Mateen Cleaves recalls his playing days in Sacramento

mateen-cleavesWith the recent sale of the Sacramento Kings and the apparent relocation of the NBA franchise to Seattle seeming inevitable, many with ties to the Kings organization are becoming nostalgic about the team’s era in California’s capitol city.

Former Kings player and Flint basketball icon Mateen Cleaves shared his thoughts Wednesday with a local Seattle sports radio station.

“Being out in Sacramento was two of the best years of my life,” Cleaves told host Jason Ross of CBS 1140.

“Not only being on a team that had so much success, but being in a community that embraced us so much. I mean every day I stepped foot in Arco Arena it was just such a thrill because our teammates were all like family and the community really embraced us.”

Cleaves was asked if playing in Sacramento was similar to his college days at Michigan State playing in front of sellout crowds at the Breslin Center.

He said that, in its heyday, Sacramento was as great of a basketball environment as any.

“For sure (it was similar to Michigan State). The one thing that we knew when we stepped out on that floor was that we could depend on our crowd, we could depend on our Sixth Man, our fans, just like family,” said Cleaves, who now works as a broadcaster for Fox Sports Detroit and college basketball analyst for CBS Sports.

“That crowd, up and down, that crowd was behind us the entire 48 minutes that we were on the floor.

“(Opposing players) hated that crowd. They hated the cow bells, the noise, all that. They didn’t like it all and that helped us win many games. We had a great team at that time, but a lot of times we depended on the fans to get us going.”

Cleaves, who played parts of six seasons in the NBA from 2001-2006, also played in Seattle for his final two years in the league. Still, he said most of his finest NBA memories came while he was a member of the Kings.

“It was such a great feeling being in that city,” Cleaves said. “Anywhere you went in that community, you were embraced. I didn’t play a lot, but I was still treated like I scored 30 points in a game or something everywhere I went. I loved going out in Sacramento. A lot of (NBA) guys don’t like to go out in their cities, but you wanted to go out and interact with the people of Sacramento.”

Cleaves spent 6 years in the NBA, playing for Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Seattle Supersonics.

Having an injury-plagued career, Cleaves had his best season during his first year with the Pistons, averaging 5.4 ppg and 2.7 apg.

Later he averaged career-best 4.8 apg for Cleaveland Cavs during the 03-04 season.

Cleaves holds career averages of 3.6 ppg and 1.9 apg in 11.2 minutes per game. In total he appeared in 167 NBA games, starting in 10.

The Seattle-based business group that bought the Kings formally filed for relocation with the NBA this week.

Sacramento officials, including mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson, are trying to put together a plan to keep the team in the city.


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