Monk emotionally reflects on Kings tenure before possible departure

Monk emotionally reflects on Kings tenure before possible departure originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SACRAMENTO – Twelve Kings players spoke to the media during end-of-season exit interviews Monday morning, but much of the two and a half hours inside Golden 1 Center was about one guy.

Malik Monk’s future has and will continue to be a trending topic in Sacramento and throughout the rest of the NBA this offseason as the star sixth man is set to enter free agency this summer, with many expecting him to land the richest contract of his professional career thus far.

Monk was the fifth player to come out to the podium, but by then, his name had already been tossed around a handful of times before he even stepped foot into the room.

When it finally was his turn to speak to reporters, his tone and responses were slightly different than they had been in previous press conferences. Even just as a teammate and person, Monk has been described as outgoing, witty, outspoken and blunt. His directness was perfectly portrayed by the way he harmlessly interrupted a reporter’s question.

Not on Monday, though.

When Sacramento’s season ended with a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Play-In Tournament, Monk was seen sitting on the bench for several moments after the game just soaking in the season. Three days later, he was asked about that moment.

“Let go of the season because it was over,” Monk said. “Figure out what I’m going to do going forward. Just trying to let go. Decompress.”

It was much harder for Monk to hide his emotions after the question that followed.

The reporter asked: “What was the level of disappointment as you sat there realizing that you potentially played your last game in Sacramento?”

What followed was something that we haven’t experienced from Monk often, or at all.

Nearly six seconds of silence before he was able to find the right words to respond.

“Um, hard to grasp,” Monk said. “I think that’s why I was sitting there a little longer. [Kings assistant coach Doug Christie] helped me back to the locker room, like, ‘C’mon.’ But yeah, it was kind of …”

Monk paused again, then uttered that last word.

“Bittersweet,” he said.

The “bitter” part of that likely stems from the fact that he had to watch Sacramento’s season end from the sideline after sustaining an MCL sprain against the Dallas Mavericks on March 29. A game that, without knowing at the time, might have been his last in a Kings uniform.

A guess for the “sweet” side of things is that he played the best basketball of his career during his two seasons with the Kings, which will help his big payday this summer.

Nonetheless, it certainly will be a difficult decision for Monk, and the emotions of it all appeared prevalent Monday morning.

But when confronted about being emotional, Monk downplayed it.

“I just woke up,” he said. “I’m kind of tired.”

The room filled with laughter as he smiled. That’s the Monk we know. But then he acknowledged the truth.

“Yeah, emotions are everywhere, man,” he said. “I came here with one of my best friends, turned the organization around, turned the city around. The city loves me, and I said it before, I love the city. So yeah, the emotions are just everywhere right now.”

Monk has some time to weigh his options, but as of Monday, he said he doesn’t know what to expect and doesn’t have a true sense of how it’ll all play out. That mainly is because this is a new position he’s in. For the first time in his career, he’s coming off consecutive impactful seasons and has the potential to not only get his bag, but, for the first time in his career, be a starter on an NBA team.

While there’s a lot of uncertainty and pressure looming, Monk admitted that “it feels good” to be in the position he’s in after having the start to his career that he did – going from questioning if he belonged in the NBA to one of the hottest free-agent commodities this summer.

“It’s big because I can go somewhere else with a lot more money and be in a worse situation. So you never know,” Monk said. “Like I said, I got a great agent that’s going to do his job. I think my job is done. I did what I needed to do this year and I think it’s going to play out the right way.”

Monk frankly stated that he “definitely” wants to start on a team next season but added that if “it’s not fit” for the team for him to start, then he’ll accept his role off the bench and “run with it.”

If you ask his teammates, it isn’t even a question – they all want him back in Sacramento next season.

“I’ve been trying [to convince him] every day since the beginning of training camp,” Kings star center Domantas Sabonis said Monday. “Obviously, he knows what I think of him and how much I care about him. So yeah, hopefully. We would love to have him back.”

At the same time, players understand the business side of things, and ultimately want the best for Monk.

And no matter what he decides, his Kings family will always have his back.

“He’s been one of my closest friends,” Kings second-year forward Keegan Murray said. “Just being able to joke around with him because he always keeps it light hearted. Last summer, I went golfing with him a lot. So we kind of built that bond on the course and that was a good way for us to kind of gravitate toward each other. And then on the court, we can push each other’s buttons a little bit and then we can always come back and it’s a good bond.

“He’s obviously got a decision to make this summer and he knows what’s right for him, and whatever he decides to choose, I’ll have his back no matter what.”

Murray is just one of the few young players on the team who Monk has taken under his wing and mentored.

From Murray to Keon Ellis to Colby Jones and others, Monk used his unique leadership style – which included lots of cursing – to help uplift guys’ confidence early in their careers.

“They’re not really young guys, because we’re kind of the same age, but I’ve just been in the league a little longer. But I think that’s why they listened to me, because I’ve been around and I’ve been through the same situation they’re going through,” Monk said. “That’s what I tried to tell them, too, so they can listen to me and not try to fight it because that’s what I was doing, fighting it. Fighting information. And everybody just took the information and ran with it.

“And you can see that with Keon, he finally got his confidence when I was trying to instill that in him since last year. It’s kind of weird though, being a young guy teaching the young guys. But yeah, I think I got that from picking up on what [LeBron James] and [Anthony Davis], how they carry themselves and how they used to talk to me. I think that rubbed off a little bit on me.”

Monk boasted career highs during his time with Sacramento while reminding the NBA what he was capable of since entering the league seven years ago.

But by the emotions that filled the press room Monday, by the way his teammates spoke about him and how he helped the team both on and off the floor, it’s clear that his impact in Sacramento went beyond the game of basketball.

Monk is appreciative of all the support he has received from his teammates as he enters a pivotal offseason.

“Everything,” he responded when asked what the support means to him. “Everything, man, because they didn’t have to accept me when I got here – besides Fox. But they didn’t have to accept me how they did. It was great. They all welcomed me and they all listen to me now. Since the last two years, I think I stepped up as a leader for the team because Fox is not that vocal by telling people what to do. He just goes out there and dominates and I think that’s the way he leads. So everybody got a different way to lead man and I think they just accepted me to be the leader of this team in different aspects.”

Near the end of his exit interview, Monk had the same exact one-word response to two questions.

The first was whether the Kings would be playing in the NBA playoffs right now if he hadn’t gotten injured. The second was in a perfect world situation, whether he would want to be in Sacramento.

His reply to both?


Unfortunately for Sacramento, we don’t live in a perfect world. Things will play out as they must, but the doors in the 916 always will be open for Monk to return to the city that quickly grew to love and adore him. Whether that’s in three months or three years is a story that’s still being written.

But if this is Monk’s final chapter with the Kings, Sacramento fans should close that book with grace, appreciation and nothing but love for their beloved sixth man.

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