Why Domas considers third All-Star nod most meaningful


Kings center Domantas Sabonis is heading to the NBA All-Star Game for the third time in his career, but this latest trip to the annual showcase has a greater significance to the 6-foot-11 phenom.

"I feel like this is the one that means the most out of all three, just because it’s in a Kings uniform," Sabonis told The Athletic's Sam Amick in an exclusive interview.

Sabonis, who made the All-Star Game twice over four-and-a-half years with the Indiana Pacers, is journeying back to the NBA showcase for the first time since being dealt to Sacramento in the blockbuster trade last year.

"A lot of stuff was said when the trade happened," Sabonis told Amick. "[Kings general manager] Monte [McNair] and [assistant general manager] Wes [Wilcox] trusted me to come here and start changing the franchise around.

"... But I was kind of that first piece, and there was a lot of responsibility. As a player, as a competitor, being named an All-Star on the West Coast, having been on the East Coast, I feel like it just means more because of everything that came with it, you know? In Indy, it was me, and I was with the guys. But here, there was a lot more on it, you know?"

Sabonis' first full season with the Kings is off to a great start. Sacramento looks primed to snap its 16-year NBA playoff drought, standing in third place in the crowded Western Conference heading into the All-Star break.


The star center is averaging 18.8 points, a league-leading 12.3 rebounds and a career-high 6.9 assists per game while shooting 61.1 percent from the field. He leads the NBA with 45 double-doubles in 55 contests -- all while playing with an injured right thumb he fractured in December.

Sabonis is one of four Kings players to represent the "Beam Team" at All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City. Rookie Keegan Murray will start things off for the Kings on Friday in the Rising Stars challenge, and guard Kevin Huerter will go for the NBA's sharpshooter crown in the 3-point challenge the following night.

Then, all eyes turn toward Sunday night when Sabonis and his running mate De'Aaron Fox -- the other half of the Kings' first All-Star duo since Peja Stojaković and Brad Miller in 2004 -- suit up for the All-Star Game at Vivint Arena.

"It’s huge for everybody in this city," coach Mike Brown said Monday of the Kings' representation at All-Star Weekend. "Sacramentans are proud people. Everybody I talk to, they speak proudly of their city. They feel that they’re a little underappreciated, especially being the capital of California and everybody talks about LA, the Bay -- no one really mentions Sacramento.

"Any time that recognition can happen on a national level is great for everybody in the city. It’s obviously great for everybody in the organization."

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Sabonis has bigger goals than the All-Star Game with playing basketball past mid-April topping that list.

But having three teammates joining him for the Salt Lake City festivities just over one year removed from the trade that changed his career path is more evidence that everything is working out in his favor.