To say that times are tumultuous in Sacramento would be like saying the Indianapolis 500 is a soap box derby. With no idea who is going to own the team, no idea in what city the team will play, no clear direction and coming off a season where the team finished the season with a 1-7 record in April, the Kings are quickly approaching the biggest fork in the road of their history. There needs to be some massive changes in order to right this ship before the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
A look at some of the biggest moves that need to happen this off season in order for the franchise to start to rebuild:
There is absolutely nothing that the franchise can do at this point until the ownership situation is ironed out. With NBA Commissioner David Stern delaying the vote of the NBA Board of Governors on the issue, it is also, consequently, burning away valuable time. There does not seem to be a definite deadline to resolving the issue and there is no clear direction coming from Stern as to how to temper the waters.
The majority owners of the Kings, the Maloof family, has a binding agreement with billionaire Chris Hansen to sell their 65-percent share of the team to the Seattle group for nearly $358 million. That sale, of course, needs to be approved by at least 23 of the league’s 30 owners. However, there is a counteroffer by a Sacramento-based investment group, led by Vivek Ranadive, a major investor with the Golden State Warriors franchise.
Stern, speaking to the media in a press conference Friday, stated that there is no real consensus and there are concerns, particularly with the timelines on the construction of arenas in both cities.
CBSsports.com has quoted an anonymous owner as saying that it is about, “50-50” in terms of the potential for either group.
Once the league owners are in a position to have a recommendation from a special committee assigned to examine the sale, and potential relocation, of the Kings, they will wait a mandatory seven days before voting. According to the Sacramento Bee, Stern has stated that he expects the committee to make their recommendation next Thursday or Friday. This would push a vote into the first, or even second, week of May.
One thing is for certain, until the league’s owners can decide on an owner and location of the franchise, there is nothing that can be done about the state of the franchise from any personnel angles.
Once the ownership situation has been sorted, those owners–regardless of who they happen to be–need to make a tough decision on the ability of coach Keith Smart to lead this program back to at least playoff contention. His record in his first year, a lockout-shortened season, was 20-39. This season, the team finished a disappointing 28-54. They did not sport a winning record in any one month of the season and finished with a 1-7 month of April.
The uninspired play of the team, the discipline issues and the lack of a clear focus are all unfortunate byproducts of a team being led by a leader that lacks the respect of his team. The oil-and-water relationship with DeMarcus Cousins is not particularly Smart’s fault, but he has failed to create an atmosphere within the team where the players need to adapt to him.
The owners need to bring in a proven winner and a coach that is going to command a certain amount of respect from the players in order to get them to believe in a system that works. Smart is not panning out for the franchise and a leadership change is needed at this point.
One can assume that the new owners, if there are indeed new owners, will make this issue their first priority once they move into their new offices. There is still a small chance that the Maloof family could own the team and decide to let the slide continue and keep Smart. If the owners shoot down the sale to the Seattle group, there does not seem to be a binding agreement to sell to the Sacramento group and the family could chose to sit on the franchise and keep Smart, knowing that he is not getting the job done.
DeMarcus Cousins and Draft Day Success:
The Kings have had a top-12 pick in the draft every year since 2007 and yet, unfortunately, they do not have a lot to show for it. They have made some poor picks over this tenure and with the threat of losing their first round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers soon, they need to make sure this year’s draft pays some bigger dividends.
Going into the draft, however, they need to get a coach in place and make sure they make some tough decisions on the direction of the franchise from a player personnel standpoint. The first big decision is on whether or not to keep DeMarcus Cousins. This will determine what direction the team needs to head with their draft picks.
The new owners should choose to keep the very athletic Cousins, placing the focus on a true point guard to lead the team on the floor. Isaiah Thomas is very good, particularly from an offensive standpoint. However, a bigger presence on the floor so that Thomas can come off the bench would be a priority if they keep Cousins. With Trey Burke (Michigan) not likely to be available and Marcus Smart deciding to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore year, the next best option for the Kings/Sonics will be Syracuse general Michael Carter-Williams.
The Kings ranked 25th in total rebounding, 28th in blocks and 29th in defensive rebounding. Keeping Cousins, getting him to be motivated at being a complete player and picking up a talented small forward in free agency can solve this. Unloading Cousins, however, and picking up a guy like Alex Len (Maryland) could also be a potential option. Cousins, regardless, should stay and the new coach needs to command his respect and then turn him into a more disciplined product.
The next few weeks and months are potentially the most important segments in the history of the franchise. There is a complete overhaul happening in Sacramento and it all needs to happen in a particular order. The ownership and location of the franchise needs to be solved. Keith Smart needs to be fired and a proven head coach hired and in place before the draft. The front office then needs to make the decision to keep Cousins and draft a point guard and a small forward needs to be acquired, either through the draft or free agency.
The basketball community, in the meantime, sits and waits on the fate of the franchise.