Mike Brown and the Kings are fighting for respect from opponents, fans, and even referees
DETROIT — The Sacramento Kings are constantly looking for respect in their turnaround season, and it’s a battle that extends beyond the court and onto the sidelines.
Sometimes it actually seeps onto the field from the sidelines when first-year head coach Mike Brown was fired a few nights ago in Toronto for angrily objecting to a series of calls made against his team.
The reaction was definitely over the top, and, importantly, the Kings rebounded to beat the Raptors by watching Brown from the locker room. It cost him $25,000 in fines from the NBA, but it likely earned him a lot of respect and admiration from his players.
“Every time we hit the ground, we have to prove our worth,” Brown said Friday night before the Kings defeated the Pistons. “There’s a part of me that doesn’t like that to happen because I’m the first to tell our guys, ‘Hey, no excuses.'”
You rarely hear a coach admit what is in plain sight. While the Browns have been hoisting the rings as a member of Golden State’s coaching staff, the Kings have been on the wild-card perennial lottery team since 2006 and their last playoff series win was two years earlier.
But the Browns, in his fourth stint as coach, successfully nurtured this team into one of the best offensive units in the league. Brown has long been known as an excellent defensive tactician, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007.
He has the Kings splash the ball around the grounds, leaving teams lopsided reminiscent of his time at Golden State and San Antonio – where he spent time under Gregg Popovich from 2000 to 2003.
There is an expectation to do more than just compete, and Brown holds them to that standard.
“Even if the umpires are having a bad night, we’re having a bad night or, you know, the buses broke down. Let’s go get it done,” Brown said. You know, having that belief no matter what is huge, especially if you want to take that to the next level.”
It is a large enough sample size to believe that what is being seen is sustainable. Keegan Murray is an impressive debutant, with plenty of room to grow. Malik Monk adds some spot goals and Harrison Barnes has some championship finesse.
Domantas Sabonis was acquired in a deal for Tyrese Haliburton last season, a deal that could be described as a win for both teams.
He and De’Aaron Fox have made some magic together, as Fox is having arguably his best season – at least his best from a winning basketball standpoint – and both should be getting some serious All-Star attention this season.
The Browns chased after the officials started when Fox was given a technical report on a free throw; Fox would walk away from the official, an act Brown said officials usually let slip.
Fox said after the Kings used a huge third-quarter surge to beat the Pistons, 122-113, at Little Caesars Arena to end a long eastern road swing at 3-3. “It starts at the top, and goes from the top to the bottom, when trying to build a culture.”
They’re well on their way to surpassing last season’s mediocre 30-win campaign, more than halfway across that mark so far.
Whether it’s the media man, the opposing fans or even the officials, teams feel that and want the respect and recognition to become a trusted franchise. The fox feels it – literally.
“I go into the lane and hit really hard,” said Fox. “So if we don’t have that respect, for us it’s just about going out and winning every game.”
The Kings were dubbed “Kangs” for their dysfunctional ways, and even in their heyday, Shaquille O’Neal called them “Queens” during the height of the controversial and entertaining Lakers-Kings rivalry in the early 2000s.
But this quest for respect becomes candid, with Brown still perceptive enough to turn the camera inward.
“Just as I tell the players to go out there and fight and compete, earning the stripes and the respect we feel we deserve, I have to fight and compete and do the same for them,” he said. . “And we’ll go get that respect someday.”
That one day may come sooner than anyone expected.
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