Huerter: Mental impact of Kings' playoff drought exists


The Kings have the title for the longest active playoff drought in all four of the major sports at 16 years. However, that will end soon with Sacramento as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and safely in a playoff position. 

Nonetheless, heading into the 2022-23 NBA season, Kings guard Kevin Huerter noticed a mental hangover surrounding the organization's playoff drought, especially from the players left over from previous teams. 

"That's definitely true," Huerter told The Ringer's Ryen Russillo on the latest episode of "The Ryen Russillo Podcast." "And you could tell just the way that people who are close to the organization they've been through a lot. 

"It's been so long since they've seen winning. I think everybody's so hesitant in some ways to get super excited about the playoffs because it's just like they don't want to jinx themselves."

The 24-year-old discussed his optimistic outlook after being traded to Sacramento from the Atlanta Hawks. Huerter believed that with a new front office, coaching staff and players like himself coming in, they could turn the Kings' fortunes around.

"When I first got traded here, it wasn't like I was reaching out to other players who had been here or other coaches in some way," Huerter continued. "A lot of it was like, 'Hopefully, things change around there.' 

"I know that the experience when I was there wasn't great, but, hey, they got a brand new coach [and] they got mostly a new front office. It might be okay, but we'll see how it goes. And we got off to a really good start. We were really good in the preseason. Beat every team by 30; I think we were 5-0 and feeling really good about ourselves."

RELATED: Kevin Huerter admits having early Kings doubts to start 2022-23 NBA season

However, after the team started the season 0-4, the Maryland product noted that it tested their ability to remain confident and stick to the plan that Kings coach Mike Brown was preaching. 

"Then all of a sudden, we were 0-4 to start the year," Huerter said. "And I remember sitting in my backyard kind of scratching my head, thinking like, 'Damn, maybe we aren't good.' I thought we felt really good the preseason and we were coming into the season was such a high. But is this what it is for Sacramento? For some reason, it's tough to win and completely turn everything around after that. We're able to kind of get on a roll.

"Forget how many. Maybe we won like an eight or nine-game win streak at the start of the year, but there definitely is that. You have to have confidence as a team. You have to see the results in some ways to believe in the results ... And the 0-4 start wasn't great, but luckily we were able to find it and pick it up."

As the NBA playoffs loom, the Kings won't be content with just a postseason appearance. Furthermore, some NBA analysts, like Kendrick Perkins, believe this squad has what it takes to get to the Western Conference finals.

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