Pretty Much Screwed: The 2013-14 Sacramento Kings

  • Rick Chandler

Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NBA season. This team-by-team preview details why it’s probably not your favorite team’s year. In our final team preview, we look at the Anaheim Seattle Sacramento Kings.

The rendering below reminds me of the final scene in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, in which the aliens guide Richard Dreyfuss into the spaceship for his trip into the unknown. An apt metaphor for the Sacramento Kings’ upcoming season, come to think of it. Not only are the Kings on a journey of discovery, but they will possibly begin construction soon on a new arena, a concept rendering of which is shown below. (More images in the slideshow below). The new building would be ready for the 2016-17 season (or else), said designers today in a presentation to the City Council.

The NBA said that the Kings must have a new arena by 2017, or the league could seize the team and move it. A new arena for the Kings — in Sacramento — would have sounded crazy seven months ago. The former owners, the Maloof Brothers, were known as the Mr. Potter of the NBA — presumably holding on to the team just to torture their fans. Plans to improve Arco Arena always stalled, went nowhere or were just a tease. Attendance suffered. A pensive sadness grew throughout the land.

Now … new ownership (TIBCO software chairman Vivek Ranadive). New coach (Mike Malone). New general manager (Pete D’Alessandro). New Chris Mullin (not sure what he does). And this!


Speaking of Close Encounters …

How close have the Kings come to leaving Sacramento? In 2011, the Maloofs were so sure they were moving to southern California that they filed a trademark for the name “Anaheim Royals”. But just before a meeting with the NBA Board of Governors to approve relocation, a bid came in from prospective owners who wanted to keep the team in Sacramento, so the NBA denied the Anaheim deal.

And a move to Seattle was seen as a done deal all the way through March of this year — so much so that the prospective Seattle owner even announced a season ticket wait list. But again, mayor Kevin Johnson stepped in, and a last-minute deal for the Maloofs to sell the team and keep it in town was struck.

Somehow, the Kings have survived in their present location. Will fans support the team consistently, and not only show up when the Kings are in danger of being relocated? That remains to be seen. But with the home opener vs. Denver looming Wednesday night, the city did light The Tower Bridge in team colors.

And Stern said that he will be on hand for the game.

Kevin Johnson Hates The Kings, According To New Book

But now it turns out that Johnson himself may not even like the Kings, or really care where they play. According to a new book, “Vagrant Kings”, author R.E. Graswich, a former assistant to Johnson, wrote that Johnson actually hates the Kings, and only stepped in to try and save them because he cared about Sacramento’s economy. It was actually NBA commissioner David Stern who was working behind the scenes trying to keep the team in Sacramento. Johnson, claims the book, was only “Stern’s loyal soldier.”

“Kevin Johnson hates the Kings,” said author R.E. Graswich. “He still holds a grudge from 1987 when they drafted Kenny Smith one spot ahead of Kevin Johnson.”

Only in Sacramento.

They’re Betting A Lot On DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins has signed a four-year, $62 million extension, which has caused the “Lost In Space” robot to wave his arms mentally and get switched off by Dr. Smith. That’s because Cousins has demanded to be traded from the Kings (2011 … he now denies this), was suspended for “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team”, (2012), and is in general a hothead. But he averaged 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game last season, and can dominate.

Improvement, But Still An Uphill Slog

Meanwhile, the Kings allowed a league-worst 105.1 ppg last season. Malone is known for turning defensive magic, so this should improve. Tyreke Evans is gone, now a Pelican, in return for Greivis Vasquez. PF Carl Landry comes over from from Golden State and F Luc Mbah a Moute from Milwaukee. Ben McLemore is the 7th overall draft pick, from Kansas. He’s 20. Yes, a member of the Sacramento Kings has had a driver’s license for only four years. Starters as of now are Cousins, Jason Thompson at PF, John Salmons at SF, McLemore at SG and Vasquez at PG. Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette are the backup PGs. It’ll be a fun team to watch, but don’t expect too much.

Kings Had ‘Worst Practice Of The Year’ On Monday

Malone ripped his team in the press for lackluster effort in their Monday practice. It’s a good thing when coaches care about stuff like that, but it’s bad when an NBA lets down because they’re happy with their 5-2 preseason record. Sacramento Bee:

“I would say (Monday) was probably our worst practice of the year,” Malone said. “If we (had played) a game (Monday), we would be zero and one to start the season.”

It was the first time Malone ripped his team’s effort after a practice. He said it was a collectively bad effort. In case the Kings forgot, their record last season was 28-54, so the returning players should know exhibition play does not translate to regular-season success. Malone:

“For those guys who thought being 5-2 and doing some good things meant a lot, they couldn’t be further from the truth. And they’ll have a rude awakening Wednesday night when they play Denver.”

Sacramento Kings Fun Facts

* Correct us if we’re wrong, but we’re fairly confident that the Kings are the only NBA team with a version of their team web site written entirely in Hindi.

* Assistant coach Brendan Malone, father of the head coach, abruptly resigned last week. The only reason given was that he couldn’t handle “the rigors of coaching in the NBA.” Judging by this dance, however, he looks pretty sprightly to me.

* The Kings play in Sleep Train Arena.

Prediction: 44-38, barely miss playoffs.