Editor's Note - Awesomeness from the FanPosts. Hat tip, pookey.
This is about the worst moves the Kings franchise has made. After plenty of questionable (or downright godawful) moves over the years, I'm sure I'll have plenty of material to work with. Hope you enjoy it.
The unpopular but not necessarily bad moves
Kevin Martin - Carl Landry trade in 2010
Out of deference for the numerous fans who believe that the Kevin Martin-Carl Landry deal was one of the worst for the Kings in their history (if not the worst), I'm going to put this on there. That's the only reason. That, and that's it's caused a lot of internal debate around here about whether it should have been done. But as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't really belong on this list because of Landry, and the amount of cap space it created. (And no, I'm not arguing the trade will be invalid if the cap space isn't used properly. As far as I'm concerned, those are 2 separate issue's.)
Chris Webber - Kenny Thomas/Corliss Williamson/Brian Skinner trade in 2005
In similar fashion to the SpeedRacer deal, this will be the Chris Webber/Michael Bradley/Matt Barnes for Corliss Williamson, Brian Skinner and Kenny Thomas trade. So, again, I'm doing this for those fans who believe this was a terrible deal for the trade. So, let me point out a few things.
1) Chris Webber was not a superstar. Not any longer. Yes, he was still putting up pretty good numbers, but were they numbers that made the Kings better? Geoff Petrie believed no. It's never going to be a popular topic, but that's the way it goes sometimes. The Kings weren't trading the 3 time All-Star that suited up for the Kings; they were trading a 32 year old PF on his way down to the end of his career.
2) When you owe a player 62 million for 3 1/2 seasons, and a player who hasn't shown to be the player he was when you originally signed him to that contract, it's time to let him go if you can. I'm still amazed that the Kings were able to even trade Webber. And had Phlly not had Kenny Thomas' contract in tow, I doubt Philly would have done so if they weren't trying to appeal Allen Iverson to stay at that time. (Which as we know didn't happen ultimately.)
3) Kenny Thomas and Brian Skinner each averaged over 8.5 boards in Sacramento when receiving 32 & 28 minutes respectively immediately after the trade. I don't know that it's worth blaming Thomas and Skinner for the Kings problems as the season went on. It's also worth remembering that right after the trade, Brad Miller broke his leg never giving the opportunity for Thomas and Skinner to mesh with Miller up front. However, I'm convinced that if Miller had broken his leg, and Webber was still a main cog on the front line, the Kings would have missed the playoffs because of their lack of depth up front and that Webber was no longer the capable stud that the Kings needed him to be.
Again, I know this will be unpopular. And, well, so be it.
So now onto the 25 worst moments....
#25 Signing Mikki Moore to a Mid Level Free Agent contract
In the grand scheme of things, Mikki Moore's contract may not end up as the heaviest impact of things hurting the Kings franchise. It certainly was a shining beacon of light that the Maloof's trying to run the franchise, and almost certainly help Reggie Theus attain his goal of making the Kings a playoff team, was a bi-product of this signing. Other than the fact that Moore played hard and was a professional, there simply was never much gained by doing this trade. Unless you count one of the more epic photo-shop's of existence a silver lining, I'm pretty sure the Moore signing sucked. And, unlike Shareef Abdur Rahim, John Salmons, and Beno Udrih, Mikki Moore was signed after a very flukey season in New Jersey that turned out to be Jason Kidd's last full season there.
#24 Drafting Quincy Douby over Rajon Rondo and Paul Millsap
Hindsight is 20/20, and while I don't consider it a great negative the Kings didn't draft either guy, it's also a mistake to say that Millsap should have been picked at the 47th pick in that draft. It's very true that, in both cases, both have benefited by playing on good Celtics and Jazz teams. It's also true that I think Millsap would have been a wonderful find that the Kings could have used for years to come instead of having to simply cut bait on Douby after 2 1/2 largely unproductive years. As far as Rajon Rondo, I'm not convinced he would have fit in well with the Kings roster at the time. (Actually that's just what I think. If you had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen on the roster, I'd be ecstatic to watch Rondo.)
#23 Trading Rodney McCray for Bill Wennington and the 2 1st round draft picks that became Travis Mays and Duane Causwell
Whether or not Rodney McCray was a great talent, it was clear he was one of the best players on a team that really had little talent. Largely because of Dick Motta, the Kings went younger and moved McCray. But, even though Motta will land much higher on this list, the fact that the Kings traded one of the 5 or 6 best F's to ever play for the Kings (Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Otis Thorpe, Ron Artest, Brian Grant, and I'd probably put McCray right there at 6th) just simply suggests why this was a bad trade. It's not like the Kings ever did much with this trade and that's why it's on here.
#22 Trading Danny Ainge for the right to draft Pete Chilcutt
This isn't an anti-Pete Chilcutt point. But where Ainge was legitimately one of the 4 or 5 best G's to ever play for the Kings (similar to McCray except there was more talent in the Kings backcourt throughout the 26 years here), Pete Chilcutt never really did much in his NBA career. Again, this will be one reason Dick Motta lands on this list. And, these 2 trades (Ainge & McCray trades) are a primary reason why. There was also a guy named Byron Irvin in the deal who was worth less than Chilcutt in his career.
#21 Using the 17th pick in the 1986 draft to draft Harold Pressley instead of Scott Skiles, Mark Price or Dennis Rodman
This is one of the many Joe Axelson mistakes that was made during his 2 1/2 seasons with the team in Sacramento. Whatever value Joe Axelson had as a GM before coming to Sacramento (primarily with the team in Cincinnati), it was gone by 1986. While the 1986 draft was extremely screwy with Len Bias OD'ing 2 days after being drafted by Boston, Chris Washburn washing out of the NBA with his own cocaine (but not fatal) habit, and Roy Tarpley getting banned from the NBA twice for similar issue's as Washburn. Still, it's not like Axelson had any of these guys to choose from, and I imagine that picking Dennis Rodman would have cured a lot of ill's that taking Joe Kleine created.
#20 Joee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Kings draft Joe Kleine at #6 overall in 1985. Or, not taking Karl Malone. Or Chris Mullin. Or Detlef Schrempf.)
There is one reason this is at 20, and not higher. Had the Kings not taken Kleine, but Chris Mullin or Detlef Schrempf (taken at 7 & 8 in that draft), I don't know that not taking Karl Malone was so much of a criticism as a moment that hurt the team in the long run. It's also quite possible that Malone was in the perfect system to take advantage of all his talents in Utah with both Frank Layden and Jerry Sloan as the head man while Malone played there. The draft can be a crap shoot and there is the reality that a ton of other teams that could have used a Hall of Famer the caliber of Karl Malone too. (He was taken 13th.) It's not like the Kings passed up on just Malone, but several high quality players in Mullin & Schrempf over Kleine as well.
Just one note on Malone. I've done a lot of looking over drafts over the years (as some of you may already know), and Malone was one of the greatest anomalies (more than Rajon Rondo--or in the case of Malone's teammate John Stockton--taken 16th in 1984). A real franchise player who was not taken in the top 10 is almost unheard of. The only other player who qualifies? Kobe Bryant. Again, a total anomaly. And with Bryant, you had a deep 1996 NBA Draft and his threats that effectively knocked him farther down the board than he probably would have gone otherwise.
#19 Trading Otis Thorpe for Rodney McCray and Jim Petersen
The only reason this is 19 and not 17 or 18 is that this ended up netting the Kings a quality player in McCray. That said, when you downgrade your talent or try a 2 for 1 deal, unless it works it's going to be considered a failure. Another one of Joe Axelson's specialty moves. The fact that there was a financial component to it from the ownership end just compounds this mistake (and the others) Axelson made.
#18 Trading Eddie Johnson for Ed Pickney and a #2 rd draft pick that became Vinny Del Negro
Again, like Thorpe, trading away a talented shooter like Johnson who could score in bunches was a valuable commodity for a team like Sacramento. And, again, Axelson traded him away either because of money or the fact that he felt Johnson wasn't good enough defensively. Either way, because of the poor trades and the numerous missed trades it tended to accumulate over time. I'm still amazed this didn't sink the Kings in Sacramento.
Also, if you believe that the Thorpe trade was worse than the Johnson trade, I wouldn't argue with you for one moment. I rank the Johnson trade for one reason: You didn't really net yourself a quality player that you could win games with down the road. Where there was a silver lining with McCray (even though he was always meant to be part of the deal anyway), there was little in the Pickney deal until he was traded for Danny Ainge. But that says more about Bill Russell and Jerry Reynolds as personnel people than it does the move to acquire Pickney in the first place.
#17 Firing Phil Johnson in 1987
I still think this was a dumb move even though the Kings ended up on hiring Bill Russell shortly after Johnson's firing. The fact that a front office makes a bad trade and the performance of the team suffers, somehow that falls on a head coach. It's amazing Phil Johnson never sued Joe Axelson for dereliction of duty.
Just as important, it showed how Gregg Lukenbill as an owner was trying to make the Kings better without having the right pieces to make the team better naturally. Simply put, Axelson and Lukenbill tried to make a trade, and then made more poor trades. Along the way, they also fired a quality NBA head coach (who has been with Jerry Sloan since Dec 1988 after being hired away from the Kings then--Johnson became Reynolds' assistant after Reynold's 2nd interim stint and into the only full season for Reynold's head coaching career) and this simply showcased the high quality dysfunction the Kings operated with when Joe Axelson was around. Phil Johnson being fired for a bad quarter in LA (against one of the greatest teams of all time no less) and the team hiring Bill Russell over the All-Star break was a sign of how desperate Axelson and Lukenbill were.
Now Phil is retired (or likely is) after leaving with Jerry Sloan after Jerry walked away from the Jazz last week. (Note: I had to add this as this part was written before Sloan retired suddenly.)
#16 Eric Musselman's DUI
Even though the hiring itself was very suspect, it just turned out to be an unmitigated disaster area for the Kings as Musselman proved to be a PR disaster whose principles did little to help the Kings. Not only did the Kings underperform on the court during E-Muss' sole season as a head coach, he never seemed to have a firm pulse on how to run a team as the head coach. As much as Reggie Theus was disliked for some of his cell phone rules that was interpreted as "do as I say and not as I do", news that Musselman spent time with Mike Bibby in strip clubs was just a shining example of the lack of judgment Musselman had. After that DUI for E-Muss, and even though we didn't know it at the time, it all went downhill from there.
#15 Brad Miller's craptastic departure from the Kings in 2009
One of the heaviest disappointments for me as a fan was seeing Brad Miller get Reggie Theus fired, and then continue to go out and play as if a slug was a speeding bullet. He played dis-interested, dis-passionate, and simply played like Stephen Jackson. It's true that Miller never was an angel in the first place, but it's also true that he was not shown the door because the franchise had given up on him. He had given up on the franchise and they were forced to move him for so little that it should have been a mandatory that Miller pay the Kings for all the games he performed in poorly that season. While Miller's career generally was a highlight in Sacramento, his last season was an absolute hazmat disaster waiting to happen. While the team wasn't much good with or without him, it certainly made for a toxic atmosphere that lingered with the team all season.
#14 Ron Artest's domestic violence incident
I have no idea exactly why Kimsha Artest threw some kind of pot at Ron Artest's windshield. I still find the incident bizarre in that you throw a pot at a Hummer, which is being driven by the guy who just hit you on the forearm, and whom is trying to leave, but you keep him from doing so. However, semantics and details of this particular aside, the enigma that Ron Artest always tended to haunt the organization. His antics, and his craziness in equal measures, always seemed to be a far bigger story than his on court contribution. Which, given his talent level in that, seemed to underwhelm far too often. But that's a different story.
#13 The whole Kevin Martin "saga" between Sam Amick and Grant Napear
For those of us who listened (or read) to this multiple times over the years, it became increasingly clear that Napear had an ax to grind with Martin over reasons that were unclear. Maybe it was because Martin had too many injuries, maybe it was because Martin had pictures of Napear sticking Peaches up his asshole and smelling it afterwards, or maybe it's because Napear is the worst kind of radio ratchet man there is. Whatever the reason, it was clear when there were multiple incidents with Martin starting back in 2008 this was a problem. For those unaware of the back story, click here, here, here, and here. Have fun reading. Mustang MBS had a great line about Sacramento media: Backwater media eddy. Nothing has personified this better than the Martin-Napear moments. (Although the Bobby Jackson "incident" in 2005 is probably a good example of this in better times.)
#12 Hiring Dick Motta
This just......sucked. Badly. Dick Motta was a great coach for a long time in Chicago, Washington and Dallas, but in Sacramento? This is what happens when you don't have Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Tom Boerwinkle, Bob Love, Artis Gilmore, Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Bobby Dandridge, Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman or Derek Harper. Players matter, and the players the Kings had (McCray, Ainge, Wayman Tisdale, Kenny Smith), Dick Motta didn't like. When Rex Hughes coaching time shines as a beacon of light in contrast to your time, you sucked. What's sad is that Dick Motta wanted to be coach of the Kings to change his reputation, and it didn't work.
Honestly, Motta had a far more devastating impact than Russell did, but given he didn't have a real desire to coach (and Motta's desire was at least mis-placed if not outright pointless) and wanted to move into the front office, that's why I ranked Motta one spot lower. And that is the only reason.
Really the reason Motta was so disliked here was in part for due to 2 reasons: He was an asshole and he pushed for a young team at precisely the worst draft. I'll discuss 1989 above, but this is as good a time as any to discuss the 1990 Draft. It's Gary Payton, Derrick Coleman (he of the headcase variety and a guy where teams improved after he left), and Jayson Williams (he of the multiple trials for murder after his career was over). Coleman & Payton were the first 2 picks that draft, and the Kings came away with Lionel Simmons, Travis Mays, Duane Causwell and Anthony Bonner. Quite honestly, this was as devastating as the 1989 draft where there wasn't as a clear impact player to take, but more that there wasn't a quality player among 4 picks in the top 23 when it was all said & done. Again, it was bad timing and bad luck, and frankly Dick Motta provided a lot of the incentive.
Dick Motta pushed for the Kings to go young because he wanted players he could "mold", and well, you can't mold a guy who played F in college into being a PG at the NBA level. The only value that Travis Mays ever brought the Kings was being traded for Spud Webb. And, well Causwell was big and Bonner was, out of control? That roster had little talent, and it's still amazing they won 25 games with a coach who hadn't adjusted to the game at the current time in Motta and a roster that was young and had little reason to believe that whole-sale improvement would come.
You wanna know the difference between the 1990-91 roster and this year? Well, Westphal is a better coach for a young team for one. Two, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are both better players than anyone on the 90-91 roster or anyone on the roster for several years after that. Now. And that's exactly why Dick Motta is 12 on this list. He couldn't help the 1990 draft being weak, but that's a risk you take doing that. He should have known that it was possible that the Kings might not get enough help that route. You can't remake your team with young players unless you get an impact or franchise level player, and the Kings have 2 players like that in Evans & Cousins. Until the Kings traded their 3rd overall pick in 1991 (Billy Owens) for Mitch Richmond, the Kings really didn't have a player like that (even with Reggie Theus) on the roster. That's why I'm patient with this young team. That, and Will Solomon isn't jacking up shots in a Kings uni. That would drive me over the edge. Now Will Solomon and Dick Motta......Yes, I'm rotting in hell sir.
#11 Hiring Bill Russell As Head Coach
This was dumb in a lot of ways. Russell ended up moving into the front office taking over Joe Axelson's job. (Which worked out much better in some ways had things gone a bit differently. No Jerry Reynolds has not been writing any of this. Although, it seems like he is sometimes since I feel like I'm quoting Jerry's memories on two-thirds of these.) However, the problem with the hiring wasn't so much that Russell wasn't a bad feller to have around a franchise. He just wasn't effective as a head coach, and as Jerry pointed out in Reynolds Remembers, he probably did see it as a stepping stone to being the GM. If you don't have a great passion to be a head coach (which Russell, according to Jerry, didn't), you're not going to be very good. Bill Russell had some quality moments as a GM (which I'll get into into the 25 best moments), but as a head coach they were pretty much thoroughly negative. The fact is that between 1985 and 1992, the two best head coaches the Kings had was Phil Johnson, a veteran of the league, and Jerry Reynolds, a new guy starting out. That's a problem if you you want to win games. Especially if, like for instance (quoting Jerry again), you take Reggie Theus off the ball to make Kenny Smith your primary ball handler. This leads to Reggie Theus having an issue because he wants the ball in his hands A), and B), the other guys have a problem because Kenny Smith was erratic. Issue's, issue's and issue's. Again, while Willis Reed and Bill Russell were big names in that coaching staff, the fact that Jerry Reynolds learned from his experience with them and grew from it as the only silver lining says more about them (and Russell in particular): It's called not getting the job done.
#10 Selecting Kenny Smith over Kevin Johnson in the 1987 Draft
Here is Kenny Smith's best scoring seasons: 13.8, 17.3 and 17.7 (first year in Houston). Here is KJ's best scoring seasons: Well there are 5 seasons of 19 PPG or better (his best season is the 2nd year total he had where he had 20.4 Points and 12.2 Assists).
And one other thing: KJ would be in the hall of fame if his knee injuries didn't rob him of his ridiculous explosiveness. Oh, plus he can shoot FT's over 80%. That usually makes for a hall of fame G. Unlike, a certain Rondo.
And for those who didn't know, KJ attended Sac High (in Oak Park--34th and Y St's) so that meant he was a local kid who made good after 4 good years at Cal. Yet, Kenny Smith was better. (Looking at their college numbers, they seemed equal. Maybe it was one of those even steven at the time type deals, but, But the funniest part is that Cleveland, not Phoenix, drafted KJ. At least the Cavs got Larry Nance in the deal that sent KJ to Phoenix his rookie year.)
#9 Not renewing Rick Adelman's contract
Whether or not Rick Adelman would have stayed long term is besides the point. You don't let one of the 4 or 5 best coaches in the association walk because you "believe" he doesn't coach defense. It's just that simple. I'm not sure what the percentage of fault belongs to Geoff Petrie, the Maloof's, and Rick Adelman on this, but I do know one thing: All 3 parties didn't need to walk away from each other. It was just poorly handled by the Maloof's especially, and, while Geoff Petrie certainly deserves his share of blame here, I doubt he was pushing Rick Adelman out the door with both feet. You can say our time is up (as we've recently seen with Jerry Sloan), but doing it the way the Kings did was just......dumb. Listen to this and refresh yourself of the stupidity this was. Having said that, this is #9 for two reasons. 1) There is no guarantee Rick Adelman would have stuck around for a mediocre and/or rebuilding team. (Which is his right. Also, it just might have happened that way.) If that was the case, however, Joe Maloof shouldn't have stated he thought the Kings had the 4th best team in the West. (A funny statement at the time no doubt. Even with the 2nd half record of that '06 team.) 2) There are worse moments.
#8 Drafting Pervis Ellison at #1 overall
There are a lot of franchises where this would go top 3 or 5, but for the Kings? Another day in the life. While 1989 gets a bad rap as being a weak draft when it really wasn't (Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp, Vlade Divac, Mookie Blaylock, Glen Rice and Cliff Robinson were in that draft), the reality is there really wasn't a great franchise player to take at #1 overall. Hardaway was taken 14th, Kemp 17th, Divac 27th, Blaylock 12th, Rice 4th, and Uncle Cliffie 36th in the 2nd round, and that's pretty much you're best players in the draft. With Danny Ainge and Kenny Smith around, I'm not so sure that Timmy crossover, as good as he was, would have helped the Kings much. There's only 5 positions in the court, and the NBA in 1990 more so than now, it would be nearly impossible to play Ainge at the SF with Smith or Hardaway at the SG. I guess you could do it if you were Don Nelson or were desperate, but really, do you think that a team drafting #1 could have convinced their fans that doing that would be worth it? Okay so the Kings could have taken Shawn Kemp or Vlade Divac, and that would have been at least worth the risk of that pick. I mean, what else did the Kings have right? Well, the reality is that I'm not so sure that Kemp would have been as successful early on in his career that he was in Seattle given the personalities and talent involved for both franchises. Kemp overaged 6.5 pts and 4.3 boards his rookie year, and probably needed that time with a veteran roster to help him ease into being a NBA player. With Gary Payton it worked for him, but I'm not so sure he didn't need a cocky firebrand like Payton. Again, and I mean this quite honestly, but given how poorly the Kings fared in 1989 and 1990 drafts (and really, everyone fared badly in 1990 outside of Seattle with Payton), it just compounded how badly the Berry suicide and Hurley car accident was for this franchise. There's so much what-if, and, yet, what if? Sigh....
Here's what not in dispute. Pervis Ellison sucked and did for most of his career. In the time of the lottery, there has never been a franchise that has gotten less mileage and value out of their #1 pick than the Kings. Not a single one. He averaged 8 points and 5.8 boards his lone season in playing a whole whopping 34 games. Any way you slice this, I don't want to think about it. Someone can slice up the awfulness of Never Nervous Pervous without me. It's making me nauseous just thinking about it, and I never saw the guy play.
#7 The failed Q&R ballot measures in 2006
A lot of people remember the commercial with the Maloof's where they are drinking wine and eating the CJ burger. The truth is, who the fuck drinks wine with a hamburger? It was silly and was irrelevant; which was the point I suppose. The timing of it, and the timing couldn't have been worse (that was really one of the ironies of 2006 for the Kings), was just awful with many citizens of Sacramento people acting like the Maloof's were acting like money was no object. (It did offend a lot of people. As stupid as that is.) The reality is that multi-millionaires (or billionaires as the commercial claimed) doing that type of thing doesn't go over very well in the hyper sensitive assclown political environment that makes up the inconsequential ninnydom of Sacramento politics and the voters who believe in it. And this was just the tip of the iceberg.
LThe Maloof's fucked Q&R up royally and did so from the beginning. The only reason it hasn't come back to bite them as Kevin Johnson has spent much of his mayoral capital (and legacy) trying to get an arena done. The PR behind the whole campaign stunk to the point that the Maloof's, disgusted with the fact that they couldn't get parking revenue from a DT parking structure (which as anyone who has driven down there knows, there isn't that much of anyway), walked away from Q&R. They made so many errors here I'm not really sure where to begin. Had they not, I would have voted for it then (I didn't vote for it I'm sorry to admit now---but mostly because I just wish I could say I voted for it; it's not like my reasoning was held widespread for voters as it's a very black and white issue) and would have been happy too. Then, and now, I believe that the Kings need Sacramento and vice versa. There isn't much to draw people to the city of Sacramento, but the Kings are a small piece and the single amount of teams coming through helps the city in some small fashion. There isn't any high end sports entity to grab the region's attention, there really isn't any entertainment options that make a lot of sense either. It's all in the Bay Area or Tahoe (or if you want to drive up to Marysville I suppose), and thus the Kings have an unique niche that Gregg Lukenbill was wise to tap into.
Regardless of how you feel about the Maloof's and their actions during Q&R, they didn't help the process. They needed to be far more astute about how, quite honestly, they needed to walk around on egg shells near City Hall and the voters, and didn't. They realized it, but it was about a year too late. Like a lot of people, I believe the Kings would be in a new arena if the Kings had won a title. That would be too much for people to let go of. It would have convinced a lot of the naysayers (those who are pro Kings but not new arena) to say yes to a new arena in DT Sac.
Like everyone else, what I really want (and am hoping for--but not optimistic of it happening because of all the anger, antipathy and lame arrogance directed towards a new arena), is just a new arena and a long term home for the Kings in Sacramento. I want a reason to still care deeply about my hometown, and while I have plenty of connections to the place as my family lives there, it makes it easier for me to have one of those roots and rooting interests located in a place that I grew up and have great affection for. I didn't leave solely for the small mindness that I feel chokes the best intentions and creative business minds, but also because it's too hot. (What can I say, I like rain!) But really, I grew up with the heat and can live with it again. I hate living in a city that finding a pool hall is like pulling teeth. And that's just one complaint. Also, it's not like I play pool all that often.
I'll relay a story I was explaining to someone here (who had never been to Sac) the other day about Arco. People don't really understand how unique that Arco was built before North Natomas grew up and become it's own little suburb. It's so unique that it's mind boggling that Arco even got up in the first place. And this guy was looking at me like," Huh? It's in a suburb?" I didn't even explain to him that Arco was built before the sub-divisions and Natomas Marketplace got there. (And that for years Natomas continued to grow until the nasty recession hit.) Arco kinda looks like it was built as part of a suburban development, and, strangely, it suits Sacramento to a T. We like our organized disorganization. For most fans in most places, you build arena's as part of the urban core and you make it a destination. In Sacramento, we expect that places like our Old Sac area and DT area's, are places where county and State employee's get paid to sit on their ass. That's bureaucracy for you. (Bureaucracy clogs the imagination, and if that's one thing Sacramento leads the world in export, it's being unimaginative.) And, one reason the Maloof's screw-up's, as they were, during Q&R don't rate higher. Because, the worst moment for me as a fan will be if the Kings leave Sacramento.
One last thing that I think sort of gets lost in the stupidity and lameness of area politics (I kinda see this as an oxymoron; all politics is stupid & lame but I digress): 2006 wasn't just the Q&R debacle (that was the city & county ballot measures), but also the year where some parts of Yolo County (I forget all of the spots but I know Woodland was one city on that list) asked SMUD to take over. That measure ended up losing badly despite the fact that leaders in multiple area's outside of Sacramento County asked SMUD to do that. So, while the city of Sacramento is full of ninny's who don't get it, it's not like the outlying area's are packed full of geniuses and are full of "getting it" themselves. Only an idiot would rather pay more money to PG&E (and believe their propaganda) than think that SMUD would cost more in the long run. Few places even have municipal districts in this country, and yet many people would argue against SMUD despite the obvious advantages it brings (cheaper power, yeah?). Despite the fact that the City of Sacramento gets beat up for the Kings and the arena issue, it's also worth remembering that the county voters also turned it down badly. It's not just a city of Sacramento issue. Dysfunction, Sacramento Region, and politics are synonymous with each other.
The year of 2006 was Sacramento's version of Studio 54. At first it was cool, and there were hookers and rock stars snorting cocaine and screwing in the bathroom. Then came the tax evasion lawsuits and the paranoia. I'm not sure exactly where this analogy begins and ends, but somehow it seems like there is a reasonable parallel. Draw your own conclusions.
#6 2002 Game 6 Western Conference Finals & Robert Horry's shot to win game 4 of the WCF (tied)
I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don't think the NBA was (or is) out to get the Kings or keep them from getting to the NBA Finals. (I still don't think that.) What I do think is winning a NBA title is similar to climbing Mt Everest: Only a given few can do it in any generation, and thus because it seems a NBA title is more attainable than climbing Everest, we tend to think NBA titles are easier to get. The reality is that the analogy isn't that far apart even if you're in the minority of enjoying the difficulty of the climb. (I'm in that minority for the record.)
That said, the game was officiated poorly. It doesn't mean that the fix is in, but it does mean that Shaquille O'Neal is the most difficult player in the history of the NBA to ref. Not only is he big, strong, athletic, etc etc etc, he was also a big mouth and bigger personality. (I'm a big fan of putting money where your mouth is. It's probably why I'll always appreciate Tim Duncan more than Shaq.) He has over the course of his career been very successful in getting to the line, and it's not just his forcing contact. It's also getting ref's to notice that he's getting hit. The reality is that while I don't think those were fouls that happened, they also looked like fouls and sometimes the best referee's are forced to guess. What sometimes looks like a foul isn't, and I feel the stretch of game 6 that most complain about was one of those deals. It made the NBA look bad, and it certainly didn't help the aura that the NBA favors a major market (not to mention the league's most hyped team) or a team like the Lakers. That memory has certainly fueled a lot of hatred and conspiracy theories.
The worst part for me about this deal was that the Kings lost a game they could have won (although I felt--and still do--that the Lakers were the better team in game 6), was just that the Kings lost a golden opportunity to close out the Lakers.
I'm not even going to remind you of the shot. I'm not even going to show it again. I hate it just as much as you do. What I'll say is that I wish replay had existed then to take away the Samaki Walker shot to end the 1st half of game 4. And if one of the legacies of replay with regards to the Walker shot is that shots like that won't count, good. I can live with replay being available even if that wasn't one of the outcries at the time.
#5 Collapse in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals
However you wish to describe this, this was worse for me than game 6 or game 4. Because game 7 was in Arco, and because the Kings had every opportunity to beat the Lakers down the stretch, and never did, I felt this was worse at the time. Still do. Those 2 airball's by Peja and DC13 sting still, and, well, yeah. Coming that close only to lose sucks. What's worse is that the Kings were beating the Lakers but could never seal the deal. Simply put: Championship teams win championships. They don't stick around long enough to wait for the other guy to do fall flat on their face. (Which is why I don't regard that Laker team as a real championship team. In the history books, sure, but on the court? Ha.) I still feel the 2003 team understood that lesson and was poised to take the title if Chris Webber's knee hadn't given out. Sigh.
#4 Chris Webber's knee giving out in game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinal playoff series against Dallas in 2003
Whatever you think about the Webber trade in 2005, this was the event that changed the franchise more than anything else that has happened on the court. While losing in 2002 hurt badly, this was the moment that has changed everything since. It led to the Brad Miller Sign & Trade, the Vlade Divac departure a year later, the Doug Christie for Cuttino Mobley trade, the trade for K9, Skinner and Corliss, and more antipathy for a lifetime than a lot of people imagined. There are plenty of theories as to whether it was avoidable or not (and this is not one of those), but the reality is that just sucked. It was bad on every level.
Not only that, but I believe had the Kings won a title, a vote would have easily been had and the Kings would be in a new arena. (How full it would be these days is another matter, but I'm not sure the Kings could opt out of their lease the way the Hornets can in New Orleans. But, things happen for a reason, riiighhhtt?) Not only did the Kings commit to a new player in Miller for a lot of money and years, they also had Webber's contract which had 5 years and roughly 97 million (this is just off the top of my head--I don't wanna do hard core math on it--use this link from Patricia Bender's wonderful site to calculate exact numbers if you wish) on his contract. Keep in mind something: Kevin Martin got an extension for 5 years and 53 million dollars. Brad Miller signed for 7 years and 68 million. Mike Bibby got an 7 year deal worth (I believe but don't quote me on it--it's in the 75-80 range) 78 million. Vlade Divac's Free Agent deal signed in 1999 was 6 years and 60 million. If you can see why the Kings were anxious to trade Chris when the old Chris didn't appear after micro-fracture surgery, well, this is why. My Losing Season had a great point: Kenny Thomas was expensive baggage, but I'm not sure the Kings fanbase or franchise would have recovered going through an ignominious divorce that would have been inevitable. A lot of tears, anger and misguided expectations were dashed with the trade in '05, and that's why I feel so many people (as misguided as it is) feel the way they do about the trade. But what isn't in any way shape or form being argued? The original injury itself. The thing is these type of deals tend to have negative consequences, and Geoff Petrie and the Maloof's did they best they could with what they had to move on past them. Not every move they made was quality, but a lot of franchises have been ailed by bad luck such as this. Nobody escapes this kind of bad luck.
While Chris Webber was always something of a volume shooter before his knee injury, he became something of a volume rebounder afterwards. If you can't play defense in the block, which was one of Webber's strengths before the injury, it alters what you can do as the franchise when a guy whom you're paying anywhere from 30-50% of your salary cap (and since the Kings were over the cap by a large amount this doesn't seem like a big deal, but the reality is that none of the other salaries at that time were prohibitive from the Kings starting over--plus Peja, BradBaby and MB10 were all fairly young and in their mid to late 20's still), he better be a franchise player. Before that injury, many argued he was. (I waffle on the point, but I'll say yes just not to be a dick.) What was clear that after the injury, he was no longer the player he once was and that unless he returned to that level, which he didn't in the 04-05 season, the franchise simply had to trade him or risk what eventually did happen in Philly with Chris Webber. Ask yourself this before you keep insisting the Webber trade was so bad: Would you have rather Webb get into a drawn-out argument with Kings management, the same group that gave him the contract in the first place, and turn on the franchise and maybe the fans too? The way Chris Webber left Sacramento left some "what if" questions, and it's only those questions that give those pause about the trade. If the Kings had to pay Webber all that money, and had to put a significantly diminished product (that includes trading away valuable players like Miller, Bibby and Stojakovic away) on the court to accomodate C-Webb's high salary, would you have agreed with that? I know I wouldn't have.
#3 Bobby Hurley's car accident
I know there will be people who disagree with this, and those people can write their own list and disagree with it there. The reality is that the Kings lost a talented young G who could have significantly improved the team with Mitch Richmond around. I doubt the Kings would have won a title with Bobby at the PG, but I tell you one other thing: I would have loved to see that '99 team with a healthy prime Bobby Hurley. (I never noticed it until the other day, and after I wrote the line about the '99 team with Bobby, but re-reading Reynolds Remembers as I tend to do once in awhile, I noticed JR said the same thing. Groovy.) Bobby was built for the open court game, and while Jason Williams gave the Kings a vibrant bourgeoisie feeling in the interim that a lot of fans needed (I didn't see the season until the playoffs because I couldn't--hurray being stuck on the other side of the continent!), I feel that Kings fans might have felt differently about that group had Bobby been healthy enough to play out his career the way Jerry Reynolds felt when he drafted him. The only reason this isn't higher than Ricky Berry's suicide is that Bobby is simply alive. It's not that I'm arguing that Ricky Berry would be worse or better than Bobby at all; I have no clue and no way of knowing that. I've never even seen a clip of Ricky play. But I saw Bobby play at Duke, and at the time, had I realized how good Duke really was in part because of Bobby, I would have appreciated him a good deal more then. (I did know Grant Hill was really good though. But even then I didn't really realize that until about '94. Whoops...)
One note about Bobby not wearing his seat belt: That is his fault. The fact remains, however you slice it, that he wasn't driving drunk (like the guy who hit him) or that he's the only guy in the US not wearing his seat-belt. Plenty of people still do it despite the over-whelming ostensible evidence that wearing a seat belt can be literally the difference between living and living well, and death. If Bobby Hurley got a few nicks here & there, okay, then, wax sentimental. I don't think his transgression was worth having his brain re-attached. That's me.
Needless to say, I feel bad about being mad at Bobby for not playing better in his 2nd season. Even if Jay Williams is a tough guy, and he recovered decently, nobody is tougher than a guy who has his eye re-attached to his brain and then goes out and plays Summer League 6 months later. Thinking about that just makes me..........Sorry, I'm still trying to comprehend how that was humanly possible. Maybe Bobby just had John Stockton's alien characteristics?
Oh and one last thing. Let's say Bobby shoots better than the 42.1 TS% that he did in those first 19 games, and let's say it ends up somewhere near 50%. And while I'm not a fan of assists, there are players in which it indicate they are brilliant passers. Bobby was one of those guys. To quote JR:
"One thing Bobby can do--he makes passes that lead to layup's,"Stockton told (JR). "And not many guards in this league can do that."
Yeperooni. In Bobby's 8th Regular Season game against the Wolves, he had 11 pts and 11 assists in a Kings loss. But Bobby also had 6 TO's. (NaPG!!!) The team was 5-14 when Bobby just barely escaped death, and he was averaging 6.1 Ast's. In the Sacramento era, there have been 16 seasons where a player averaged 6 Ast's and Bobby's rookie season was one of them. I think it's a fair bet that not only Bobby would have kept averaging that total, he might have gotten better as the season wore on if only because he would have figured a thing or two out. When you have a list that has Spud Webb show up on it 4 times, Reggie Theus 3 times (although to be fair Reggie was a wonderful passer), Kenny Smith twice (yeah that shocked me too), Danny Ainge in both seasons in his time with the Kings, Mike Bibby once (yeah just once), this is a pretty significant list. While there have been plenty of quality passers in the "glory era", the fact is that I think Bobby would have been a top 5 player in the NBA in assists in his prime, and you put him with guys who can shoot, score, finish and what not like those 99 Kings, and who knows what would have happened before that after all, needless to say I'm always gonna wonder "what if". In reality, I'm really happy that Bobby didn't die.
#2 Ricky Berry's suicide
I don't care who you ask. I didn't get to see Ricky Berry, and those who remember him can add what they remember. I won't insult you with saying what if. Here's Ricky's B-Ref page. Judging by his stats, he could shoot. He had a 55 TS% which would rank him 3rd on the current Kings team. (Not going there again. Just making a point, which is, Berry could shoot.) The fact was that Berry sort of was a medicine that would have cured plenty of the ill's on this list. The drafting of Pervis Ellison, the Derek Smith trade (which will be discussed next in less detail--we've already discussed this!), the Kenny Smith over Kevin Johnson drafting, and Dick Motta were all negative things, but without Ricky Berry committing suicide, that probably would have eliminated Dick Motta altogether. Plus, had the Kings did something different with that #1 pick (and really a player that the Kings could have taken a core piece to complement Ricky Berry), things would have happened differently. Again, from JR:
"I think Ricky would have been very similar to Dale Ellis. He would have been a 20 point scorer for many years. Rikky probably shot the ball deep as easily as Ellis or Peja Stojakovic-- maybe he wasnt' as consistent as those guys from the outside, but Ricky had more ability going to the basket. He was quicker and more athletic than either of them, and if a defender tried to take away the outside shot, Rikcy would have gone right around him. Whether Ricky would have scored 20 or 25 points per game, I don't know. The only question in my mind was how many times he'd make the All-Star team."
For those who didn't attend StR at the time of the 20 year anniversary of Ricky's death, there is a thread at StR with those who remember it. Lots of good memories there and it's worth reading. While I'm on the topic, I'll say something I've said (and would tell the Kings brass and the Maloof family if I could) many times before: Release footage of Ricky. You can't even find the cat on Youtube, and he's worth remembering. He was a special talent, and while there are so many sensitive issue's around his death, why he took his life, and the fact that Bill Berry was a scout for the franchise at the time, the fact remains that Kings fans who didn't have a chance to see him live should see why those who talk about him (when those who do do talk about him). While I get there is painful memories involved with Ricky, I don't think there is dishonor showing him play in his lone season in the NBA. If the Kings don't have that footage, say so. If they do, release it.
That said, and the only reason Ricky Berry is #2 on this list, is that the Kings had no control over Ricky taking his life. And, like the Bobby Hurley accident, it was simply bad luck and awful timing combined with a talented, likeable young player losing his skills (and life in Ricky's case). The truth is that while Ricky's suicide and Bobby's accident didn't hurt the franchise significantly more than the Webb knee injury, it still remains that both Bobby and Ricky suffered something far greater than games lost or bad statistics. That makes it a significantly worse moment. And, in most cases, and the Derek Smith case is not one of them sadly, they would rank as the two worst moments. Because, and this is what it comes down to IMO, when two of your more valued young players within 5 years commit suicide and the other is only alive because a trachea specialist happened to be in town, that's just ugliness onto itself with no ray of hope anywhere.
#1 The Derek Smith trade
I've already discussed this in a fanpost already.
This is the reality of why the Derek Smith trade was so bad: It caused Eddie Johnson and Otis Thorpe to be traded because the money to Smith had to be recouped and there was some "basketball" value in those trades coming back. They were bad trades and done to cover the bets for Derek Smith. The fact that those two trades (or the Danny Ainge trade for that matter) aren't higher speaks to how many bad breaks and decisions this franchise made in the early seasons. I rank this number one for a reason and one reason only: It led to many bad decisions across the board. There are at least 6 bad decisions as a result of signing Derek Smith. And there were a number of other bad decisions that led to situations that somewhat happened with the handling of Derek Smith in that trade. And yet, the only real silver lining is that Jerry Reynolds gained an amount of NBA perspective (that perhaps time in the NBA could have equally given him) that he might not have otherwise. And, honestly, what else? An indication that the fanbase supported Sacramento through thin, thinner, and thinnest? I mean really, is that a silver lining from a basketball trade you really want to talk about with some measure of confidence? Say whatever you want about the Martin or Webber deals, but that comes from dissatisfaction over those deals. There was no reason to push a playoff team and break it apart (which is what they did with this move--and effectively pushed the other remaining parts of it out the door at some point), and yet that's what they did. All for Derek Smith. You think I'm hating on the guy? I'm not. JR said it best in RR:
"In our early years, we got bad breaks and had no real leadership."
Yuh. No kiddin. Honestly, the only reason this trade doesn't show up as one of the all time worst in NBA history, and it should--easily one of the 5 worst trades ever (and I don't say that lightly or because it happened to the Kings), is because it happened between the Clippers and Kings. If it didn't happen between 2 dreg franchises (and the Kings weren't really a dreg franchise--they had made the playoffs in 1986 without Smith as the 7th seed) and that the players the Kings gave up were Mike Woodson, Larry Drew and a draft pick that became Hersey Hawkins. If any of those things happens differently, like say that pick becomes Mitch Richmond instead, Drew regains the near All-Star form he had in his earlier KC years, or Mike Woodson is seen as a major contributor instead of scoring points for a godawful Clippers squad, than this trade is viewed differently. The Kings lost out on 2 veterans who contributed more than Derek Smith ever did in a Kings uni, and well, as far as Junior Bridgeman and Franklin Edwards giving nothing, well yeah you guessed it? Nothing good came out of this trade for the Kings. The only good thing is that eventually led to Jerry Reynolds getting a contract, and another one, and well, you get the point. But does that mean much? I mean did Jerry get a contract because of what happened with Derek Smith or because he was worth retaining?
I'm a fan of Jerry Reynolds (if you haven't noticed), and I appreciate him because I think the guy remains a student of the game despite his advanced years. He still cares. When the single greatest thing I can argue about Derek Smith's time in Sacramento is that he quit playing during JR's first interim head coaching stint, do we really want to argue how bad this trade was? Or that he made it easy for JR to not play Ricky Berry early on in his rookie year. But really, is that what you want from a team which traded 2 valuable rotation players from a playoff team and a 1st round draft pick that was top 5 no less, just bleh. This is #1 for one reason and one only: This wound set the franchise back for years, and it was entirely self-inflicted.
I wrote this list to remind some (not all) that not every moment of this season has been all negative, and not everything speaks to a never ending odyssey of suckitude. As bad as Joe Axelson was for this franchise, as Jerry Reynolds noted, the game really had passed him by. Even though Axelson was by no means a dummy, he simply didn't adjust to the NBA as it was in the 80's. Which I think contributed a lot to the difficulty of the moves. Any franchise would have struggled when 2 players the caliber of Berry and Hurley are dead and/or very diminished upon returning to the court.
One thing I've also noted reading through some of the comments here (although to be honest that's one big reason I wrote this): Many people started following the franchise after the Mitch Richmond era (which is when I became a fan). I think more people will have an easier time understanding the 25 greatest list (although there will be a lot of tie's there to get all the stuff I want in) because it encompasses the recent successful era. (Gee, best moments come with greatest amount of success? Who knew!?!?) As much as people are upset or frustrated with this young team, it's also worth reminding that the Kings have had a franchise that has, if nothing else, made them unique and interesting that other franchises who have been bad, terrible or whatever can't necessarily say. It's certainly made the history and tradition of a franchise that has been a punching bag, a model franchise, and plenty in-between something to remember. Whether the Kings leave or stay in Sacramento, one thing you can't really say about the franchise in the time here is that they didn't leave their mark.
You can read the 25 best moments here.