The NBA, A-through-Z: Sacramento Kings

The free agents have just about all been signed up. The NBA is down to a series of Instagram photos from moving yachts and crossed fingers from worried teams hoping their players stay safe in the summer off. There’s nothing going on, save for that clock on the wall that is ticking down to the 2013-14 season.

And it’s moving SO SLOWLY.

This is why we’ve decided to pick 26 things we’re looking forward to in 2013-14. Or, at the very least, 26 things that intrigue us as we wait out an offseason that feels like it has thousands of miles left to cross before we can get to Halloween and opening week. Because there are 26 letters in the alphabet – you guessed, NBA A-through-Z.

We continue with the Sacramento Kings.

After years of inexcusable “leadership” from both former owners and personnel executives, names I won’t bother to release so as to prevent their Google update alarms from happily setting off, the Sacramento Kings have a new owner, a new general manager, and a new head coach. Soon they will begin work on a new arena. This is fantastic news for a fan base that has suffered too much over the last seven years, a run that rendered the team’s 2000-2007 run of fabulousness far too close to serving as a quarter-length aberration some 28 years after the team moved to Sacramento.

What the team doesn’t have is a new roster. And this is a good thing, even if it renders 2013-14 as yet another lost cause for the Kings.

There is always significant temptation for both new ownership and their basketball men to want to either blow up what was left to them, or splurge on what’s available to them – because, hell, I just spent $535 million on a basketball team, what’s another $50 million on Andre Iguodala? The Kings came close to sparking up that sort of sentiment, offering a deal to Dre early in the free agency period before pulling it away before he could give them an answer on their proposed deal.

Iguodala’s a great player, but the Kings dodged a bullet. There’s no need to be paying Andre Iguodala eight figures a year into his 30s while you’re rebuilding. And the Kings are rebuilding.

As a result, the Kings will head into 2013-14 with just two new significant veteran roster additions in forward Carl Landry, and point guard Greivis Vasquez; and the latter is only significant to ardent NBA League Pass watchers. This comes on the heels of a 2012 offseason that saw the Kings only add backup point guard Aaron Brooks, a player who didn’t even make it out of 2012-13 before being waived.

Hallmarks of the old regime don’t abound, though. Sacramento needs a year to figure out the sorts of players that can hack it under new coach Michael Malone, a fiery-type that will raise a few eyebrows from across the court. That’s just fine, Sacramento, because even after years of wallowing in the middle of the NBA lottery, patience is needed.

Even Mark Cuban, full of ideas and a little out of his league tact-wise (remember, this is a guy that ran onto a floor during a near-fight) didn’t even blow up his Dallas Mavericks upon buying the team in 2000. Yes, he had the luxury of already having Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley on his roster. And, yes, he did sign Dennis Rodman soon after purchasing the squad, but if he can hold back, anyone can.

It’s the smaller moves that start the spiral. In his first offseason Cuban traded for Christian Laettner and later Juwan Howard, he signed Hubert Davis to a four-year deal, and he grabbed Howard Eisley in a four-team deal, announcing that Eisley would compete with Steve Nash (who had struggled badly with back and ankle woes in the two previous seasons) for the starting point guard job in training camp.

Those moves didn’t set the Mavericks back – they made the playoffs the next season and Howard was a solid reason why – but they did initiate a spending rollover plan that just led from one move to another. Years of 50 wins resulted, but the Mavs didn’t win a title until a decade later, and the initial spree didn’t really do much but teach lessons along the way. The Golden State Warriors’ pursuit of David Lee in 2010, after the franchise was purchased by an ownership group that new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was part of, didn’t really do a whole lot for their playoff run in 2013. And now Lee is considered a millstone by some Warriors analysts.

The Kings are nowhere near what the Mavs and Warriors already had in place by the time of their switchover; the only thing in common with those outfits is the years of lottery appearances that preceded the sale. In rookie Ben McLemore and Isaiah Thomas the Kings do have two guards worth working around, but the rest of the team is made up of average types that I respect (Patrick Patterson, Marcus Thornton, Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson … probably Landry once you factor defense in), but who probably won’t be around when this gets turned around.

The glaring omission here is DeMarcus Cousins, who could sign a boffo extension with the team this fall, because some team is bound to offer Cousins a massive deal next summer when he becomes a restricted free agent. I think there are things about Cousins’ game (at this point, I care very little about the attitude issues) that just are not fixable. I do not see him as a potential Zach Randolph 2.0. Zach Lowe explained some of these problems earlier this summer.

This is going to have to be a patient rebuilding, around Malone and his 47,000 assistant coaches. The previous regime salted the crops so badly that this will take years to work around, and there’s no point in spending tens of millions of dollars on Astroturf just for appearances sake.

Kings fans will understand.