Kings

Doug Christie reveals story behind fight with Rick Fox in Kings-Lakers game

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AP

Doug Christie reveals story behind fight with Rick Fox in Kings-Lakers game

The Kings have missed the playoffs in each of the last 13 seasons. But before that drought began, they were one of the best teams in the NBA.

Back in the early 2000s, the Kings even had a bitter rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers defeated the Kings in seven games in the 2002 Western Conference finals and went on to win the NBA title that season. The following year, the teams met in the preseason and things got chippy between Doug Christie and Lakers forward Rick Fox.

In the latest episode of NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh's "Habershow" podcast which debuted Friday, Christie opened up about what happened on Oct. 25, 2002.

"So there was a lot of venom from the fact that there was a lot of talking going back and forth at that particular time," Christie, who is now an analyst for NBC Sports California, told Haberstroh. "And you know, they had won, and I think when you're competing against someone, you have an idea where you are in the pantheon of that. You know what I mean? And I think they felt us. And I think they might have felt we were a better team than they were. But they won. And they had to the two most dominant players probably of the era at the same time, in their alpha dog prime. So when you win, you usually don't have to say anything, 'I won.' But you're still talking.

"So, when we got to the preseason, you know they had the [Sacramento] Queens things, and Rick would always do little stuff and one of them is he would catch the ball at the pinch post, which is the elbow junction, and he would, as you were coming up -- now it's illegal -- he would pivot into you and hit my thigh. And for me, that's big because I'm moving around a lot. So it was just little stuff and in that particular time, I sold an offensive foul. He hit me and I fell down. So then he threw the ball at me and I caught it, so it didn't really hit me and I caught it. So as I got up, I hit him in the face with the ball all in one motion and that's when he kind of mushed me. As soon as he touched me, I just went 'Bang.' That was it."

Christie and the Kings never were able to get over the hump. That 2001-02 season was their best chance to win an NBA title and the Lakers got in the way.

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The Kings would make it back to the playoffs in each of the next four seasons but never made it out of the second round.

The fight between Christie and Fox will go down as arguably the greatest preseason NBA fight of all time.

Key Kings dates for NBA draft, free agency, extensions as offseason begins

Key Kings dates for NBA draft, free agency, extensions as offseason begins

The bubble experience is over.

For the 14th consecutive season, the Kings have missed the NBA playoffs. Following Thursday morning’s season finale 136-122 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Kings head directly to the airport and abandon the Disney World campus. That has been their home for the last five weeks and fly home to begin the offseason.

What lies ahead is the unknown. Will the Kings make an adjustment to their front office or coaching staff? Will they be active on the trade front and what do they do with all of their own free agents?

While there are plenty of questions hanging over the franchise, here is a quick rundown of the important dates that are just on the horizon.

Aug. 15-16: NBA play-in game(s).

Aug. 17: Early entry deadline for draft eligible prospects. This is the last day for prospects to enter the NBA Draft.

Aug. 17: NBA playoffs begin from the Orlando bubble.

Aug. 20: NBA Draft Lottery.

The NBA moved the draft lottery up to Aug. 20, which should give teams a window to really dig into the draft portion of the offseason. The league will revert records back to March 11 for the 14 lottery bound teams.

The Kings are currently tied with the Pelicans for the No. 12/13 spot in the lottery. The two teams will have almost the same lottery odds, but a coin flip will be held to determine who gets the higher of the two lottery positions.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Aug. 31: Conference Semifinals begin.

Sept. 15: Conference Finals begin.

Sept. 30: NBA Finals begin.

Oct. 6: Last day to withdraw from the NBA Draft.

Oct. 13: NBA Finals conclude (If Game 7 is necessary).

Oct. 16: NBA Draft.

Oct. 17 (3 PM PT): Final day for player/team options to be exercised.

Oct. 17: Final day for teams to extend Qualifying Offer to eligible players.

Oct. 17: Nemanja Bjelica’s $7.2 million contract with Kings becomes guaranteed.

Oct. 18 (3 PM PT) - NBA Free Agent negotiation period begins.

Oct. 18 - De’Aaron Fox becomes eligible for rookie scale extension.

Oct. 19-23 - NBA Free Agent moratorium period.

Oct. 23 (9 AM PT) - NBA Free Agency officially begins. Players can sign contracts, trades can be completed, offer sheets can be submitted.

Dec. 1 - Start of 2020-21 season. This is a tentative date that is likely to move back, at least a few weeks and as much as a month or two depending on a myriad of coronavirus related concerns.

This is all a whirlwind of action that could still have some adjustments. If the season start date holds at Dec. 1, Media Day will likely happen in the first week of November with training camp starting the next day. Preseason might be condensed slightly to allow teams more recovery time, but then it’s right back to the grind, whether that’s in Orlando or back to home arenas, with or without fans.

Kings facing major decisions with season, NBA bubble experience over

Kings facing major decisions with season, NBA bubble experience over

The Kings' bubble has burst. The 2019-20 season is officially over for Sacramento and 14 other teams. While the Kings didn’t have the success they hoped for in the eight-game seeding tournament, matched with the 64-game regular season, we have plenty of information to walk into the summer with.

Most of what we saw wasn’t pretty. The coronavirus took its toll on the Kings' roster early, which once again led to a slow start. The team didn’t play defense at all in the bubble. There were chemistry and injury issues, and an overall malaise as the team fell out of contention.

How does it get better? Do the Kings need a total overhaul? Here is a look at some of the pressing issues facing Sacramento heading into the offseason.

The Star

If nothing else, the eight-game seeding tournament cemented the fact that the Kings were right to build their team around De’Aaron Fox. Through the first six games of the restart, Fox averaged 26.2 points, 7.3 assists and 1.7 steals in 34.7 minutes per game.

This team will go as far as Fox can take it. The focus of the offseason should be to add more pieces that fit with Fox. That means more shooters, more length at the forward positions and a true rim protector.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The Big Question

The mid-season switch from Buddy Hield to Bogdan Bogdanovic at the starting shooting guard position has set the Kings on a dangerous course. Hield is about to enter the first season of a new 4-year, $86 million deal and his play in the bubble has been nothing short of baffling.

Can the Kings enter next season with Hield as their sixth man making nearly $25 million? Will they look to move Hield for a potential starting level small forward or long-term fix at the four? Hield is an elite 3-point shooter and has been a valuable member of the squad, but he makes high-end starter money. All options should be on the table at this point.

Does Someone Pay for Bubble Struggle

Vlade Divac landed his man in the summer of 2019, inking former teammate Luke Walton to a four-year deal to run the Kings. Walton’s first year in Sacramento began on the wrong foot with an 0-5 start to the season, but the team was playing much better when the season went on hiatus on March 11.

The team’s slow pace and 3-5 record in the bubble create some issues, but Divac and Walton are a package deal at this point. With the franchise losses in the tens, if not hundreds of millions due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to see the Kings pulling the plug on the pair, but stranger things have happened in Sacramento.

An early prediction would be that Divac and Walton are given another season to fix the situation, but the next 48 hours will be telling. The team finished with a 31-41 record for a win percentage of .430. That equates to a 35-47 record, which is four games off of last season's total under Dave Joerger.

Free Agents Abound

The Kings walk into the offseason with a stack of free agents. Bogdanovic is the lone restricted free agent and the Kings are likely to match any offer he receives in the offseason. The remaining group of Harry Giles, Alex Len, Kent Bazemore, Yogi Ferrell and Corey Brewer are all unrestricted moving forward and can sign with any of the league’s 30 teams.

Expect Bogdanovic back, but the rest of the group is completely up in the air. Bazemore was an impact player for the Kings after joining the squad at the deadline. After Bogdanovic, he should be a priority for the Kings. Len made an impact as well as a big body in the post. If the Kings can retain him on a budget deal, he could provide plenty of depth in the paint. Ferrell likely has played his last game in a Kings uniform after two seasons in Sacramento and Brewer always is an option down the road as veteran depth.

Giles is a tough one. His passing ability and raw potential are intriguing. Does he fit with the roster moving forward? Did the Kings burn a bridge when they didn’t pick up his fourth-year option? It’s very likely that Giles will be playing elsewhere next season.

Power Decision

Sacramento has a stack of power forwards, but all come with question marks. The team has until Oct. 17 to guarantee Nemanja Bjelica’s final year at $7.15 million. He has played extremely well in stretches for the Kings over the last two seasons and his 3-point shooting gives Fox room to run.

Jabari Parker, who joined the Kings at the deadline, has a player option at $6.5 million. Parker has hardly played since coming over from the Hawks, but he looked good in limited time in the bubble. Walton used him primarily at the five in the restart, but if he comes back in good shape, he can easily help out at the four as well.

The Kings also have Marvin Bagley at the four, but after playing just 13 games in his second NBA season with three separate injuries, the team can’t bank on the talented young big. That means they need depth at the positions and then hope that Bagley can stay on the court. There also is a chance that the Kings search for an impact player at the wing, move Harrison Barnes to the four and shift Bagley to the center position full time. There is a lot to consider at this spot.

[RELATED: Key dates to know for Kings as offseason officially begins]

The Concern

The Kings missed the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season and the league only is getting tougher around them. The Golden State Warriors should be back in the mix for the postseason next year, New Orleans and Phoenix are both improving and the Memphis Grizzlies have a nice young squad, too.

Sacramento has to find a way to dramatically improve within a short period of time. That means that nothing outside of dealing Fox should be off the table. The Kings have to take that mindset into the offseason and be aggressive, or the team will be in a similar position next summer.