An in-depth analysis on the 2016-2017 Sacramento Kings Season
It began with the hope of the city, made concrete by the completed construction and grand opening of the most hi-tech sports and entertainment facility in the world, the Golden 1 Center.
All the struggles and perseverance of the relocation saga cumulated in one massive night of celebration on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016.
That night against the San Antonio Spurs, the Sacramento Kings were led by DeMarcus Cousins and a new-look roster of veterans. Little did they know that by their final game on Apr. 12, 2017, the state of the roster and the future of the franchise, would be completely different.
Walking into the Golden 1 Center for the first time was breathtaking. Many fans purchased their home opener tickets well in advance, desperate to be a part of history in Sacramento.
Each and every one were awed by the sheer size of the arena, with its state of the arc concourse to the massive screen hung above the court. Finally, Sacramento had a facility that not only rivaled the rest of the league, but set a new standard.
As the lights dimmed, the video packages began, and the starting lineups were announced on opening night — it suddenly all became real. Everything that the fans, the organization, and the city went through over the past few years was over. The city had won. Now the focus could return back to where it belongs; the success of the team on the court and the pursuit of an NBA title.
The opening night loss to San Antonio was not surprising, but the 4-6 start to the season was not what was expected. Since purchasing the team and keeping the Kings in Sacramento, Vivek Ranadive made it abundantly clear that the goal was to ensure that the Kings were a playoff team for the first season in the Golden 1 Center.
Therefore, that quickly became the fan expectation. But reality set in on the 10th game of the season, when the Kings hosted the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 10, 2016.
From tip-off, the Sacramento Kings were in full control against their longtime So-Cal rival. The Kings had built up a 19-point lead just minutes before the halftime break and seemed to have the Lakers crushed on every front.
Then Los Angeles outscored Sacramento 56 to 36 in the second half to steal a 101-91 victory. That night opened the fans’ eyes to how many issues this roster still had. Despite their All-Star putting up unbelievable numbers, the wins still weren’t coming.
So, the Kings hung around, as they always tend to do, in the conversation for the eight playoff seed without giving many a reason to believe they would get the job done. Their compiling losses were masked by the colossal, yet hollow, stats Cousins was putting up on nearly a nightly basis.
However, the ugly side of #15 was beginning to make its way into the spotlight more and more until things finally reached a boiling point.
Despite his incredible statistical feats, Cousins was struggling more than ever with one stat — technical fouls. He reached the 16 technical fouls benchmark before the All-Star break, quicker than any other player in history.
But it was not just his temper on the court that was drawing attention. Multiple clashes with members of the media, including an uncomfortable confrontation with The Sacramento Bee’s Andy Furillo, spread like wildfire across the nation.
Suddenly, it became the ultimate struggle of weighing the good and the bad with the superstar big man. Cousins’ individual statistics demanded praise and admiration, but the team’s lack of wins as a result had many, including some in the Kings front office, questioning whether or not Cousins was worth the trouble.
Games like Sacramento’s win over the Golden State Warriors in overtime on Feb. 4, 2017 or Cousins’ 55-point domination against the Portland Trailblazers on Dec. 20, 2016 made Cousins’ antics much more bearable.
Yet, while on the cusp of the eight seed in the Western Conference, general manager Vlade Divac began to understand that due to a trade with Cleveland multiple seasons ago, the Kings were at risk of losing their draft pick in what is considered one of the strongest draft classes in recent memory.
Therefore, a choice had to be made. Go for fulfilling the goal of making the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, or look to a new and potentially brighter future with the draft.
On Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, Cousins represented the Sacramento Kings in the 2017 NBA All-Star game. Rumors swirled throughout the game itself, which Cousins barely participated in. It wasn’t long after that it was announced that he, and teammate Omri Casspi, had been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans for rookie Buddy Hield, former King Tyreke Evans, and shooter Langston Galloway plus a top-three protected first round pick.
The trade sent shockwaves through the basketball world but felt most severely by Sacramento fans. Despite his issues, Cousins was loved by many Kings fans, and he was regarded amongst many in the NBA as the best big man in the league. Therefore, the haul that the Kings got in return seemed underwhelming.
After six and a half seasons playing for Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins was off to New Orleans to form a new devastating frontcourt with fellow Kentucky Wildcat, Anthony Davis.
Despite a very uncomfortable press conference where Divac admitted that he “had a better deal” on the table a few days earlier, he appeared very confident in his decision.
He later explained on the Grant Napear show that it wasn’t a deal, but an offer that was immediately rescinded as soon as he engaged in making it a reality. It was also difficult for Divac to move Cousins because Ranadive’s infatuation with the All-Star big man was immense.
Nevertheless, the new era of Sacramento Kings basketball began on Feb. 23, 2017 when the young-guns helped ease the loss of Cousins with an encouraging victory over the Denver Nuggets.
Willie Cauley-Stein thrived, leading all scorers with 29 points. Many fans, and members of the local media, left the Golden 1 Center that evening more entertained than they had been in a long time, thanks to the hustle and intensity of Sacramento’s new young core. The Kings finished the year 8-17, taking them well out of playoff contention.
However, with the unexpected struggles of the Pelicans, along with the encouraging development of Cauley-Stein, Hield, Malachi Richardson, and Skal Labissiere, the season ended on an optimistic note.
Yes, the playoff drought continues for a fan base longing to see their franchise return to post-season glory. However, two top 10 draft picks call for a very intriguing, and potentially franchise-changing offseason.
The 2016-2017 NBA season took fans on even more of a rollercoaster than the relocation saga. The organization continues to face as much scrutiny as ever from NBA media members and experts around the country.
But within the city limits of Sacramento, a new sense of hope has started lighting fires in the hearts of Kings fans, moving them to get behind Divac and head coach Dave Joerger. Only time will tell, but change is happening in Sacramento. Success could be closer on the horizon than many seem to think.
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