Kings basketball returned for the 2023-24 NBA season Wednesday night on the road against the Utah Jazz at Delta Center.
Sacramento is coming off a historic season in which it snapped its 17-year playoff drought, unlocked an all-NBA duo in De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, and introduced a purple victory beam that quickly became a global sensation.
The biggest question for this season, though, has been whether the Kings will be able to sustain their newfound success or if it was all a fluke.
It’s a very long season, but so far, they’re on the right track.
Here are the takeaways from the Kings’ 130-114 win over the Jazz:
The first half of the new season was all about Harrison Barnes.
Barnes attempted 11 shots in the first half — six 2-pointers and five 3-pointers. He missed one. One. The 31-year-old forward dropped 27 points in the first half alone.
Harrison Barnes had a combined 32 points in the final four games of the Kings’ playoff series against the Warriors last season.
He has 27 points (10-11 FG, 5-5 3PT) in the first half of the 2023-24 season opener.
— Tristi Rodriguez (@tristi_r14) October 26, 2023
This offseason, Barnes signed a three-year, $54 million contract to return to the Kings after playing in every game last season for Sacramento.
His championship experience and leadership presence are well respected in the locker room, but Wednesday was Barnes’ way of showing that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank and can get things going at any given time.
Barnes finished the game with 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field and 5 of 7 from 3-point range, adding four rebounds, two assists, and one steal in 33 minutes.
Offense still rollin’
Sacramento’s offense picked up right where it left off last season.
The Kings ran a historic offense in 2022-23 that was fast-paced and filled with non-stop moving and cutting. That was no different on Wednesday.
Sacramento got off to a hot start and a quick 7-0 run to begin the game, with several starters getting involved.
Fox got things started with a layup within the first 32 seconds of action, followed by a Barnes trey and a layup from Sabonis.
Other than the Jazz taking a 1-point lead for 13 seconds in the opening quarter, the Kings regained the lead and never let it go again.
The Kings shot 46.1 percent from the field and made 19 3s. They now have the most made triples in a season opener in franchise history, which previously was set at 17.
The other side of the ball is where coach Mike Brown is challenging — and begging — the team to step up. Luckily for them, they have plenty of time to do so.
Welcome to Sacramento, fellas
The Kings re-signing Barnes this summer kept their core intact while also running it back with several other players like Trey Lyles and Alex Len.
But they did welcome a few new faces to the team who already showed how they can fit right in.
Sasha Vezenkov not only made his Kings debut on Wednesday but also his NBA debut after the EuroLeague MVP signed a three-year deal with the Kings this summer. The 28-year-old forward got comfortable right away, contributing eight points in the first seven minutes he played.
The NBA rookie is well-known for his elite shooting from behind the arc, but Brown is pushing him to pick things up defensively. After looking a little lost on that end of the floor in the preseason, Vezenkov listened and learned and seemed to have picked things up on Wednesday.
Vezenkov finished with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field and 2 of 5 from deep, adding two rebounds and two steals in 16 minutes.
Another fresh face in the 916 is third-year forward Chris Duarte. The 26-year-old made three of his four 3-point attempts and added two rebounds and an assist in 15 minutes.
JaVale McGee was the most recent Kings addition but no stranger to the league. The three-time NBA champion finished with eight points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting from the field with one board, one assist, and one block in 13 minutes.
Welcome to the team, fellas.