Why The Sacramento Kings Stay Losing

Dec 28, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins (15), guard Rajon Rondo (9), and guard Ben McLemore (23) look on from the bench against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 28, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins (15), guard Rajon Rondo (9), and guard Ben McLemore (23) look on from the bench against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

An uneventful 2016 NBA Trade Deadline underscores why the Sacramento Kings have a long way to go to reclaim relevance.

On Feb. 17, one day before the 2016 NBA Trade Deadline, I saw notification that a deal was potentially brewing to send Chicago Bulls power forward/center Pau Gasol to the Sacramento Kings.

The next day, the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline came and went, and Gasol was still a member of the Bulls.

Prayer truly works.

It’s not just Gasol’s future that I implored the Almighty to protect; I had the same reaction when Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein was drafted by Sacramento in the first round, and when Seth Curry signed a two-year contract with the Kings.

While Cauley-Stein didn’t have a choice as to where he ended up, I understood Curry’s rationale: he’d been stuck in the D-League after a successful college career at Duke University, and wanted to prove that he could really flourish on the main stage. He also wanted to show that his brother Stephen Curry and father Dell Curry weren’t the only family members with NBA-caliber skills. The Kings offered him a shot, and he took it.

Look how well that turned out.

The chance that Curry thought would materialize never really happened. Instead of being a main option in the D-League, he’s riding the pine in Sactown. The few times he’s gotten to play, fans are impressed with his handles and shooting, and wonder why he’s not in the rotation more. This is yet more blame to be laid at head coach George Karl’s doorstep — one of many bricks lining his path out of Cowbell City.

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(Sidebar: Does owner Vivek Ranadive actually think that he could hurt Karl by firing him? Karl survived cancer; what could Ranadive do? Karl’s reputation ensures that he’d get another coaching gig if he wanted it. He’s an old-school coach who has made it this long by his wits; the only thing Ranadive can do for him is cut him that $11 million dollar check if he’s canned.)

Ladies and gentlemen, your Sacramento Kings.

It’s hard to believe that this is the same franchise that once boasted Chris Webber, Vlade Divac (the same guy who is now GM of the franchise), and Peja Stojakovic (who also has a front office position). The former owners, the Maloof family, were many things, but they at least provided a quality basketball team to the Northern California area once upon a time (their southern neighbors, the Golden State Warriors, were still a league afterthought during that time).

This current iteration, under majority owner Vivek Ranadive, is just a hot mess — and will remain so until Ranadive & Divac understand that the Kings, as currently constituted, are not going to win a championship. They may barely make the playoffs.

The Kings had a chance to change their fortunes by doing one thing: trading franchise star DeMarcus Cousins. Since he’s the best player they have and the face of the franchise, that was always going to be a battle.

Still, the Kings could have gotten picks and one or two players who may not be as big a name, but would be better suited to Karl’s up-tempo style and would perhaps be at a higher emotional level. It would have been a hard call, but a necessary one. Instead, the Kings stayed pat at the deadline and continue to hurtle toward mediocrity.

It’s understandable that Sacramento doesn’t want to give up Cousins, or anyone else, without getting something extremely great in return. Still, anytime you let a player hold a franchise hostage (hi, Kobe Bryant), you’re asking for trouble.

Cousins has continually proven that he is not the leader he needs to be for this franchise, and his skills are for naught if they can’t even help the team get the No. 8 seed. It’s time to move on from him and start fresh.

Ranadive is directly responsible for the decisions that make the Kings such an unattractive team for which to work or play, including his obsession with selling luxury boxes and sponsorships for the new arena that will open this fall, to the detriment of his team.

However, Cousins has to shoulder his part of the blame. Boogie is good; crazy good for a player of his size to have the skills that he has. But let’s go back to the “crazy” part. Cousins’ temper tantrums are legend and the team only puts up with them because of his prodigious talent (and the fact that he’s their best player, period).

Call it “emotion,” call it “heart,” call it whatever you want. What you can’t call it is productive, and until the Kings move him in exchange for a more mature player with on-par skills, they will continue to hang out in the league basement. Karl knows this, but his friction with Ranadive almost assures that his opinion regarding the Kings’ mercurial star will never be taken seriously. Not that he’ll stay around long enough to voice many more opinions.

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The sad part is, I wouldn’t wish the Kings on anyone. I wouldn’t even suggest a trade for a player to go there; not even my least-favorite players. Ranadive is stubborn and short-sighted and refuses to understand that an NBA team and one of his tech companies are two different animals.

While I liked him as a player, Divac is borderline clueless as a GM and would be better suited in some sort of consultant role, since his days seem to be spent smoothing egos and keeping Ranadive from driving the team further into the ground.

The minority owners are already trying to stage a coup against Ranadive (hey, it worked for the Atlanta Hawks). Ranadive thinks he can treat this team like he did his daughter’s soccer team and single-handedly deliver a championship by sheer will, and by dint of allegedly being the smartest person in the room.

Note to Ranadive: you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, as long as you have the smartest person in the room working for you.

Between front office dysfunction and coaching hubris (Karl is another who won’t bend, although his track record should have signaled to Ranadive that Karl knew what he was doing, so let him do his job), not to mention the unholy hoarding of their one troubled asset, the Kings are going to continue to be the laughingstock of the league for some time.

This trade deadline offered them the opportunity to be taken seriously, to show that they understood what it took to win a championship, and to be a successful franchise. Agents will stop calling, or stop taking calls,  unless it’s to move a player away from the Kings.

More hoops habit: 2016 NBA Trade Deadline: Grades For All 30 Teams

The upcoming coaching crop will turn away from Sactown in search of more sane waters. The only people showing up will be the first round draft picks, and they will probably start looking at the front door as their rookie contracts draw nearer to an extension.

And the Kings will remain outside of the prayers of those who wish the best for their preferred players.