The NBA won’t be back until July 30, but competitive basketball will return much sooner than that. The Basketball Tournament, which features the best players in the world who aren’t on an NBA roster, begins on July 4, and some former Sacramento Kings will be front and center.
TBT is a single-elimination winner-take-all tournament — with the Elam Ending! — where one of the 24 teams will win $1 million. It’s being held without fans this seasons as players quarantine in Columbus, Ohio for the duration of the competition.
The tournament is always a who’s who of players who dominated college basketball or had a cup of the coffee in the NBA, sometimes more, but didn’t quite stick, and that is the case once again in 2020. Four former Kings are taking part in this year’s event, including two on Boeheim’s Army, the no. 3 overall seed.
Boeheim’s Army is composed of Syracuse alumni only, and two of their nine players represent two different eras in Kings history. If you’re looking for a rooting interest in TBT, this is the team to back.
Donté Greene was a fan favorite in Sacramento, arriving in 2008 after being traded twice between draft day and opening night. He was a bit of a mess his rookie season, unsure of how to fit in the NBA after only one year of college basketball. His hustle was never in doubt, but the production lacked. Tom Ziller always wrote eloquently about Greene (as he does about most topics), and Greene was a positive force in the community. He was remembered fondly when Sacramento declined to extend him a qualifying offer, and he carved out a multi-year career overseas.
This is Greene’s third time playing in TBT after a one-game stint in 2016 and four games in 2017. It is the first time he will be joined on Boeheim’s Army by a much younger Orange alum, Malachi Richardson.
The trade to acquire Richardson was one of the finer offseason moves Vlade Divac and Co. made in the summer of 2016, dumping the expiring contract of Marco Belinelli for a first-round draft pick. The problem was that the Kings used the pick on Richardson. In case you’re interested how that draft could have gone, we dove in during What If? Week.
Richardson played 47 games for the Kings over 1.5 seasons, starting four, before the team cut bait and sent him to Toronto. Despite occasional flashes of brilliance, or at least competent play, the Kings never invested in Richardson, crowding him out of the rotation with veteran guards and wings like Garrett Temple, Matt Barnes, and Arron Afflalo. Sadly, he hasn’t had much of an NBA career since leaving Sacramento, only playing 23 games for the Raptors from 2018-2019.
That being said, he is perfectly qualified for TBT, where his youthful stamina should be a boon against an older field of past-their-prime former college stars.
One other former King participating in TBT is Bobby Brown, who spent 47 games in Sacramento in 2008-09, parlaying an outstanding 2008 Summer League into a guaranteed contract. He was a fairly blah backup point guard, and that might even be overstating it, and didn’t stick around beyond the trade deadline.
Brown will be playing for the no. 2 seed Overseas Elite, a four-time champion of this event. Despite losing to the Ohio State alumni in last year’s final, Overseas Elite would seem to be the favorite this year with a number of ex-NBAers, including seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson. I don’t care how old Iso Joe is (39 today, in case you wanted to check), that level of talent matters in this tournament.
The final former King in this event is Quincy Miller, who played all of six games for Sacramento back in 2015. The majority of his 61 minutes came in one contest against the Golden State Warriors, when Miller had 13 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes and was somehow +4 in a game the Kings lost by 25.
Miller is on Heartfire, the 14th seed, and is the lone player on this list who doesn’t have a first-round bye in the tournament. If his team wins the opening game, they would advance to face Boeheim’s Army in the second round.
Basketball fans missed out on the NCAA Tournament this year, and though TBT is very different, it is still single-elimination drama with plenty of familiar faces. That’s a decent substitute for this sports-starved time.