SACRAMENTO -- Welcome to The Kingdom, Richaun Holmes.
General manager Vlade Divac made plenty of moves during free agency, but the most important one may have come after all of the big money was spent.
Holmes, 26, is known for his energy and ability to roll to the hoop. Against the Denver Nuggets on Monday evening, he earned “MVP” chants from the Golden 1 Center crowd and almost scored a career-high in points in just his fourth game in purple and black.
"I can't even tell you, that's a lot of love right there,” Holmes said following the Kings' 101-94 loss to the Nuggets. “I don't take that for granted. Love this city. Love these fans and I just want to go out there and compete every night. So I really appreciate that."
MVP chants in an early season loss? Sacramento fans loved the energy and effort that Holmes brought to the game from the moment he stepped on the floor. Sometimes that calls for going a little over the top with praise, especially after a rough start to the season.
Holmes stepped on the court with the Kings trailing 10-3 with 9:08 remaining in the first quarter. Over the next eight minutes and 15 seconds, he put on a show and turned the game around for Sacramento.
The crowd fed off of Holmes’ energy, which only seemed to push him further.
“Always when you have the fans behind you, I think it’s just a different level to have that six man out there on the floor with you,” Holmes said. “You can feel their energy and in a place like this, it’s not hard to feel the energy that they bring. It was great.”
He finished his first stint on the court with 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field to go with three rebounds. More importantly, he led the Kings to a 14-point swing and a 28-21 lead heading into the second quarter.
“The beautiful things about it to me was that he wasn’t trying to be selfish or he wasn’t out there getting all those points on his own,” coach Luke Walton said. “It was our team making the correct basketball play and attacking the way Denver was defending us.”
With his teammates feeding him the ball, Holmes finished just one point shy of his career-high of 25. His 24 points and 13 rebounds both were team-highs and he added a pair of blocks in 30 minutes of action.
“We know exactly what he brings,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “High energy guy, a defensive guy, a lob threat, someone who has a great roll of gravity, because when he catches the ball on the roll, he dunk on you, just like he did. He was great for us.”
Holmes was an extremely efficient 10-of-14 from the field and he failed to register a turnover in his time on the court.
In addition to putting up big numbers, Holmes locked up star big man Nikola Jokic. Denver’s offensive cog scored just nine points on 4-of-15 shooting. Jokic still managed to grab 13 rebounds, but he finished with two assists after coming into the evening averaging seven dimes per game.
“It’s a challenge,” Holmes said. “We all know how great of a player Jokic is. How great he’s been since he came in this league. So it’s a challenge that I look forward to.”
With the Kings off to an 0-4 start and starting center Dewayne Dedmon struggling to make an impact, there is an outside possibility that Walton turns to Holmes with his starting unit. His energy is great off the bench, but the first team has gotten off to slow starts in the first and third quarters early in the season.
“Whether he’s starting or not starting, the minutes are going to where the energy is coming from and who’s bringing it that night,” Walton said. “We’ve talked about it as a staff, for sure, we’re always talking about ideas of what we can do to make our team better. But whether he starts, Dewayne starts, we go back and forth matchups depending on who we’re playing, it’s about the guys we have and the team we have and stepping up when your name is called.”
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Marvin Bagley’s interior presence is sorely missed. While Holmes isn’t a conventional back to the basket big like Bagley, his ability to do damage in the two-man game opened up plenty of options for Walton’s offense on Monday.
Outside of Holmes, Sacramento’s bench scored just 17 points on the evening. Losing him from the second unit might be too big of a loss for a group that is struggling to find chemistry early in the year.
Holmes led the Kings with a plus-13 and he’s making an impact on both ends of the court when he steps on the floor. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, expect Walton to rely heavily on the 6-foot-10 center as he tries to right the Kings’ ship.