Kings fans have seen the impact Mike Brown has had on this team since he stepped foot in Sacramento this season. And now, others finally are starting to notice it, too.
Times have changed in the league this season as the national media can’t talk about the Western Conference now without mentioning the Kings. Fair, considering they're the No. 3 seed (33-25) with a little over a month remaining in the regular season.
And that all starts with Brown.
“We don’t talk about this much, they’re not a major, major team in our eyes. But the Sacramento Kings -- Mike Brown is doing one hell of a job,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said on “First Take” on Friday morning. “If the season were to end today, I think Mike Brown is the Coach of the Year by a landslide and it’s not even close.
“To literally arrive there in his first year and to have them as a top-3 seed in the Western Conference, every time I wait for them to lose, they turn around and they keep winning. Mike Brown is doing a hell of a job and he deserves a lot of credit.”
Former NBA center and current ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkings agreed with Smith, adding a subtle “preach” when he was able to.
Sacramento’s storybook season isn’t over, but it’s approaching its final chapter with just 24 games remaining in the regular season. And it’s taken the rest of the league more than five months to pick up that book and start reading.
Immediately after the Kings' 133-116 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night at Golden 1 Center, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups attributed Sacramento's success to Brown and also said he's atop the COTY standings.
“I think they’re a really good team. I think coach (Mike) Brown is as good as it gets," Billups said (h/t 247 Sports' Cameron Salerno). "He’s probably leading the charge for Coach of the Year ... they’re a well-oiled team.”
And now that everyone’s aware of what’s been brewing in the 916, Brown has noticed how the tables have turned and it’s now the Kings who will be “hunted” during the final stretch.
“De’Aaron Fox, [Domantas] Sabonis and them brothers are balling,” Smith said. “Give them some love. This kid out of Iowa, [Keegan] Murray, that they drafted, the kid can play. Give him some love too. Make no mistake about it.”
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Brown and the Kings are on the right track to snapping the franchise’s 16-year playoff drought. And if they do in fact make their first postseason appearance since 2006, Smith predicts they could get a first-round meeting with the new-look Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers currently sit in 13th place but a string of wins soon can change that. At this point, Kings fans don't care who they face in the NBA playoffs as long as their team makes it.
But a Lakers-Kings playoff series surely wouldn't disappoint. Kings fans, get your cowbells ready.