Malik Monk

How Monk's Kings re-signing shows NBA can be more than business

NBC Universal, Inc.

Born and raised more than 2,000 miles away, Malik Monk has found a new home in Sacramento.

It was one of the main reasons the Arkansas native decided to take less money than he could have fetched elsewhere in NBA free agency and re-sign with the Kings

“It felt like home here,” Monk told reporters Saturday in Sacramento. “It just felt right. Everything felt right. I don't go anywhere and feel uncomfortable. I go everywhere and feel comfortable -- and that's a home. 

“So I'm back.”

Back into the widest of open arms from Kings fans and the entire city of Sacramento, many of whom already had accepted his departure in the open market this summer.

But that exact warmth from the fan base is what drew him back to the 916. And it didn't take two full seasons for Sacramento to quickly love and adore Monk.

Even as "the new guy" during the 2022-23 NBA season, the fan base needed just over a week to have Monk's back and rock band-aids across their face in support of his trendy post-injury look.

After a rough start to his NBA career with the Charlotte Hornets, the Los Angeles Lakers rolled the dice on Monk and it paid off for both sides.

He entered free agency in 2022 and reunited with fellow Kentucky Wildcat and close friend De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento, reviving something special in his pro career while simultaneously doing the same to Kings basketball in the state's capital.

But after playing the best basketball of his NBA career in his two seasons with the Kings, it was time for Sacramento’s beloved sixth man to spread his wings and fly, and as difficult as it was to imagine him playing for another team, fans knew that after the journey he had been on, it’s what he deserved.

Even though he never actually hit the open market this month, he said it was a refreshing feeling to finally feel and be wanted.

"It felt good," he said. "It felt good cause I was never in this situation before. It felt good to sit back and relax and let my agents do the work instead of me putting in overtime, trying to see if I'd have a job. It's just a great feeling. I don't even know what to say right now."

Monk said the most enjoyable part of the process was -- after going through several downs for the past seven years -- to finally be on the "up" side of his journey.

The process helped him not just figure out how to be a better NBA player, but how to be a better man and person -- something he credits his brother Marcus, mom Jacaynlene and his Kings tenure in Sacramento with.

Last season with the Kings, Monk averaged 15.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 26 minutes off the bench in 72 games. He was robbed of the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award, and, perhaps more importantly, robbed from finishing the season with his squad.

Monk missed Sacramento's final nine regular-season games and two postseason contests due to a sprained MCL he sustained in late March after Dallas Mavericks star Luka Dončić landed awkwardly on Monk's leg. He limped off the court and took his final steps off the hardwood for the season.

But there was no way that was how Monk was going to play his final Kings game.

He admitted he has some "unfinished business" in Sacramento, as does the rest of the team.

The Kings finished as the Western Conference's No. 9 seed, earning an NBA Play-In Tournament matchup with the Golden State Warriors. They advanced but their season ended with a play-in loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, ripping away their shot at a second consecutive playoffs appearance.

Monk needed a fresh start and a home in the NBA. He found Sacramento. And when Sacramento needed him this offseason -- highlighted by public pleas from his teammates and golf outings with the Kings' brass -- he delivered.

During his 2023-24 end-of-the-season exit interviews in April, the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up couldn't hide his emotions while speaking to reporters about what his future might hold.

A few weeks later -- and three days before NBA free agency officially began -- it was announced that Monk intended to sign a four-year deal with the Kings to stay in Sacramento on a reported $78 million contract that includes a player option for the final year.

Making his decision before the start of free agency gave the Kings leeway and a better sense of clarity with their options in the open market and potential trade targets.

Monk officially re-signed with the Kings on Saturday inside Golden 1 Center, and a few hours later, fans inside the same building erupted in cheer just moments before Sacramento's California Classic game against the Chinese National Team as their suspicions from the rumblings whispered around the city all day were correct. Star free-agent forward DeMar DeRozan walked out onto the G1C court alongside Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé to a standing ovation from Kings fans.

Ranadivé, Kings general manager Monte McNair and Co. worked tirelessly to get the deal done, but Monk's selflessness helped give them the bandwidth to turn rumors into reality.

"Being a team player, man," Monk said when asked why he made his decision early. "I could've took more money somewhere, but I said it felt like home here. And letting the organization know early, it was the least I could do, because I think we need a few more pieces and they looking for a few more pieces. So I think they're doing their job."

Like DeRozan, Monk had options.

But he chose Sacramento. He chose the Kings. He chose culture over a lucrative cashout.

It is a refreshing sign that the NBA is more than a business. In Sacramento with the Kings for Monk, it's a home. It's his home. After a difficult start to his pro career, he'll never take feeling wanted and welcomed for granted.

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