Sunday Musings: Managing expectations for the 2013-14 Sacramento Kings

Pete D'Alessandro at NBA Summer League 2013. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

The new Sacramento Kings regime has been extremely active so far this summer.  They have chased free agents to no avail and they have made two trades to tweak the dynamic of the roster.  But time is running out for a blockbuster acquisition that will change the course of the Kings franchise this season.  The 2013-14 Kings roster is close to complete and barring an incredible change in fortune, this is not a championship contender and probably not even a playoff team.

We have spoken about the one major truism for every sports fan: there is always next season.  Regardless of how bad the year before was, everyone begins the next season with a 0-0 record.  Hope always spring eternal that maybe this is your team’s year.

For Kings fans, you were tested.  You survived the darkest of days that any sports fan can imagine and you came through it with a new sense of appreciation for a community asset that is a professional sports franchise.  You have lined-up in droves to profess your appreciation to Vivek Ranadivé and his 30-plus partners.  You have purchased a record number of new season tickets and you are ready to embrace a new era of Kings basketball free from the Maloofs and their destructive ways.

And now it is time for patience.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is an NBA franchise.  It is tough to hear, yet again, that the team is rebuilding, but it is the reality of this franchise.  New owners, new front office, new coaches and new players were all needed and that is a lot to hope for in a shortened off-season.

Before this team can succeed on floor, it needed a new foundation, new walls and a new roof.  What Ranadivé and his group have accomplished already is nothing short of amazing.  Michael Malone is a legit NBA coaching prospect and the staff he has assembled has both promise and experience.  Together, Malone’s staff will be taxed with setting a new foundation for the Kings.  Chris Jent, Dee Brown and Micah Nori are known for their abilities to support and develop players, while Brendan Malone is an old school assistant that specializes in defensive schemes.

General manager Pete D’Alessandro has a strong grasp on the new NBA.  He is both a stats man and a salary cap guru who has surrounded himself with quality talent evaluators like Mike Bratz and George McCloud.  When he made the decision to not match the four year, $44-million offer Tyreke Evans received from New Orleans, it was both a basketball and financial decision.

But this time around, it was a financial decision of a different kind.  It was about cap flexibility, not fear of a giant check bouncing midway through the season.   You need strong walls that fit together if you are going to succeed in the NBA world and D’Alessandro is working hard to construct those pieces.  Evans is a good NBA player, but at the end of the day, the Kings new GM valued pass-first point guard Greivis Vasquez and $9 million in cap space higher than the former rookie of the year.

A foundation and walls mean nothing if there isn’t a strong roof above to keep the weather out.  With a new ownership group in place and the hiring of NBA marketing master Chris Granger, the Kings have replaced a leaking, tarped-off mess, with new 30-year asphalt shingles.  NBA 3.0 is an incredible concept, but it needed someone to implement the plan and Granger is that guy.  Paying for players is one aspect of a successful NBA franchise, but paying for talent off-the-court secures the long-term viability of the Kings.  Vivek Ranadivé just landed the LeBron James of the NBA marketing world.

The pieces are now in place for success, but nothing is guaranteed.  There will be victories and plenty of failures, but the new era of Kings basketball is built to withstand even the toughest climate changes.

With a new stadium three seasons away, this team will be built for that moment.  Andre Iguodala and Jose Calderon are nice players, but they are pieces that would be well past their prime when the franchise is ready to become whole.

So again, you need to be patient.  You have to throw away the last seven years and write it off for what it was – a complete nightmare.  You now need to look at the big picture and see that wins and losses mean nothing in this season of rebirth.

DeMarcus Cousins will get a clean slate and the support he needs to become a winner.  If he does not embrace the opportunity, he will be washed away as another failed experiment of the past regime.

Cousins, Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas and Patrick Patterson are all restricted free agents after this season.  These players are working for their next paycheck, which should be motivation enough.  A season ago, we waited for this reality to sink in with Evans and it never seemed to happen.  But this group of players seem more determined to make their mark on the league.

Jimmer Fredette will try to establish himself as an NBA rotational talent for a new coach in a new system.  Marcus Thornton and Jason Thompson will try and prove their worth again for yet another new regime.  And veterans like Carl Landry, John Salmons, Travis Outlaw and Chuck Hayes will be asked to help this young group mature.

This is a season of change.  A season where culture and camaraderie will mean more than wins and losses.  It is a season where the relationship between a team and a community will look to be repaired.

So enjoy the fact that the Sacramento Kings are here to stay, that a new building is on its way and that your team is in the hands of people who understand that they are true stewards of a community asset.

Take solace in the fact that the Kings landed one of the best talents in the draft in Ben McLemore and that the 2014 NBA Draft is packed with franchise changers.  And whatever you do, don’t fall asleep on second round pick Ray McCallum.

Enjoy a true passing point guard in Vasquez and an elite defender in Luc Mbah a Moute.  Tyreke is gone, but Carl Landry is back.  The defense will be improved, players will have set roles and there will be no more talk of relocation.

If the Kings win 30 games or they win 48, just know that this is the beginning of something new.  And keep in mind that if it doesn’t work out this season, there is always next year.


James Ham

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