There are some harsh realities that Sacramento Kings fans, players, coaches and front office personnel need to understand.
This is it.
This is the team you will watch. The team you will play for. The team you will coach and this the team that you will finish the season with.
There will be no trades. There will be no guidance. No stability, nor improvement. No mandates from above on who should play or who should sit. At 17-32, this is the team and staff that will ride out this year and there’s nothing that anyone can do about it.
What’s worse? It’s every man for himself.
That’s the way it works in a lame duck season. And trust me, this is a lame duck season of epic proportions. Whether the future is in Sacramento or Seattle, no one survives this mess.
Not the coaching staff and not the front office. And at least half these players will be employed by a new franchise next season.
It’s the way it goes. New ownership means new blood and new money coursing through the veins of this colossal train wreck. Money can buy a lot of things. Just how much will be tested because the laundry list is long.
But for now, there are still 33 games left in the Kings’ 2012-13 schedule. And they could all end like the game yesterday in New York.
While we would like to see this team pull together and be galvanized by the many outside distractions, that is not in the cards. It is about to get uglier. This is no longer a team, but a group of men auditioning for their next job and it doesn’t end with the guys on the roster.
If Keith Smart wants to earn another head coaching job, he will play the players that will help him win the most games.
There is no time left for grooming and no thought of a youth movement. Smart has been through this before. He ran a 10-game improvement with the Golden State Warriors in the 2010-11 season while trying to impress new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. It wasn’t enough, but it still earned him a shot at the Kings’ job less than a year later.
So Jimmer Fredette fans beware. We will see plenty of Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia and John Salmons going down the stretch. It is the safest play for Smart, like it or not. He is more comfortable with veterans and that is where he will turn.
And the players? Let’s make a list of them that are looking for new deals and possibly new teams next season: Garcia (unrestricted free agent), Brooks (player option), James Johnson (restricted free agent), Tyreke Evans (RFA) and Tyler Honeycutt (RFA). That list doesn’t even include Isaiah Thomas (entering the final year of his rookie deal), DeMarcus Cousins (eligible for a monster extension) and Salmons (a major candidate for amnesty under a new ownership group).
What we are going to see is more of the same isolation, one-on-one basketball – only on steroids. Points equal dollars in the NBA and this is going to be a race to see who can score the most.
For the front office, this is the team that Geoff Petrie will go to his NBA grave with. He is as hamstrung as anyone in this situation and he has been for half a decade. However, there is no one to blame for his predicament but himself. He is the one who stayed in this situation, despite knowing who his bosses were.
Could you imagine being Petrie, owning the fifth pick in last summer’s NBA Draft and not getting a single top five selection to come in for a workout? And that was before the franchise went completely nuclear.
Would Petrie like to make a handful of trades? You bet he would. How painful must it have been to read Marc Stein report that the Memphis Grizzlies would have traded Rudy Gay for Evans?
It’s not happening. The Maloofs won’t let Petrie adjust this roster. Not now. It’s not their team to work with and the last thing they would do is put a $525-million deal in jeopardy.
So get ready for 33 games of forgettable basketball. Sure, the Kings may win some games, but don’t count on anything spectacular. This is about what is next for plenty of people.
While the world crumbles around them, expect survival instincts to take over. Expect hero mode and a major lack of accountability. It’s not an indictment on Smart, Petrie or the players. It is the reality of the 2012-13 Sacramento Kings. This is what happens when the ship is sinking.