The 2021-22 NBA schedule dropped on Friday afternoon and there will be plenty of bits of information to digest over the coming days. The initial reaction is that the Kings have a generous schedule, although the final two months of the campaign won’t be easy.
Like most seasons of the last decade, the Kings were left out of the national TV conversation, but that can change quickly if they get off to a hot start.
Even if the team doesn’t get the upgrade to a global audience, there is still plenty of intrigue heading into the season. Here is a look at five of the most interesting games in the first half of the schedule.
Off Night vs. Dame - Kings vs. Trail Blazers, Oct. 20
De’Aaron Fox has repeatedly said that his "Welcome to the NBA" moment came in his rookie season when Damian Lillard torched him, and every other player the Kings threw his way, for 50 points. Lillard didn’t even play the fourth quarter.
Kings rookie Davion Mitchell isn’t a 19-year-old kid like Fox was coming into the league, but Lillard doesn’t care about any of that. If the two step on the court against each other, Lillard will do his best to give Mitchell the same treatment he gave Fox. It should be a fun battle pitting one of the NBA’s great scorers against a defensive stopper.
Rookie of the Year Candidates - Kings vs. Hornets, Nov. 5
Tyrese Haliburton and LaMelo Ball were neck-and-neck in the Rookie of the Year race early last season with both winning multiple Rookie of the Month awards early. Haliburton hit the rookie wall and fell off a bit, but he’s worked hard this summer to bulk up for an 82-game grind.
Ball bounced back from his own adversity to win the Rookie of the Year. It will be interesting to see both of them at full health early in the season, although they won’t always match up against each other.
Fox vs. Ja - Kings vs. Grizzlies, Dec. 17
This matchup has become must see tv. Fox is a year or two ahead of Morant in development, but the Grizzlies young star continues to improve.
Adding to the intrigue of this battle is that both of these squads added big time backcourt defenders in the offseason. While Fox and Morant will go at each other for stretches, Fox will have to deal with Patrick Beverley and Morant will face Mitchell.
The focus in the NBA is now on guard play. This matchup has a little of everything and it's only going to get better in the coming years.
The Prodigal Son - Kings vs. Hawks, Jan. 5
After three seasons with the Kings, Bogdan Bogdanovic returned to Sacramento last season with the Atlanta Hawks and took a 110-108 loss. Instead of getting a standing ovation from an always energetic and appreciative Golden 1 Center crowd, Bogdanovic listened to piped in fan noise and performed in front of a sea of cardboard cutouts.
Bogi helped lead the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year away from the Kings and he’s playing for one of the better up and coming teams in the league. Kings fans would love to have seen Bogdanovic return last offseason and find this type of success in Sacramento, but they understand the business of basketball and always appreciate players that gave their heart and soul every time they stepped on the floor in purple and black.
No. 1 vs. No. 9 - Kings vs. Pistons, Jan. 19
Cade Cunningham looks like an NBA superstar. Michell looks like a culture changing defender. Despite the height difference, these two are going to face off plenty of times in their initial meeting. Mitchell showed off his ability to defend Cunningham when these two met at the NCAA level. That is one of the reasons why the Kings fell in love with the Baylor star.
Cunningham split the season series and he managed to put up solid numbers against Mitchell and his Baylor teammates. Oklahoma State even handed the Bears one of their two losses on the season.
The Kings should be a better team this season than the Pistons, but Cunningham is a future star in the league. Mitchell can be a star as well, but in a completely different way. This should be a fun battle against two completely different styles of players.