The Sacramento Kings, and this is official, have secured funding for a new arena and will potentially play in Sacramento for the next 30 years. Less than a year after it seemed all but assured this team would be moving to Anaheim as their owners (Joe and Gavin Maloof) continued to lose money both in their real estate holdings and Sacto's NBA-ancient Arco Arena, Sacramento mayor (and former NBA All-Star) Kevin Johnson spearheaded a startling turnaround to both secure funding for a new arena, and convince both the Maloofs and the NBA that the area would continue to be viable. And, eventually, profitable.
Party on, Northern California. And then get to work, Maloofs. Because you're going to need to re-engage in the business of basketball in a meaningful way that we haven't seen since Rick Adelman and the team parted ways in 2006. Since then, the Maloofs have taken a proactive role in hiring coaches Eric Mussleman, Reggie Theus, Paul Westphal, and extending one-time interim Keith Smart. The results speak for themselves, to those that bothered to pay attention to the squad.
Kings fans are stuck in a lose-lose situation as long as the Maloofs continue to tinker with personnel decisions, or if GM Geoff Petrie is given carte blanche with his hirings and transactions. It's an indelicate time to be calling for anyone's job at this point, especially now that the worry about Sacramento's impermanence has lifted, and the ability to run an NBA team with an NBA-sized payroll has become a possibility once again for Petrie. But quite a bit will have to change, if the Kings want to meet this spate of good news with a return to the postseason for the first time since Adelman was on board.
We're not telling Sacramento fans anything they don't already know. The team boasts a loud and knowledgeable fan base, led by the man behind one of the original (and still one of the best) NBA team blogs in Sactown Royalty. Tom Ziller has seen enough of the Maloof's inconstant touch and seemingly whimsy-based hirings and firings, and wrote as much after the team needlessly picked up coach Keith Smart's option for 2012-13:
You can't run a team on wild emotional swings. In this case, you can't get by simply judging Smart against Westphal. Eric Musselman would look like Pat Riley next to Paul Westphal. The choice is not between Smart and the failed Kings coaches of the past, but between Smart and all other candidates, some prominent ones of which (Stan Van Gundy, perhaps) could become available by June. Again, Smart's doing pretty well and has been refreshing. But this is a needlessly kind gesture that reminds us how rash and fly-by-pants this club is run right now.
There is talent, payroll flexibility and potential there. The Kings could very well back into a lower rung playoff berth next season based on that improving talent and some free-agent additions, but this shouldn't be what the team is after. There has to be a consistent, deliberate plan. Not one that trades down in the draft to not only take on a lesser player, but more salary, as the Kings most-confusingly did in last year's draft while picking up John Salmons and Jimmer Fredette (who are both shooting 38 percent on the year).
Petrie isn't going anywhere. He's under contract, and the Kings are still a ways away from earning money off of a stadium that likely won't open until the 2015-16 season. With a young roster, good feelings and low expectations, though, this should be the perfect time to build slowly, smartly and with patience.
Those qualities haven't been Sacramento Kings hallmarks, not for a long time. And these next few years at Arco Arena are crucial, because they'll go a long way toward determining whether or not the team's 1999-2006 playoff heyday was merely a novelty blip in what has been a decades-long history filled with more lottery appearances than playoff runs.