Hope for a Once Royal Mess

I have been living in Sacramento for most of my life. I can tell you that there’s not too much that happens in the city. It’s the second most diverse city in the United States, and it’s a quiet, calm area. Maybe it’s because of the lack of things to see that makes this town breathe basketball. As a young kid, I remember when the Sacramento Kings were the talk of the town during the Webber era. Everywhere you went the Kings basketball was being discussed. In such a diverse city where our differences could tear us apart, basketball held us together.

Then came news that the Maloof family wanted to move the team to another city. Chills came on my back. How could the best fans in the NBA lose their team? The Maloof brothers would deny it as much as possible, but the reports would indicate that they were lying. There were three different arena deals that the Maloofs rejected. They wanted the tax payers of Sacramento to fund the entire arena without them putting a dime up. Oh and by the way, all the revenue would go back to the Maloofs. All this was going while the Maloofs were busy boasting about their six grand bottle of wine with a Carl Jr’s six dollar burger.

The Kings were usually near or below the salary floor, since the Maloofs didn’t want to spend any money. They even traded their former fifth overall pick, Thomas Robinson, for Patrick Patterson in order to save about a million more dollars. Jimmer Fredette was possibly the most popular player in the 2011 NBA Draft. Some also believe that the Fredette pick was the Maloofs decision in order to sell more jerseys and tickets.

The Maloofs spent a total of at least 7 years trying to move the team. They were persistent at the very least. Anaheim, Virginia, Las Vegas and Seattle were all cities where the Maloofs tried to move the team. There have been many bad owners in this league before, but the Maloofs should be near the top of anyone’s list of horrible owners. People ask how are the Kings so bad for are so long when they should be asking how the Kings won the games they did with owners like these.

Thankfully the city of Sacramento had the one mayor in the country that was a former NBA player, Kevin Johnson. He worked his ass off to find potential owners that would be willing to keep the team in Sacramento and convinced Vivek Ranadivé to purchase the team.

Unlike the Maloofs, Vivek was willing to invest into the city. The entire ownership group were going to invest over a billion dollars in downtown Sacramento. The construction has been going great and renderings of the end result look promising.

Renderings of the new arena and shopping plaza in Sacramento.

So everything should be great now that the Maloofs are gone right? Well, not completely. Sacramento could finally relax about their not leaving. However, the team was still a mess. The new owner decided to hire a coach before he hired a general manager. It’s uncertain but some say that Coach Malone and Pete D’Alessandro didn’t get along, although both work with each other in Denver now.

Malone recently said, “Pete and I have always respected each other, have always gotten along. It was just that sometimes, the environment that we were working in was not conducive to a healthy relationship.”

This environment is what is makes the Kings organization so peculiar. It was odd that the Kings decided to fire him so early in the season when the team struggled without their best player, especially considering Malone was the first coach who had a positive relationship with DeMarcus Cousins.

Tyrone Corbin took his place, but that also was strange, since he didn’t seem like head coach material and his tenure with the Jazz was a good example of that. But ownership and management decided not to give him the rest of the year and hired George Karl. Hiring a future hall of fame coach is typically a good decision, but why not hire him right after the Malone firing?

Vivek said that he wants the Kings “to be like the Spurs, but exciting. We want to create a winning franchise that is a perennial contender, and we also want a strong defense, combined with up-tempo play.”

That sounds great and all, but lots of teams have tried to be like the Spurs and failed (Atlanta recently actually may have come the closest). To become like the Spurs, the Kings should try to implement the same environment, and that starts with the owner. The Spurs owner, Peter Holt, allows the rest of the team to do their job and doesn’t interfere.

I can’t say for certain that Vivek has interfered. Who really knows what’s happening inside those walls? However, it seemed like he really wanted Nik Stauskas and the Kings ended up picking him. He also has been hiring and firing more than any other team. That being said, he made it very clear once Willie Cauley-Stein was picked that he had nothing to do with making that decision. He has said again and again that he has given the keys to Vlade Divac.

(AP/Rich Pedroncelli) It is Vlade's team to run now.

But hiring a General Manager means that might want to clean house. According to Bill Herenda of CSN California, Vlade didn’t agree with Dean Oliver, who was chosen by Vivek as Director of Player Personnel and Head of Analytics. Oliver is well regarded in the basketball community for his brilliant analytical work and his widely read book, Basketball on Paper. It was rumored that Vlade didn’t agree with the use of analytics, which is strange considering the growing role of analytics in sports. Maybe these reports were false, considering Oliver spoke highly of Cauley-Stein and stated that he was a safe pick.

Vivek wants the best for the team. That’s more than what Kings fans could ever say about the Maloofs. It looks as if Vivek has learned his lesson and decided to take a backseat. He is focused on building a state of the art facility and has aspirations that it will be the best sports arena in the world. If he can focus on establishing stability, and let the basketball minds do their work, then the Kings would be become more Spurs-like, at least from the ownership side.

It debatable on whether all the signings were good for Sacramento, but Vlade convinced eight new players to join the team through free agency. That’s a big step forward considering the teams past. Sacramento hasn’t been a hot market for free agents. Now Rajon Rondo was the biggest signing and most teams weren’t interested in him, but Kosta Koufas and Marco Belinelli could have gone elsewhere and decided to sign with the Kings. That’s progress.

The Kings lost a close match against the Clippers yesterday, and they looked like a hot mess for the first few quarters. However, switching to small ball with Rudy Gay at the four allowed them to get back in the game. There was excitement again in the building yesterday, even after losing. Sacramento fans will always be behind the team regardless of the record. But finally, there is hope back into this city, and once again the Kings are the talk of the town.