Sacramento’s ball club remains an NBA punchline
The Santa Clara
May 3, 2018
The Sacramento Kings last made the NBA playoffs in 2006. Two thousand and six. Back then, the iPhone did not exist, George W. Bush ran the country and Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana.
The Kings now hold the disappointing distinction of being the NBA team with the longest playoff drought—12 seasons and counting.
The record was formerly held by the Minnesota Timberwolves, whose eighth place finish in the mighty Western Conference this year recently ended their streak at 13 seasons.
Sure, the T-Wolves got picked apart by the Rockets in five games, but they still made the postseason. For small-market NBA teams that don’t have a lot to hope for, that’s about as good as it gets.
Outside of basketball, only three other professional sports teams have longer active playoff droughts than the Kings: the Seattle Mariners (16 seasons), the Cleveland Browns (15 seasons) and the Miami Marlins (14 seasons).
Why does any of this matter? Because I am a lifelong Kings fan. Having grown up in Sacramento and tuned in to every game, I bleed purple and black (out of fandom, not some sort of rare blood disorder).
I’ve waited my entire pre-pubescent, adolescent and young adult lives to see the Kings show any signs of promise. And up to and including this past season (27 wins, 55 losses), they have not.
This offseason, like each of the past 12 offseasons, Kings fans are going to hear ownership and management sing the same tune: “This year will be different.” “Our young talent is beginning to develop.” “We’re only one free agent away.”
It won’t. They aren’t. And we’re not.
The best player currently on the Kings’ roster is either Bogdan Bogdanović or Buddy Hield. Oh, what’s that? You’re an avid NBA fan but haven’t heard of either player? That’s because on any other team they’d probably be a sixth man or, more realistically, a role player.
Enough cannot be said about the Kings’ lack of talent over the past decade-plus. It’s been a cruel cocktail of washed-up veterans (Chuck Hayes, Andre Miller and Zach Randolph, to name a few) and failure to launch first-round picks (Thomas Robinson, Nik Stauskas, Ben McLemore and half-a-dozen others).
Looking at former rosters of Kings players is as embarrassing and cringeworthy as looking at my old text messages from high school.
To both the Kings’ front office and my former self, I ask: “What the hell were you thinking?”
The one bright spot the past few years was All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, who the Kings traded to the Pelicans a little over a year ago.
At the time, the trade was indefensible due to Cousins’ level of talent, but hindsight has proven it to be a calculated culture change (many former teammates and coaches testify that Cousins is a toxic locker room presence).
But it’s more than a lack of talent that decimates the Kings. The head coach position has been a rotating door since the legendary Rick Adelman left in 2006.
I call it the “Adelman Curse”—nine coaches in 12 years, none of whom have held the position for more than two-and-a-half seasons (not that they would want to).
In addition, the front office decision-making—outside of securing a downtown arena and preventing the Kings from moving to Seattle—has been at times uninspiring and at other times baffling. They make questionable draft picks, overpay free agents and deliver odd promises.
For instance, following the Cousins trade, general manager and former King Vlade Divac told reporters that if the Kings aren’t better in two years, he will resign. One down, one to go—but I’m not holding my breath.
Despite ridding themselves of the conniving and corrupt Maloof family ownership a few years ago, the Sacramento Kings have yet to display any real hope as a franchise. And, as “The Shawshank Redemption” teaches us, hope is a good thing. Without it, sports fans have nothing to root for.
We do finally have a solid coach in Dave Joerger and a couple players who suggest serious potential.
But outside of that, there’s not much to say. Success seems light years away.
Rooting for the Kings all these years has taught me to manage my expectations. I’m not asking for a dynasty like our Nor-Cal neighbors, the Golden State Warriors.
What I am asking for is the possibility of competing for an eighth seed. That’s all.
And when the day comes when the Sacramento Kings finally reach the playoffs once again, I will happily tune in—Mike Bibby jersey on, tears in my eyes—and watch us get picked apart in five games or less.
Contact Jimmy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.