The Sacramento Kings are light years from a championship, but a handful of former employees are within arm’s reach.
22 former Kings and current NBA players earned playoff bids this season, as well as a slew of coaches. On Sunday the Los Angeles Clippers and five ex-Sacramento players (including assistant coach Mike Woodson) were booted from the sweepstakes, which left a select group of survivors.
But first, if local fans needed another reason to boo a division rival, it so happens the Western Conference Finals team without a single ex-King is the Golden State Warriors. The Eastern Conference finalist lacking Sacramento soul is the Atlanta Hawks.
The Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers each have three royal family members. Is this a coincidence, or a sound strategy for success? Hard to say.
The Rockets represent the only active former Kings in the playoffs in Jason Terry and Joey Dorsey. Terry joined Sacramento at the 2014 trade deadline but never donned a purple and black jersey. He was sent home to rehab his left knee and missed the last 29 games of the schedule.
Terry was expected to contribute to the Kings this season, but over the summer he shared his desire to suit up for a contender. Sacramento obliged and traded the last year of his contract to the Rockets, where he’s enjoyed a career renaissance. The 37-year-old is starting at point guard and producing 9.2 points on 44.9 percent shooting and solid on-ball defense in the playoffs.
As for Dorsey, the big man isn’t in the rotation, but he served as reliable depth in limited minutes for Houston in the regular season. The rim protector who made his league debut with the Rockets became a King at the deadline in 2010 when he was shipped over with Carl Landry. Dorsey logged 52 minutes with Sacramento before getting waived in March. The 31-year-old signed with the Raptors and played in Europe for four years before resurfacing with the Rockets last offseason.
The third former King in Houston is assistant coach T.R. Dunn. An NBA wing for 14 seasons, he served under leads Rick Adelman and Eric Musselman as a coach from 2004 to 2007. Dunn oversaw two playoff berths on Adelman’s staff.
The Cavaliers’ ex-Kings are all assistant coaches. Larry Drew, most recently a head coach for the Milwaukee Bucks, played five seasons for the Kansas City/Sacramento franchise and averaged 14.7 points, 6.4 assists and 1.4 steals.
Player development coach Vitaly Potapenko made 12 appearances between the 2005 and 2006 seasons as an ineffective center for the Kings. Shooting consultant Damon Jones notched 49 games for Sacramento the same year Chris Webber shredded his knee.
So that’s your super six. Six former Kings with various backgrounds, but the same bloodline. All but Terry have yet to win a championship, so the stakes in these conference finals are higher than ever.
A Cleveland-Houston showdown in June would make the Sacramento region proud once again. If anything, watching former Kings is a fair reason to tune in.