Domas recalls how Kings fans surprised him in Sacramento debut


When the Indiana Pacers traded Domantas Sabonis to the Kings as part of a blockbuster deal for Tyrese Haliburton, the Lithuanian big man didn't know what to expect.

He had a good idea, though, after glancing at social media during his flight to Sacramento.

"The comments were horrible," Sabonis recalled, laughing, during a recent interview with ESPN's Zach Lowe.

Sabonis and former teammate Justin Holiday flew to the West Coast together after the trade, which sent them and Jeremy Lamb to the Kings in exchange for Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson ahead of the 2022 NBA trade deadline.

Haliburton, Sacramento's young guard and lottery pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, was adored by fans and represented a bright future for the franchise -- one they didn't know Sabonis eventually would help usher in less than a year later. Haliburton's popularity in Sacramento was made evident by fan reaction to the trade, which Sabonis and Holiday watched play out in real time online.

"Oh my god, we are [going to] get booed!" Sabonis exclaimed at the time, he recalled to Lowe.

"Dude, they are [going to] boo the crap out of us!" Holiday responded.

But when they arrived in the 916, Sacramento's star point guard De'Aaron Fox told Sabonis he could expect nothing but love from Kings fans.

"We never even talked about the trade," Fox told Lowe. "I told him how crazy our fans are -- how much they cheer our team."

Sabonis made his Kings debut on Feb. 9, 2022, against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But instead of the boos he was expecting as his name was announced, Sabonis received a warm welcome like the one Fox had described.

"I got a standing ovation -- screaming, cheering," Sabonis said. "I had goosebumps."

Sabonis went on to record a double-double that night in a win at Golden 1 Center, with 22 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. After his big debut, he told NBC Sports California the fans in Sacramento were "amazing."

"The welcome here was crazy," Sabonis said at the time. "I appreciate all the love. We're going to come here and fight, fight for this franchise. That's the goal. We're going to come out here and win."

It was a sign of what Kings fans could expect from the All-Star center, who now has Sacramento on the verge of its first NBA playoff appearance since 2006.

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And while Kings fans certainly came around to the idea of Sabonis in Sacramento, he knew that would be the case all along.

"I know what I bring as a player," Sabonis told Lowe. "The Kings wanted me. They wanted to build the team around Fox and me. The goal was to change the franchise. The comments didn't matter. What mattered was how much the Kings loved me."

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