As far as professional franchises go, you’d be hard pressed to find a single one that has experienced more instability and turbulence than the Sacramento Kings these last several years. The Kings’ struggles were absolutely a byproduct of the Maloofs’ and their flailing portfolios. As has been written a thousand times, the Maloofs’ fortunes took an unforeseen, considerable tumble and began to liquidate any and all assets. They sold their beer distributorship in New Mexico, folded the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs franchise and ponied off 98% of their stake in their primary cash cow, the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.
Consequently, there was a gradual and ultimately fatal reduction in capital pumped into the Kings franchise. Player salary was slashed to the point where the organization had to trade for players with potential career threatening injuries (Marquis Daniels in 2011) just to reach the minimum salary cap floor. Bottom line, these last handful of years the franchise was treated with all the delicacy and frailty of a toddler handling fine China.
As their finances continued to plummet, it became abundantly clear that they no longer had the means to run a professional basketball team. Rather than selling the Kings, as they had done with everything else they possessed of value, the Maloofs began flirtation with other cities about relocating the franchise to a bigger market than Sacramento. Three years of poorly veiled negotiations with cities like Anaheim, Virginia Beach and Seattle all became very public and ultimately crumbled for a bevvy of reasons. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson played a colossal role in proving to the NBA that the Kings were the fulcrum to Sacramento’s downtown revitalization. Johnson demonstrated that Sacramento was both capable and worthy of remaining home to an NBA franchise.
The end result of course is the Kings stayed. New majority owner Vivek Ranadivé, noted for his fastidious nature and successful business acumen, was previously a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors. Mr. Ranadivé made significant changes to the front office, the coaching staff and the roster. He handpicked former Warriors’ lead assistant Michael Malone as his new head coach. Malone, hailed as one of the most respected assistant coaches in the league, has shown a proclivity to improve the defensive performance at seemingly every stop on his NBA journey. Malone will be charged with the task of not only improving the King’s league worst defense but of equal importance, change the losing culture in and around the organization.
Vivek hired first time GM Pete D’Alessandro from the Denver Nuggets, a very studious and original thinker who diligently worked his way up from a video coordinator at St. John’s in the early 1990’s all the way to his prestigious post as general manager now.
Bereft from last season’s 28-54 club are former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, Toney Douglas, and Cole Aldrich. Key additions include Luc Mbah a Moute, Greivis Vasquez and rookie guards Ben McLeMore and Ray McCallum. The new regime would love nothing more than to have DeMarcus Cousins as their franchise player in this new era of Kings basketball. A great deal of effort has been concerted in embracing their mercurial big man DeMarcus Cousins, who has all the talent to be an NBA All-Star as evidenced by his 36 point, 22 rebound performance in last season’s finale. But a platoon of needless technical fouls, countless run ins with opponents, coaches, teammates and even opposing broadcasters have led many to question the maturity and stability of the prodigious Cousins.
It appears the Kings, with the new ownership group firmly entrenched, have finally gotten out of their own way and to borrow a often used sports metaphor, will stop shooting themselves in the foot. No longer will all game recaps and highlights lead with the swirling uncertainty of when and if the Kings are leaving Sacramento. This stability has led to a groundswell of support from legions of once pejorative Kings fans who loathed the Maloofs and the laughingstock the team had become. For that reason it’s fair to assume that Sacramento, previously renowned for their boisterous, disruptive crowds, will again serve as a distinct home court advantage with their reinvigorated fan base.
The playoffs aren’t realistic in 2013-14 because the NBA’s Western Conference is beastly, and because Rome wasn’t built in a day. But Sacramento Kings fans should be optimistic that for the first time in a long time they can say that there is a future, and it’s bright.