Kings look at bigger picture as fairytale playoff berth delayed


SACRAMENTO -- The Kings on Monday had a chance to remove the NBA-record playoff-drought label that’s been attached to their franchise for the last 16 seasons. 

Their efforts against the Minnesota Timberwolves fell short in a 119-115 loss in front of a sold-old crowd at Golden 1 Center, and they didn’t receive any help from the Utah Jazz or the Chicago Bulls. 

But even though they failed to secure a spot in the postseason on their homecourt, the Kings are keeping their heads held high with their eye on the prize. And the prize isn’t the playoffs. 

“It's just changing the mindset of not just trying to clinch and then the season's over," veteran forward Harrison Barnes said postgame. "For us, it's continuing to just get better every single game. We have aspirations of a good postseason. So for us, it's focusing on that and just keeping it one game at a time. 

“Like I said, tonight was a missed opportunity, but you know, we have another game in a couple of days and [we’re] just focusing and preparing for that.” 

A storm of 18,000-plus die-hard Kings fans arrived at G1C and eagerly anticipated an unforgettable celebration with the team they’ve supported all their lives. Instead, they left emptyhanded with nothing but patience and hope -- something they’ve held close to their hearts since 2006. 

Players like Barnes and De’Aaron Fox -- two of the longest-tenured Kings players on the current roster -- wanted it badly for the fans. 

They’ve been here long enough to truly understand how loyal and true Sacramento fans are, and how badly they deserved the night to end in a win. But every storybook season has a conflict, and the Kings are ready to get to the climax.  

“The fans have been great all season," Barnes said. "They've been great since I've been here. So obviously, you know, it's disappointing for them. But as a team, our focus is just continuing to get better every single day. 

“And while this was a missed opportunity for a lot of different reasons, we will continue to press forward.” 

The Kings are no stranger to adversity. They started the season 0-4 before introducing and lighting their highly popular beam for the first time. But as doubt from outside critics continued, so did their winning. 

The question has gone from “if” to “when” the Kings will clinch a playoff berth. And when they do -- wherever they are -- Fox imagines it’d be just as meaningful regardless of where the team is at. 

“I don’t think it’s frustrating clinching a playoff spot, even if we’re in a different country,” Fox said after the loss. 

“Yeah, I mean guys wanted to clinch a playoff spot at home and wanted to share it with our fans, but at the end of the day, regardless of where we do it at, I think people are going to appreciate it and people are going to love it.”  

Barnes, Fox and Mike Brown all gave credit to Minnesota after the game, and they all acknowledged that there’s plenty of work to do in their final seven games of the regular season.

But if it isn’t clear by now, the team is hungry for more than a playoff berth. 

“I think it’s big for myself, for the fan base," Fox said. "Obviously not being in the playoffs for 16 years, it’s going to be a big deal. But like I’ve said before, it’s a step closer to making your true goal. And every competitor wants to win a championship. And that’s just one step that you have to take to get there.”

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Even though it looked and felt like the end of the world at Golden 1 Center after the game, the reality is -- it isn’t for this Kings team. Not even close.

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