Jason Ross: Sacramento Kings Opening Night Primer

The NBA season starts tonight for the Sacramento Kings in Phoenix – making this the 32nd season opener for the Kings.

It all started in Sacramento on October 25, 1985 against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Kings lost on that opening night, 108-104, with Derek Smith leading the way with 36 points for the Clippers.  That point total is still the highest ever against the Sacramento Kings for an individual on opening night. 

Derek Smith, in fact, would start the next season for the Sacramento Kings. The opening night starting lineup for coach Phil Johnson and the Kings included: Eddie Johnson, Reggie Theus, Larry Drew, LaSalle Thompson and Otis Thorpe. Theus scored the first basket in Kings history and led the team that night with 24 points.

Opening night record

The Kings are 15-16 on season openers. They have lost their last two openers and three of their last four. The Kings had two different five-game win streaks over a stretch of seasons where they won the first game of the year. Their longest streak of losses on the opening night is six from 2004-2009.

Big Scoring nights to start the season

We mentioned earlier that the first ever game for the Sacramento Kings still features the highest point total by an opponent when Derek Smith scored 36 against the Kings in the 1985 opener. Other notable games by opponents in the season’s first game include: Clyde Drexler in 1996 with the Rockets had 25 points/10 rebounds/9 assists and 10 steals for a monster triple double and near quadruple double. Kevin Garnett in 1999 scored 34 against the Kings, Dirk hit 33 in 2004, Kobe 29 in 2011 and last year Blake Griffin started the campaign with 33 points.

For the Kings, the best opening scoring nights include: 33 from Reggie Theus on Halloween of 1986, 31 the next season from Otis Thorpe, Rodney McCray netted 30 in 1989, DeMarcus Cousins scored 30 in the opener of 2013 and last year he topped that with 32 against the Clippers. The biggest surprise to me is that neither Mitch Richmond or Chris Webber ever hit 30 points on the season’s opening night with the Kings.

Starting Lineups

Vlade Divac, Mitch Richmond, Peja Stojakovic and DeMarcus Cousins all share the honor of the most opening day starts with the Sacramento Kings at six. Cousins will pass that mark tonight with his seventh straight opening day start.  Wayman Tisdale, Mike Bibby, Chris Webber, and Brad Miller all had five opening day starts with the Sacramento Kings.

Here are some of the more strange opening day starting lineups from over the years for the Kings:

  • In 1990, the Kings behind Dick Motta started Rory Sparrow, Bobby Hansen, Lionel Simmons, Wayman Tisdale and Bill Wennington on opening night. 
  • The season after losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals the Kings started Bobby Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu, Peja, C.Webb and Vlade. Not that strange a lineup but on that opening day, Damon Jones led the Kings in scoring with 18 off the bench.  The only time in the Kings history in Sacramento that a bench player led them in scoring on opening night. 
  • There was the night in 2007 when Orien Greene was the starter at point guard.  Maurice Evans got the nod in 2004, Desmond Mason and Sean May in 2009, James Johnson in 2012 and Greivis Vasquez in 2013.

All in all, this makes up part of the Kings history in Sacramento and more of that will be written tonight in Phoenix.  Enjoy the game and the season.

Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. PT

Listen Live on Sports 1140 KHTK

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