Sunday Musings: The end of another crazy off-season in Sacramento

Sleep Train Arena vs. the Spurs in November. (Photo: Steven Chea)

Training camp is just two days away and the excitement surrounding the 2013-14 Sacramento Kings season is palpable.  The same can be said for most NBA teams at the start of the pre-season, but Sacramento is a little different.  After years of uncertainty, the Kings are staying put and the fans are ecstatic.

Monday’s media day marks the beginning of the pre-season schedule, meaning that the off-season is officially over.  And what an off-season it has been.

“If you can win the off-season, in its totality – I’m not talking just roster, but as an organization, it might be the Kings doing that,” USA Today’s Sam Amick told the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast on Friday.

Amick couldn’t be more accurate.  The Kings are riding a wave of success seldom seen in professional sports and they haven’t even played a single game yet.

The transition from the Maloofs to the Ranadivé led group hasn’t been completely perfect.  There have been some growing pains, but reconstructing an entire franchise in one summer is a tall order.  What we have seen so far has been nothing short of amazing to watch.

From the coaching staff to adding Shaquille O’Neal as a minority owner, the team has hit home runs every step of the way.  Is the roster better?  Who knows, basketball questions will be answered in time.  This is the end of the most tumultuous off-season imaginable and from coast to coast, the Kings organization deserves a standing ovation for a job well done.

The team has more work to do if they want to climb out of the basement of professional franchises, but I’m not sure that you can count them out.  We could break down the individual additions, but it goes beyond the hiring of Pete D’Alessandro or Chris Granger.

There is a change in philosophy permeating throughout the organization.  That change has no boundaries and the reach goes beyond the conventional.

On Saturday, the Sacramento Bee broke down some of the renovations going on inside of Sleep Train Arena.  Two new lounges have been built; one for high-end clientele and the other for the ever growing ownership group.  These are necessary changes for a franchise looking to capture the attention of California’s wealthy.

The same goes for the additional 90 internet nodes placed around the arena.  This is the most tech savvy group in professional sports.  Without internet access, they can’t reach their fan base effectively and they certainly can’t provide the level of fan experience that they are hoping for.

New “farm to fork” eateries are being added to the mezzanine and the giant potholes in the parking lot are being repaired.  These changes are probably just the tip of the iceberg.  The list of “honey-do’s” has to be a mile long and they are quietly being checked off.

It is sad to say, but the previous regime stopped providing the basics necessary to run a motor lodge, let alone a 21st century professional franchise.  The new owners bought the proverbial “fixer-upper” and there is a lot of work to do.

Hidden within the renovations are a few major pieces that the fans will never see.  The visitors locker room is being doubled in size and from our sources, major changes are being made to the media room as well.

While these changes won’t effect the fan experience, they will go a long way towards changing how the franchise is viewed from the outside.

The visitors locker room is the worst in the league.  It has the feel of a teenage boy’s bedroom, if he had 12 of his tallest buddies over after a game of hoops.   It is a place that leaves a lasting negative impression on future free agents and visiting beat writers.

You only have one chance to make a first impression and the last thing this group wants to do is shove a team of millionaires into a broom closet.  That is not the experience the new ownership group wants for its guests and that certainly extends to visiting media as well.

There is not a lot that can be done with Sleep Train Arena.  It will not receive a $100 million remodel anytime soon.  It is most likely scheduled for demolition once the new arena is constructed and if not, it will soon be forgotten like so many other outdated stadiums.  But the Kings have new standards to live up to.  They are stuck in this building for at least three more NBA seasons and they will have to make the most of it.

The ownership group is doing everything in their power to change the perception of the Sacramento Kings franchise.  It will be a process, but less than five months ago, this team looked like it was headed to Seattle.

New owners, new coaches, new management, new players, new renovations – everything is changing in Sacramento.  There may be a few more bumps in the road, but the progress so far has been remarkable.

After so much change and uncertainty, it is time for the focus to shift back to the game of basketball.  And it is time for the ownership group to take a bow for a job well done.



James Ham

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