when they’ve gotten close, the Kings have never tied the bow on a fully productive season.

Before Michael Malone was fired in 2014, the Kings began the season 9-6.

After a hot start, DeMarcus Cousins missed two weeks with a virus, and by the time he recovered, one of his favorite coaches was no longer with the organization.

Is 9-6 a particularly impressive feat? No, but it was much better than what Kings fans had been used to watching up to that point.

No matter what happened in those 16 years, the Kings could never turn the corner.

Yet, the fans never turned their back on them.

The cheapest tickets you can find for the Kings-Warriors Game One are around $350.

This game means more to a viciously loyal group of fans than one could even imagine.

It’s one thing to sit in the cellar of the NBA and knock on the door a handful of times.

It’s a whole other thing to lay motionless in the cellar and actively apply more Gorilla Glue on yourself to make sure you never leave for 16 years.

Despite all of the ineptitude, Sacramentans kept cheering.

Now, the Sacramento Kings will host a home playoff series, their first since 2004, breaking a postseason drought that spanned nearly two decades.

There are kids from that town that are in high school who are experiencing their first Kings playoff series.

After a literal lifetime of failure–from poor talent to mismanaged drafts to management miscues to coaching debacles–Kings fans are officially rewarded for their patience.

The future is uncertain, always. There are no guarantees in the NBA, and the Kings may return to irrelevance in a millisecond because anything can happen.

But the present? The present says the Kings are a top three seed in the Western Conference and poised to entertain a crowd of raucous basketball heads on Saturday in the Golden 1 Center.

Fox and Sabonis will lead a cohesive group of veterans and young players alike through the tunnel and look to Brown on the sidelines while McNair watches from above at the roster he helped build.

And at the end of the night, after a long playoff battle, they just might light that fucking beam.

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For the best data on all player prop bets throughout the season, sign up for and use our code, LINETIME, for 25 percent off.

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