A friend of mine once suggested a Sacramento Kings TV show, and I couldn’t hide my intrigue. It was a pitch that might’ve raised Mark Cuban’s eyebrows on Shark Tank, and was definitely better than this guy’s admittedly hilarious effort.
The show would feature sit down interviews with Kings owner and certified crazy person Vivek Ranadive, cackling maniacally while devising various methods with whigch to enrage his fan base, like trading DeMarcus Cousins to the Lakers. Never forget, that was a real thing that Vivek actually considered.
There’d be a draft special where the mad hands on owner that is Ranadive hijacks the Kings boardroom, demanding his staff use their annual lottery pick on someone he’ll trade for essentially nothing a year later (another real thing that actually happened).
Silencing the protests of the brave few staff members who didn’t bend to his will, Vivek would calmly explain that he definitely saw this guy hit a bunch of threes in college, before sarcastically asking them to remind him who’s team it is.
The season finale would feature a Rajon Rondo/DeMarcus Cousins/George Karl three-way steel cage fight to death, Mike Malone chuckling away and almost choking on his popcorn in the front row.
Offseason Recap: Please Check Your Common Sense at the Door
Watching the Sacramento Kings spectacularly absurd offseason unfold was like watching your best mate trip on stage during graduation. It’s hard to believe it actually happened, even though it was somewhat to be expected, and it’s hilarious until you start feeling bad for them.
The Kings traded last year’s lottery pick, Nik Stauskas, a future first round pick, and the rights to swap first round picks in 2016 and 2017 - just to convince those process-trusting, first round pick enthusiasts in Philadelphia to take Carl Landry and Jason Thompson off their hands.
Sacramento dumped those guys just to clear an extra $16 million in cap space, which would allow them to engage in a bidding against themselves over NBA castaway Rajon Rondo - fresh off a disastrous season in Dallas - and target other semi stars like Wes Matthews - fresh off an Achilles injury - and Monta Ellis who is precisely the kind of player that’s likely to be a disaster in Sactown.
Matthews and Ellis gave the Kings a wide berth anyway, Matthews taking $7 million less to join Dallas, while Ellis took slightly less in Indiana and didn’t even visit Sacramento.
It gets worse. Former number one pick and king of unintentional comedy Andrea Bargnani was pursued by the Kings, only to conclude that landing in the soulless basketball abyss that is Brooklyn was a more desirable option.
Yes, even this guy wants nothing to do with Sacramento…
I semi excepted someone to get fired after the Kings missed out on both Andrea Bargnani and JaVale McGee.
While Rondo – a great passer who has cared little for defence lately - was the only player of the targeted ‘big three’ that the Kings landed, all of them were essentially band aid fixes anyway.
Matthews and Ellis would’ve pushed the Kings to the eighth seed at best – assuming chemistry, politics and general dysfunction didn’t derail everything – and then what? How do they improve from there? Their upcoming first rounder found its way out of town, as did their immediate chance to grow.
Rondo could quite conceivably ride the wacky Kings roller coaster for a season – here’s a sneak peak of that ride now – and then get the hell out of there. That would leave Sacramento with nothing to show for forfeiting their pick and Stauskas, other than cap space, in a rapidly changing league where everyone will have it. Even if Sacramento had the potential to actually put that cap space towards a series of exceptional signings, they could’ve created it by using the stretch provision on either Thompson or Landry. As several NBA pundits pointed out, it seemed as though Kings management were blissfully unaware of the provision, one which is pretty common knowledge even amongst fans.
It’s almost as the Kings hired a rookie GM who hadn’t worked in the NBA in over a decade.
Off the court, they fired Mike Malone, the one coach who connected with DeMarcus Cousins. They replaced him with arguably the worst coach in the league, Tyrone Corbin, before replacing him with George Karl this offseason.
Sactown management now seems to be annoyed by Karl and Cousins failing to wear matching friendship bracelets, as well as Karl rocking an already turbulent boat by jockeying for more power within the organisation. The latter point in particular suggests Sacramento higher ups didn’t so much as bother to look at Karl’s Wikipedia page before hiring him.
The New Guys
Shifting our attention to some of the King’s other signings now, and Caron Butler is genuinely a top notch guy, but through no fault of his own - merely Father Time’s – his last great basketball moment feels as long ago as Adam Sandler’s last good movie.
Kosta Koufos and Marco Belinelli are decent signings. How they, or any new signing, fairs in an environment where on and off court drama is prevalent, defence is lacking, and touches are hard to come by, remains to be seen.
However, Belinelli is a valuable floor stretcher and Koufos is an elite backup defensive centre who’ll slot in nicely next to Cousins, allowing Boogie to roam a little more and not have to worry about being solely responsible for protecting the rim.While we’re here, congratulations to Belinelli for moving from the NBA’s most beautifully run franchise to one of the most mismanaged organisations in all of sports.
In terms of general workplace desirability, Belinelli went from the Google Office to his local Walmart loading bay. If his teams were countries, he just left Switzerland for North Korea. You get the point. It’s hard to blame Belli though, he may well have had no choice in the matter, as the Spurs looked to clear cap space in order to sign LaMarcus Aldridge.
Willie Cauley-Stein, the Kings’ latest first round pick, has the potential to fit in nicely. Cousins has long voiced his desire to play power forward next to a defensive centre, yet has rarely been given the chance to do so. When he was, playing alongside Samuel Dalembert, they actually meshed quite nicely. The pairing didn’t last, however, and Boogie went back to playing centre.
With Cauley-Stein on the scene, as well as Koufos, Cousins might’ve finally received what he’s been wanting for years. Working against Cauley-Stein – and in turn, Cousins - is George Karl’s infamous reluctance to play rookies, as well as the somewhat unfortunate fact that Sacramento is where rookies’ careers generally go to die.
The Playoffs Remain a Fantasy for Now
Sacramento are undoubtedly more talented than they have been in some time, but while a solid chunk of talent has arrived on the Kings’ doorstep, the playoffs won’t. At least not this year.
Most of us will probably enjoy sharing a chuckle over our favourite dysfunctional family again this season, but for diehard fans of these Sacramento Kings of unintentional comedy, frustration will continue to reign supreme.