From the FanPosts. pookeyguru looks at the bright side. -- TZ
This is the 25 greatest moments of the Sacramento Kings since coming to Sacramento in 1985. Again, like the last list, this is my opinion (not that yours isn't welcome), these type of things are subjective and it's worth keeping in mind as you plow through the chuckleheadness of my writing. Carrying on...
That said, I'm going to have to leave off the drafts of the past several seasons for a couple of different reasons. One, we don't know how Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi, or Hassan Whiteside and Jason Thompson for that matter, are going to end up or where it ends up taking the Kings. I will go on record as saying that I believe that Evans and Cousins are already 2 of the 5 most valuable rookies the Kings have ever had, and will end up as the 2 best players the franchise has drafted since moving to Sacramento. Having said that, saying that in the first two years of their career without the team clearly in the playoff hunt or either player headed towards a decade of All-Star berths seems a bit silly. It's safe to say that 5 years from now, if I was to do this list again, selecting them in the draft might factor in prominently.
So what's fair game? Everything. Any other questions? Good. If you haven't read the 25 worst moments, I suggest you do so now. It will help in context reading this edition.
I apologize in advance for the multiple ties that make up this list, but there was really more than 25 moments I wanted to point out, and I felt leaving them out wouldn't do them much of anything for a list that's attempting to compile moments and what they mean.
#25 (tie) Trading Ed Pinckney and Joe Kliene for Danny Ainge and Brad Lohaus & trading Travis Mays for Spud Webb and a 2nd round pick that became Lawrence Funderburke
Did the Kings end up winning a lot more games than they had before? No. But was Danny Ainge a problem? Not really. In 28 games after the trade, Ainge averaged 20.3 points and 6.7 assists on 55.4 TS%. It was a trade that would be viewed very differently had Ricky Berry not committed suicide, Pervis Ellison drafted at #1 and all the suckitude that brought, and the hiring of Dick Motta. All have sort of clouded up how brilliant that trade was, and, as I said about Bill Russell, one of the examples that he did understand NBA talent. I even think that Russell knew how to put teams together. Bill Russell had some good moves as a GM (drafting Ricky Berry, trading for Wayman Tisdale, extending Jerry Reynolds contract making it easy for him to move in the front office being the significant other moves), and had things gone differently then who knows what would have happened. Still, this trade deserves better mention as a quality move than it has.
One reason that Danny Ainge was traded from Boston was that he wanted to be paid better than he was in Boston and the Kings were able to get him for that reason, too.
The Spud Webb trade had less to do with the Kings willing to pay a guy more like in the instance of Danny Ainge, but more to do with the Kings using the fact that Travis Mays stats looked better on the surface than they did in reality. Now Mays certainly got hurt in Atlanta, but also that the Kings also got a 2nd round pick in the deal that became Lawrence Funderburke. That's a slam dunk for a team that had been on the other end of these type of deals for far too long.
I mentioned it in the Bobby Hurley comment (of the 25 worst moments), but Spud was one of the Kings players (in 16 different seasons) to have 6 assists in a season, and he did average 7+ assists his first 2 seasons in a Kings uni. Certainly not sexy, and Spud was never part of any great glory here in Sacramento (he's best remembered for winning the 1986 dunk contest), but still the guy helped the talent level get better. Credit Jerry Reynolds for recognizing it.
#24 (tie) Drafting Brian Grant with the 8th overall pick in 1994 & Drafting Corliss Williamson with the 13th overall pick in 1995
Now, Grant was good and because he really only had about 2 seasons here as a young player, I think a lot of Kings fans have forgotten how talented he was. But in Grant's first 2 seasons here (which also coincided with Mitch Richmond's 2 best seasons as a King), the Kings won 39 games in back to back seasons. Why was this so significant? First, in 1995 the Kings nearly made the playoffs, and in 1996 they made the playoffs as the 8th seed. Grant averaged 13.7 points and 7.5 Boards his rookie season, and 14.4 points and 7 boards in his 2nd season. What doesn't really show up was his level of defense in the blocks and the toughness he exhibited I think tended to make Olden Polynice look more effective than he really was. As talented as Opey Dope was, he was a guy who played well off Grant and at times Grant showed his inexperience and difficulties of a young player trying to establish himself in the NBA.
Grant had 18 double-double's in his rookie season, and he was one of those guys who wasn't necessarily great at one thing, but really good at a lot of various aspects of the game. He could get to the line, hit a baseline J to about 18 feet, finish inside, defend the post, rebound the ball and come out of crowd with it, and block shots. I don't know if he'd be a perfect player next to DeMarcus Cousins, but I know I would enjoy seeing that Brian Grant next to Cuz. < / memories >
As far as the pick itself in the draft? The Kings could have taken Jalen Rose, Eddie Jones or Aaron McKie? Would they have helped more? With Walt Williams around (and I don't think he would have fetched a big the caliber of Brian Grant myself), I'm not sure how much help the Kings actually would have gotten from one of those guys. Had Grant not been injured in his 3rd season, and had the Kings chosen to re-sign Grant for the money that Portland offered him in 1997, I have a feeling Kings fans would feel about him differently.
P.S. This isn't meant to say that I didn't think Michael Smith didn't have an effect in his first 2 years here. But the 3rd year he was without Grant, he wasn't as effective. As great as he was, and as popular as Mr Animal was in Sacramento, the truth was he was a limited role player who played very effectively off better talent and in a way fans appreciated. Still, Smith and Grant as a tag team still makes me smile to this day.
Corliss Williamson was a Kings player for 5 seasons and that counts for a lot with me. It's true that his first 2 seasons had some clunky moments, and that he was never a great rebounder. But he was a team guy who could score in the block when the matchup was right. Not a lot of guys in Sacramento history can say that. Additionally, you have the fact that he played on the first 2 Kings teams that were over 500 despite not being the best fit in either year. Corliss always had unusual talents (he was an incredible player at Arkansas to put it bluntly--easily one of the 3 or 4 best players I can remember playing at the NCAA level with Grant Hill being one of those guys in the mix as well) but the fact that he found ways to be effective, stay in rotations, and ultimately play on different type of teams throughout his time with the Kings and the NBA spoke to how professional and committed he was.
Whatever Corliss did right or wrong, and the value he brought the franchise in the trade for Doug Christie is indisputable, he was always a player who understood the great opportunity he received playing a game he loved. He played hard, and with intensity. In the 97-98 season, he was one of the redeeming virtues of that season. (There was little to be honest.) He played hard for Garry St. Jean, Eddie Jordan and Rick Adelman, and that said a lot about the man: He went out did his job as best as he could, did it for whomever, and went home. Corliss Williamson never punched a teammate, he wasn't fined by the team for poor conduct (or at least not that I remember), and always remained a great ambassador for the Kings in both stints with the Kings. Like I say, I have fond memories of Corliss.
#23 Drafting Ricky Berry with the 18th pick in the 1988 Draft
If I'm going to put the guy #2 on the worst moments list, there has to be a reason why if his death was impactful: He could play. If you look at rookies who got minutes and games played, and look at their per36 numbers, you can see that Ricky ranks right there despite not getting many minutes really in the 1st half of the season. He ranks 3rd on the list of per36 in points scored (behind Walt Williams and Tyreke Evans), he ranks 3rd on TS% behind Justin Williams and Jon Brockman, and 9th in USG% behind a host of players (the Wizard ranks 2nd on the list and Cuz 1st in case you're wondering), so needless to say Ricky had an impact.
For those that remember the game when the Kings shattered the record for 3's made in a game (the previous record had been 12 by the Knicks) with 16 in a game against Golden State, Ricky went 7-14 from 3 and had a 67.5 TS% (he shot 11-23 overall and 5-5 from the line), and dropped 34 points in 32 minutes off the bench. Oh and he also grabbed 8 boards (2 offensive) as well. That was Ricky Berry in a nutshell offensively: He could shoot from deep and get to the line. He even had a game against the Nuggets later in the year where he got to the line 10 times. He had plenty of lows that season, but the highs were obvious.
But I think even more so, at a time when the Kings were struggling due in part to the Derek Smith trade, somewhat from the drafting of Kenny Smith and the trades that brought in Rodney McCray and Ed Pinckney, it gave the Kings hope that there would be life after the unsalvageable one. Ricky Berry was drafted 18th in that draft, and it very well could have been he would have ended up the best player from that draft. (Ricky or Mitch Richmond that is.) There were plenty of talents in that draft like Danny Manning (1st overall), Rik Smits (2nd overall) and guys like Dan Majerle and Rod Strickland who also had excellent careers. But would any of them (other than Mitch and that could have been debated if Ricky had continued a career arc that he very well could have achieved) been better? It's really hard to say. What I will say is that we don't know, and that we only have the question of what if. But had the Kings drafted a player the Kings could have built around at the 18th pick in that draft, it would have cured some of the ill's that ailed the franchise. This was the crowning achievement of Bill Russell (or the fact he gave Jerry Reynolds an extension--you can decide which) and it should be noted that Bill Russell did make the Danny Ainge trade, the Wayman Tisdale trade and the Ricky Berry selection in the draft. Had it worked out, the Kings could have moved forward in a reasonable fashion. Alas, it was not meant to be, but if Ricky Berry had developed as the steal of the draft (and maybe of all time--which one could have argued had he continued to develop) and maybe the greatest steal of all time. RIP Ricky.
#22 (tied) Making the 1986 Playoffs & Beating the Celtics at Arco in 1986
At one point the Kings were 13-26 to start the 85-86 season. The Kings ended up gettin the 7th seed and going 24-19 the rest of the season to finish 37-45 which stood as the best record for years. And, before you go thinking it wasn't that big of a deal, in both 86 & 87, several sub 500 teams made the playoffs in each conference. Still, I think this ranks as one of the better things that this team has done even if the sands of time seemingly have diminished the accomplishment.
In Reynolds Remembers, Jerry Reynolds talks about Larry Bird and the small cramped old, original Arco. Unfortunately I can't find a box score to really show how the game played out, but this was a famous example of a team that was 67-15 struggling to win because of the atmosphere. If you talk about Arco Thunder now, that was the game that branded Kings fans in that mold.
#21 Bringing in Scot Pollard, Jon Barry, Lawrence Funderburke, Vernon Maxwell for the bench in 1999
This is probably too high and I could move up the Celtics moment higher for instance. (I just don't remember it.) Really though, it still stands as one of the greatest moments for the franchise in a time period when almost every move they made worked to a T. This is one area where I felt Rick Adelman never got enough credit. One of the most important things a coach has to do this in era is find a way to integrate a bench into his starting unit with players coming and going out of the rotation due to the nature of the NBA in this era. Rick Adelman did that so successfully that I'm not really sure people noticed that Pollard, for instance, wasn't very good anywhere else. Some of that was talent, but mostly I'm not sure other coaches knew how to get what Rick Adelman did out of Scot Pollard. Jon Barry went on to some good years in Detroit, and Funderburke had some good years in Europe before coming to the Kings. (Although he was on the 97-98 team too.) Vernon Maxwell was a guy who only played for the Kings in the lockout season, but gave them much needed boost in a time when the franchise absolutely had to start building a winning team. Maxwell also kept Jason Williams in line, too. They didn't call the guy Mad Max for nothing.
The play of the "Bench Mob" came from the need to get depth, and the fact that the Kings signed 3 of those guys (they drafted Funderburke in the 2nd rd in 1994) to small Free Agent contracts made it even more of a watershed moment. There was a time when players played well and made names for themselves in Sacramento.
#20 Kevin Martin's game winning shot vs the Spurs in 2006
This was probably one of the highest points of Martin's time as a Kings player, and it should be. One could argue that was Bibby's best defensive moment as a Kings player too. On a side note (because I don't want to duplicate things as much as possible), you can argue amongst yourselves who had the greater value at a low pick: Kevin Martin at 26 or Ricky Berry at 18 in those particular drafts. (I could go either way.)
#19 (tie) Beating Phoenix in 2001 to advance out of the 1st round for the first time in Sacramento history & Winning 2 games against the Lakers in 2000
I kinda think that this has been forgotten in the sands of time just because of the 2002 playoffs and Webber's knee injury. However, it's worth noting that many doubted the Kings could win a single playoff series after they went into the series with Phoenix. In fact, I think it set the table for the success in advancing to the Western Conference finals in 2002, and, having to meet the Lakers for the 2nd of what would be 3 times, losing badly in 2001 gave the team a greater motivation to keep improving. For every person who has said Peja Stojakovic couldn't help the Kings win playoff games, that sure wasn't the case against Phoenix. He scored 37 points in game 4 of that series (it was still 5 games in those years) to clinch a victory when the Kings absolutely needed it most. (That was the game where the Kings couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat for about the first 18 minutes in the game until Peja just went off. Chris Webber, as great as he was, and as important as he was, went 7-27 in that game.) It capped off 3 straight victories in the postseason which, unfortunately, ended in a sweep to the Lakers in the semi-finals. But Rome wasn't built in a day, and the NBA playoffs has never been mistaken for the birthplace of democracy.
The 2000 playoff series between the Kings & Lakers is where I think the anti-Laker bias started coming in heavily in Sacramento. Even though the Kings got blown out in 3 games in LA, the Kings beating the Lakers twice at Arco gave the Kings a ton of confidence in some fashion. It set the table for the contentiousness of the "rivalry" (if you want to call it that--I personally don't see it that way) and the general dislike the 2 teams had for each other.
#18 1996 Playoffs against Seattle
This is one of my favorite moments as a fan. In game 2 (after a bad loss in game 1), Mitch Richmond dropped 37 on the Sonics, and defended Gary Payton on the other end. It was probably Mitch's greatest achievement in Sacramento.
One of the amazing moments for me is how loud Arco was for game 3 of that series. I remember George Karl complaining about how loud it was and asking the NBA to try and quiet Arco down. (If I remember right, part of it was getting the NBA to ban whistles because they were incredibly loud.) At any rate, Arco Thunder was in full evidence during game 3. Had Mitch not got hurt late in game 3, I think the Kings would have beat Seattle.
#17 Signing Bobby Jackson to a Free Agent contract
This is probably too high for a guy who was a great bench player, but in the Kings best years, Bobby played for the team in all of them (or did when he was healthy anyway). Bobby's replacing Tony Delk was seen as a stopgap as the Kings were going to be hurt in the long term. As it turned out, Bobby Jackson was one of the great steals in NBA Free Agent history. Not only did the Kings get him for 5 years, they got him at 3 million per year. Like I said, it was a steal.
Probably my favorite moment with Bobby was in the 1st game of the WCF in 2002. Bobby leaped into the stands diving after a loose ball, and proceeded to get smothered by an adoring female fan who kissed him on the cheek. That's really a perfect encapsulation of why Bobby was adored by so many.
#16 The Sign and Trade to acquire Brad Miller in 2003
One could argue that this didn't have much impact, but I heartily disagree. Few teams are able to replace a valuable cog of a machine that had won 175 games in the previous 3 seasons with a similar player who is younger. This just doesn't happen every day. While some of Brad's later moments were not that good, there really wasn't a time when Brad wasn't valuable until his last season (and that was more because he wanted out than because he couldn't play). It was a trade that upgraded the team at the expense of a popular, but certainly not the most valuable, player in Hedo Turkoglu, and it allowed the Kings to keep competing. Had they not done that deal, I'm not sure the Kings ever recover from Chris Webber's knee surgery. They would have had to deal Bibby & Stojakovic for pennies on the dollar to recover from the financial setback they would have had to eat with Webber's contract. Even though Miller was a big contract himself, it made the idea of staying competitive a lot more palatable and realistic than perhaps the results lent themselves to. Plus, it also meant that the Kings could stay competitive and stay financially viable even after a setback as large as C-Webb's knee injury.
#15 Drafting Jason Williams
He really shouldn't be this high, but I think simply because he was so popular and certainly had a following makes him more important than his on-court contribution. Jason could do many things as a player but the problem was getting him to adjust some of his tendencies. In Sacramento he never did, in Memphis under Hubie Brown, he more or less bought into it. He was effective in Miami's title run after calming down. Still, what J-Will did was get guys involved, make fans interested, get into passing lanes and bring that flair. He made the Kings interesting at a time when I'm not so sure that Sacramento wouldn't have turned on the Kings without someone like Jason Williams around. J-Will's legacy may be that his personality was a key component (he was also a pass first PG at a time when the Kings really needed that to complement that team) in making the Kings so popular in Sacramento, but the other part of it is that his talent was also right there with Bobby Hurley's as a player. He could have gotten more out of his talent had he not been so blinded to the realities of the NBA. Whether it was because of the advice he received or because of how stubborn he could be, I don't know. It's not like he's changed much despite getting older. What I know is that I'm convinced his rookie season saved the Kings in Sacramento.
#14 Drafting Peja Stojakovic with the 14th pick in 1996
Normally drafting a 3 time All-Star rates a bit higher but welcome to this list. I don't think I have to tell you much about Peja that you don't know, but I'll try anyway.
One of the things about Peja is point out that for most of his time in Sacramento, he was an efficient offensive player. This was true especially of his All-Star seasons, and he was one of the few players on those Kings teams to have a relatively high quality TS% in those years. (Jon Barry and Scot Pollard were the others.) And that was really what he did very well if nothing else. He made more of his shots. If you look at the 9 seasons with having 58 TS% or higher, Peja has 4 of the seasons (Kevin Martin has 3). And the difference between Peja and Martin was defensively and that Peja played with better talent than Kevin. When Peja was healthy, and when Kevin was healthy, I'd take Peja every time. Had Peja not suffered the devastating knee injury he suffered in Greece (that in part convinced him he had to come to the NBA), who knows what would have happened. As it was, a damn good player that should be higher on this list. Here's what Voisin wrote about the knee injury:
During one Greek League game, his sore right knee suddenly buckled, the bone breaking through the skin in what then-coach Scott Skiles referred to as the most horrific sports injury he had ever witnessed. "Everything started with the leg," said Stojakovic, who subsequently spent several months rehabilitating in Sacramento. "Not having the right balance, the right strength caused the later problems. The doctors said that threw my back off, and I was always making adjustments, favoring one (body part) to compensate for another. The back problem is the worse. My body has never been the same since the (disc) surgery in 2006." In essence, said Stojakovic, his body began breaking down during what should have been his prime years, hampering his mobility and productivity in Indiana, New Orleans and, most recently, Toronto.
Last but not least, one of my pet peeves about some fans who complained the guy didn't grab more boards. Well, compare Peja to Ron Artest. Until Peja had all his back trouble, he was a slightly better rebounder than Artest was. And it's not like Artest is a great rebounder or anything. Peja got a bad rap, and Artest got an inflated rep in part because he was physical. It's one of the many reasons I stopped listening to Napear's radio show. (Not that I ever listened to it much.) But those types of arguments were certainly another reason.
One of the things that I certainly feel a bit disturbed is that Peja is only #14 on this list. Such is life I suppose.
#13 (tie) Jim Thomas buying the Kings from Gregg Lukenbill & the Maloof family buying majority shares in 1999 from Thomas
I don't care how you feel about Jim Thomas or his time with ownership as the Kings. I can make a list of things that happened during Jim Thomas' time as owner that I feel earns his mention as being 12th on this list.
- Hiring Garry St Jean who has the 2nd highest winning percentage of any head coach in this franchises time in Sacramento
- Hiring Geoff Petrie
- Not firing Jerry Reynolds
- Firing Eddie Jordan to hire Rick Adelman
- Pushing Geoff Petrie to make trades that included the Webber trade
- Allowing Geoff to run the team and make the Jason Williams draft pick, the Vlade Divac signing, and all the players that made up the 99 team.
- Selling the team to the Maloof's
- Keeping the Kings in Sacramento even if he had too many bumps along the way
In short, I think the net positive of Thomas' ownership time was positive even if all the things that happened during his time was not. One of his great legacies will be that 70 million loan, and the other will be that he set the table for the Kings to be successful. Certainly the Maloof's did a lot of the rest from the ownership end (which was mainly spending money), but it's easy to do that when you have success staring you in the face. Jim Thomas had made many of the hard decisions that the Maloof's are having to make today. Only time will tell if the Maloof's do it as well as Thomas did towards his end of his run.
One last thing about Jim Thomas. He kept the team in Sacramento at a time when the Kings weren't successful and had little to look forward to in the future. The Kings had a great measure of stability in his time as owner and he really changed the team for the better. Had Jim Thomas not bought the Kings, and wanted to keep the team in Sacramento (it's worth remembering he lived in LA and probably found it very useful to be so close to home and his NBA team at the same time) for his own personal reasons. Jim Thomas has many negatives on his resume starting with that 70 million loan, but I think his overall time as owner lent itself to a positive era that lent itself to the greatest success this franchise has ever had. I don't want to gloss over that just because the Maloof's were (for the most part) better owners than Thomas was.
Speaking of the Maloof's, it's been noted that they've spent money. This is certainly true, and I won't discredit that given the money issue's Gregg Lukenbill had the kind of money that Jim Thomas usually threw around in his ownership years. The Maloof's have had more positive moments than negative one's, but the negative moments do play a part in their legacy as owners up to this point. We will see what happens, and I say without reservation that if they end up keeping the team in Sacramento, this makes it a very easy call. However, like I said, many of the decisions made that constituted the best success of this franchise (not just in Sacramento--the entire history dating back to Rochester) were not made entirely by the Maloof's. Some were (like the Bibby & Christie trades along with the Miller signing and being on the hook for Vlade's money), but for the most part there was kinda a 50/50 split. That said, we'll see how the Maloof's fare in the current rebuilding project. Their time as owners (and nobody's time as owner is really set in stone until they give up ownership) and the legacy that comes along with it is still being written. Like Thomas, I think they like the fact that the Kings are in Sacramento and still close to their other business interests. (Most owners are like that.)
#12 Utah Series in 1999
Sorry for the painful memory, but like the rest of you, I remember the C-Webb pick on Stockton, the clutch FT shooting, the Stockton shot to beat the Kings at Arco and not quite sealing the deal down the stretch in Utah. It was a classic series that for the first time since joining the military (I stayed up routinely to 1am during the series as I was living in Pensacola, FL at the time), I was able to watch my Kings. Thankfully, as part of the success from that series, the Kings got more on national TV due to the personalities of Webber, Divac and Williams, and the feeling they would be playing competitive, entertaining basketball.
That all came from the 1999 series with Utah.
#11 The 2002 playoffs
We all have our favorite personal moments. Mine is that I was so falling down drunk during Bibby's shot in game 5 against the Lakers, that I ended up passed out in the car and slept for 3-4 hours. Then I drove home. (It's a miracle I didn't get a DUI.)
#10 Mike Bibby's shot in game 5 of the 2002 WCF
#9 Keeping Jerry Reynolds around
For me, and I know this will meet a lot of disagreement, but success of a franchise goes well above and beyond the success on the court. It starts well before that with competent decision making and doing the best they can to put the best product on the court based on guesswork. The fact that the Kings have done this so well is a testament to the players, but it's also a testament to the quality of the franchise itself. One of these qualities is Jerry Reynolds.
Jerry is often seen as the TV analyst guy who talks to Grant Napear, but that's hogwash for those in the know. (And I know plenty of you already know.) He's also the teams player personnel director, and what that really means is he evaluates talent. He's really a genius at it, and his decisions in the draft throughout the years as the GM have shown it. When he was a GM, he drafted Lionel Simmons, Travis Mays, Anthony Bonner, Duane Causwell, Billy Owens (although he traded him for Mitch Richmond), Walt Williams and Bobby Hurley. When you look at the 1990-93 drafts, I'm not sure anyone could have done better with the picks the Kings had at the time.
Speaking of which, JR had an interim stint, another stretch where he coached about 135 games as the full time head coach, and then moved up to the front office where he has been since. In his first stint as head coach, he was 15-21 which was a minor miracle given that all that really happened at that point was Derek Smith not playing due to injuries. I could sit here and throw superlatives Jerry's way, but what would be the point? It's obvious he knows what he's doing.
My favorite way of describing Jerry Reynolds is this: The Sacramento Kings Swiss Army knife. (No I didn't make that up. It's part of the pimp jacket of the book.) He was a scout, assistant head coach, interim and head coach, GM under Lukenbill, ran the team for Jim Thomas, player personnel director under Petrie, and color analyst for the TV broadcasts. That cuts a wide swath and that's why so many of us listen to him. If he was a hokey dope, he would be irritating. Instead, he finds a way to talk about the team in meaningful and exciting fashion more times than not.
This is why I'm putting Jerry this high including some of the best on-court success: When the team needs a conduit, they ask Jerry to relay information. When the franchise needs somebody to say all will be okay tomorrow, they ask Jerry to be the messenger killed. When the team wants players evaluated at draft time, they ask Jerry to give them their thoughts. Few guys hold the type of power as Jerry does, and yet, because his life isn't defined by having power in of itself, he allows himself to be more accessible than plenty of NBA people in similar positions. As much as the great teams of the early aughts have become something of legend in the Kings fanbase, Jerry Reynolds has become that quirky old shifty uncle whom you just can't get enough of. Oh, and he probably has a real swiss army knife too.
#8 Mike Bibby for Jason Williams trade in 2001
There are a lot of franchises that wouldn't have done this trade and given up a popular player who had done a lot for their franchise from a hype standpoint. Geoff Petrie chose the right time to move Jason Williams, and Mike Bibby being traded by that altruistic genius Michael Heisley didn't hurt matters. There were plenty of fans who were against the trade in the summertime, and when the team came out well in the beginning of the season, that changed a lot of folks tune.
Mike Bibby is one of the 2 or 3 best G's to play for the Kings in the Sacramento era, and that says something in of itself. He played on 4 of the 50 win teams in the Sacramento era, and that says something too.
Remembering Mike, Doug Christie and Bobby Jackson brings fond memories. That trio was the best in the NBA for several years, and Mike's talents were a huge part of that. (And yes, I'm not the biggest fan of the guy.) One of the best things about Mike that I do appreciate looking back was how many games the guy played. He didn't miss many games, and that's a big step as far as I'm concerned to being valuable. You gotta be there to actually be worth something. I'll end it with this. There are 120 different seasons in which a player has had at least 5 1/2 win shares for a season. All of Bibby's full seasons for the Kings are on there with the exception of the Musselman season. That speaks volumes to how good he was. (For what it's worth, most of the Kings high minutes players in the era from the 99-06 seasons are also on there.)
#7 Hiring Rick Adelman in 1998
I'll say this: He's the winningest coach in franchise history, and it's not even close. In fact, the only guys who have coached in parts of for 5 seasons or more are: Les Harrison (the original owner in Rochester), Bob Cousy (in the late Cincy and early KC-Omaha era), Cotton Fitzsimmons, Garry St Jean and Adelman. Now plenty of teams have turned over their coaches plenty of times and I'm sure if you go back through those teams era's, there is plenty of turnover. Here's a fact about the Kings: Other than Adelman and St Jean, no other head coach has coached 2 full head seasons in a row in the Sacramento era. (Jerry Reynolds came real close if you count the start of his 2nd stint from the time Bill Russell moved into the front office to when Dick Motta was hired.)
Additionally, here is the pace, ORtg and DRtg of Adelman's teams in the Sacramento era:
- 1999: 1st in pace, 13th ORtg, 16th DRtg
- 2000: 1st in pace, 11th in ORtg, 10th in DRtg
- 2001: 2nd in pace, 9th in ORtg, 7th in DRtg
- 2002: 1st in pace, 3rd in ORtg, 6th in DRtg
- 2003: 1st in pace, 6th in ORtg, 2nd in DRtg
- 2004: 4th in pace, 2nd in ORtg, 21st in DRtg
- 2005: 8th in pace, 3rd in ORtg, 23rd in DRtg
- 2006: 9th in pace, 11th in ORtg, 12th in DRtg
Now, let's have a review. What changed and made the Kings worse defensively? Hmmmmmmmmmm. The biggest factor was Webber's injury and I point to the fact that the Kings had 4 teams in the top 10 in defensive efficiency before that injury. What really changed in that single year? Webber's overall health.
Now Rick Adelman has had plenty of his detractors. They say he didn't coach defense, that he couldn't win the big game (somehow that's his fault that he didn't have players better than the teams the Kings--or Blazers for that matter--would meet in the playoffs) and he didn't get players like Gerald Wallace more minutes. Additionally, he didn't get Vlade his nicotine patches when he needed them, couldn't create a laser to shoot Robert Horry in the eye when making a 3 pointer, or kill ref's for daring to make calls against the Kings. That Adelman, such a dope.
Rick Adelman is the best coach the Kings ever have had. This isn't without question. When I look at players like Scot Pollard, Maurice Evans, Cuttino Mobley, Jon Barry, Vernon Maxwell, and to some extent Hedo Turkoglu and Bobby Jackson, Rick Adelman found a way to use all of the aforementioned names in ways that many coaches couldn't. Isn't that what coaching is? Finding the way to get most out of the talent you have? I would submit that unless you have some kind of proof (which I very much doubt) otherwise, you're going to find a hefty argument against your logic which you will lose promptly.
One of the things I appreciate about Rick is the players and styles with which he incorporated throughout his time in Sacramento. Rick's a brilliant offensive coach who just so happens to be a sterling defensive guy, too. He finds ways to use talents of his players in unique ways. More than a few guys have had career years with Rick at the helm of their team, and it's not a secret why: He knows how to be a great NBA head coach at the NBA level. He understands X&O's, motivation, being able to work with GM's and media etc etc. I'll say this about the Rockets tenure of Rick: He's been able to hold that team together despite some very devastating injuries and timing. Could Jeff Van Gundy done the same? I'm not sure as I just don't know. (He did something similar in New York towards the end of his Knicks reign.) So needless to say, and I'm not rendering judgment against every head coach the Kings have had in Sacramento, but Rick Adelman and Geoff Petrie did remarkable things together as a tandem. What's in dispute about Rick is his legacy and what his effect on teams are. I guess the greatest thing about Rick is something I call the Jerry Sloan zone: He's so good and consistent that people sometimes take for granted what's going on in front of them. I feel that's exactly why Rick Adelman is no longer the head coach of the Sacramento Kings.
#6 Signing Vlade Divac as a Free Agent in 1999
Well, where do I start. He's the best free agent signing this franchise has had, and certainly made it possible for the team to have some young pieces that made the team better with their own talents. Additionally, he simply was a marvelous passer who made us all just shake our heads. Certainly, he didn't score consistently (or efficiently), but he did have 4 years of 20+ Def Reb%, 4 years of sub 100 DRtg, played on teams that won 27 (out of 50), 44, 55, 61, 59 and 55 games, and did this while missing 6 total games in 6 seasons. All ranging from the ages of 30-36.
Here's my favorite Vlade stat: There are 20 seasons where a Kings C has had 2 or more assists. Every single season Vlade averaged between 2.9 and 5.3 (his last season ironically) assists per game while in a Kings uni. Only Sam Lacey has exceeded that feat in Kings franchise history. Vlade has a career 3541 assists and Lacey has had 3754 assists. Looking at career totals, only Bill Russell, Wes Unseld, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Alvan Adams (he played with Westphal in Phoenix), Lacey, are the only big men (unless Larry Bird counts) ahead of Divac in the assist column. That's not a bad group to be part of.
#5 Trading Billy Owens (3rd overall pick in 1991) for Mitch Richmond
Mitch's career: 21 points, 3.9 boards, 3.5 assists, 1.2 Stl's 55.7 TS%, 26%USG, ORtg and DRtg 110.
Billy's career: 11.7 points, 6.7 boards, 2.8 assists, .9 Stl's, 51.6 TS%, 19.8% USG, ORtg 103 and DRtg 107.
Billy Owens was a good player who had a good career. Mitch Richmond had a very good, and sometimes great career.
#4 The Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe for Chris Webber trade in 1998
Let's talk about Win Shares. In 8 seasons as a King, Mitch Richmond had 50.4 WS. In 10 years as a Royal, Oscar Robertson had 154.2 WS's. In just a shade of his 6 seasons with the Royals, Jerry Lucas had 65.8 WS's. In a shade of just over 11 seasons with the Royals, KC-Omaha/KC Kings, Sam Lacey had 50.3 WS's. In 6 seasons with the Royals/Kings, Tiny Archibald had 53.7 WS's. Chris Webber in his 7 and 1/2 seasons with the Kings had 45.4 WS's. And probably the only reason was how many games he missed before and after the microfracture surgery. Obviously he's not the Big O (and really who is?), but he is a quality player who also missed 134 games out of 542 total games. That hurts your Win Shares. There are 25 seasons in which a Kings/Royals player has had 10+ Win Shares. Oscar has the most (naturally) and the only season with 20+ WS. (In fact this list only has Wilt, Kareem, Jordan, Big O and LeBron on it.) At any rate, this should give you an idea why many say Chris is the best player to suit up for the Kings since they've arrived in Sacramento.
#3 Trading Corliss Williamson for Doug Christie in 2000
I already know this will not be understood. I don't care. Looking back, the trade for Chris Webber in the first place was pretty easy when you think that the Kings desperately needed a difference maker on the front line, and the fact Chris Webber was 7 years younger than Mitch Richmond. It really wasn't that complicated of a trade. And, the Billy Owens for Mitch trade wasn't that hard to make either. The Doug Christie for Corliss Williamson trade? This is different.
The NBA is a superstar league, and I'm not denying it. But one of the subtle difficult moments for any NBA team competing for a championship is to find the quintessential role player whose talent is vast (Christie qualifies), and whose talent doesn't diminish those around him (qualified), while helping you win. Ever read the argument Bill Simmons made about why Dennis Johnson should have made the hall before he died? (He has since gotten in this past year.) This is like that almost it seems some kind of forget it. The first 4 seasons with the Kings? 55, 61, 59 and 55 wins. Is that a ho hum affair or should be overlooked? Me thinks no.
Consider this. In 2002 and 2003, he had a 57.8 TS% and 59 TS% in back to back seasons. (His 2 highest over the course of his career btw.) In those 2 seasons, he had DRtg's of 99 & 101, USG%'s of 15.6 and 12.7 (this means he got a lot of points out of a relatively few possessions), and did this while leading the team in minutes. Additionally, the Kings significantly improved defensively with him being the sole acquisition. He made it possible to play Bobby Jackson and Mike Bibby in the backcourt with him, and even the team improved with Jason Williams on the team. Additionally, he also allowed Peja Stojakovic the starting SF spot.
Name another player that caused drastic significant improvement at 3 positions across the board on 2 ends of the court. He's not the best player on those squads, and he didn't necessarily create the most amount out of issue's for the other team. But he was also 3rd in both seasons in assists per game, grabbed over 2 steals per night, grabbed 4.8 & 4.5 boards, was among the top 4 in Win Shares both years, and led the NBA in all time Rick Fox jaw soreness. Name a better role player who had a greater impact for the Kings, and I'll scream bullshit so loud the echo will cave in the atmosphere. (Okay maybe not. But I'll want to.) Even if you're defined by your star talent (as the Kings are--or any NBA team for that matter), it's certainly true that the Kings were at their best when Christie was at his best, too.
But the man made the greatest impact of any role player on the 2 best records for in this franchises history, and he did it while helping the Kings in many area's that Stojakovic or Bibby did not do. (Although Peja was better defensively and more efficient in general than Bibby was.)
So why do I rank this so high? I see a lot of franchises with star talent and I see very few franchises with a player who contributes so much while not necessarily being that star. Even if what you consider what Webber, Richmond, Divac, Stojakovic or Bibby did as rare and valuable, why doesn't what Christie did in those years qualify too? Let me put it this way: If Webber was the best move Petrie made, than Christie was the most important move because of all the versatility and talent it allowed the Kings to have on the court at the same time. That matters too.
#2 Gregg Lukenbill bringing the Kings to Sacramento.
I'm going to keep this simple. There is no Sacramento Kings if Gregg Lukenbill doesn't buy them and build 2 arena's along the way. There is no Sacramento Kings if he doesn't sell it to an owner in Jim Thomas who was motivated to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Lukenbill, for what he did and didn't do as an owner, created a franchise in a city where an unique and important relationship has established. Had he stuck around longer and had more financial werewithal, even with all the accomplishments of Geoff Petrie, he would be #1.
#1 Hiring Geoff Petrie
This really shouldn't be a surprise but in case it is, here is why. Consider this: 39, 39, 34, 27, 27, 44, 55, 61, 59, 55, 50, 43, 34, 38, 17, 25 are the win totals since GP became GM. Additionally, there have been a total of 7 head coaches, and only one (Kenny Natt) has been an interim head coach. There has been the same basketball management in place for 17 years. Continuity, if it matters on the court, is pretty important in the front office. Let's say that in the same way Christie offered the versatility, Petrie did the same for management. If Reynolds was a competent GM, he's a tremendous scout and evaluator of talent. Wayne Cooper and Scotty Stirling both have their unique abilities (I know Cooper does a lot of the day to day running of the franchise and Stirling is the head scout--but beyond that, I'm not exactly sure what Coop in particular does other than being the right hand man to GP), and then you have the Mike Petrie's and Bubba Burrage's too. Now, is all this perfect? It's easy to argue that it's not.
What I know is this. When Petrie came to the Kings, he had to work within the financial constraints of Jim Thomas and find a way to upgrade the roster. He did so. He drafted:
- Brian Grant, Corliss Williamson, Peja Stojakovic, Tariq Abdul Wahad and Jason Williams with his first 5 1st rounders. In that time, he also drafted Michael Smith, Lawrence Funderburke, Dejan Bodiroga (one of the greatest European league players ever), Tyus Edney (who played an important role on the 96 playoff team) and Anthony Johnson
- Hedo Turkoglu, Gerald Wallace, Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Quincy Douby, Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson, Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Jon Brockman, DeMarcus Cousins, and Hassan Whiteside represent the rest of his significant draft picks
He traded for:
- Sarunas Marciulionis
- Billy Owens
- Mahmoud Abdul Rauf
- Chris Webber
- Nick Anderson
- Doug Christie
- Mike Bibby
- Cuttino Mobley
- Kenny Thomas
- Corliss Williamson
- Brian Skinner
- Bonzi Wells
- Ron Artest
- Donte Greene (and the pick that became Omri)
- Andres Nocioni
- Carl Landry
- Sammy Dalembert.
He's signed other team's players to free agent contracts that include (this doesn't include re-signing--just initial acquistion):
- Terry Dehere
- Vlade Divac
- Jon Barry
- Vernon Maxwell
- Scot Pollard
- Tony Delk
- Bobby Jackson
- Keon Clark
- Jimmy Jackson
- Maurice Evans
- Matt Barnes
- Shareef Abdur-Rahim
- John Salmons
- Mikki Moore Beno Udrih (he was a non-bird FA and thus I include him on the list--actually twice when you consider both times he was signed as a non-bird FA)
- Ime Udoka
- Pooh Jeter, Luther Head and Antoine Wright. (Okay, I'm really kidding on the last two.)
Given the financial restraints he's worked under, and given the amount of talent that has come in all 3 area's, guess how much talent came to the Kings through the draft before Petrie came? Or through trades? Or through Free Agency? Of all the Kings players that were traded for draft picks, only one panned out: Ricky Berry. Of all the numerous trades that were made, only a few ever netted the Kings talent. In addition to the one's I've named, the Olden Polynice trade for what ended up being the 1999 1st rounder (which ended up being Cal Bowdler--yes there were better players available), ended up helping the Kings substantially. But those type of trades were few & far between in the pre-Petrie years. I left out of plenty minor trades (like the Otis Thorpe-Bobby Hurley trade that ended up being necessary because of Thorpe's salary to make the trade possible between Mitch & C-Webb), and I certainly have left off things like Vitaly Potapenko and Sergei Monia for Brian Skinner that was done for getting the Kings under the luxury tax.
Of the top 25 moments on this list, Petrie has his hand in 17 of these items on this list in one way or another. And while I'm not giving him credit for the actual games played, he acquired the players who have made this franchise what it was in those years. He did it with a limited budget, only receiving 1 1st round pick in a trade (for Ron Artest), and did so by making the most of the 1st round draft pick the Kings have gotten every year. To come up with the talent at the picks he had, is pretty unusual. The proportion of his success to his real mistakes like not drafting Paul Millsap (he went 47th overall so it's not like he's the only guy who made that mistake) or Rajon Rondo if you're one of those who thinks Rondo would be successful outside of Boston, his role in letting Rick Adelman walk, the use of the Mid Level from 2005-2008, and perhaps not finding a bigger role for Jason Levien. Really though, some of these are minor criticisms in the grand scheme when you consider the Mid Level signings weren't just his decisions, but partly the Maloof's too. Doesn't that mean he isn't to blame? No. It means that his strengths greatly outweight his weaknesses (even now) and perhaps stepping back and realizing that some mistakes and some limitations were bound to happen on a franchise that has had financial and resource (in general) limitations.
I'll finish it off with this. As important as Lukenbill was in bringing the Kings to Sacramento, and as important as Jim Thomas was in maintaining that conduit from Lukenbill to the Maloof's, and as important as the other factors to this franchise doing well, Petrie is the biggest factor in why the Kings are still in Sacramento. They don't have the success with Mitch Richmond (most likely) that they do, you don't have the Webber trade (although that could have happened anyway), the Bibby/Christie trades, and so on and so forth. Petrie took risks at critical junctures, took players like Williamson that he thought would end up adding the most to the roster (a big risk in of itself--these are not moves that always work out after all), and created assets largely out of draft picks. Year after year. In this market, in the NBA as it's constructed, that's what you need to do to be successful. You can argue some things (that I consider minor but others consider more important) like the NBDL, statistical analysis, relationships with younger talented employees, and the like. Let me ask this: How many quality players has the NBDL produced? (And I mean, guys getting major minutes in a rotation.) Let's say statistical analysis is valuable. Plenty of said analysis showed DeMarcus Cousins as the most valuable player in the draft (using that analysis). Did the Kings make that pick because of that analysis or for other reasons?
I'm convinced of 3 things. One, the Kings cannot act like a big market team and ignore draft picks when it's convenient. They must get the most mileage out of their draft picks or they will drown. Two, they need a staff that's committed but not extravagant. Think about the diversity and knowledge of the old staff that Petrie has. Is that such a weakness even if fellows like John Hollinger don't quite approve? Three, if winning 65% of your trades can be considered the mark of a quality GM, than I submit Geoff Petrie is a tremendous GM as I can argue that Petrie has won 75% of all of his. (Or somewhere around that number at least.) Here is the list of all the transactions he's done as a GM.
- Frank Brickowski for Sarunas Marciulionis (win)
- Spud Webb for Tyrone Corbin (win) (This can be construed as a loss but I think the Kings needed what Corbin provided in both on the court and in the trade plus Spud was almost done)
- Tyrone Corbin and Walt Williams for Billy Owens and Kevin Gamble (Win)
- Sarunas Marciulionis for Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (Win--I know Rauf did little for the Kings but Rooney was all but finished at that point)
- Michael Smith and Bobby Hurley for Chris Robinson and Otis Thorpe (Win just for the fact the Kings needed Thorpe's salary to make the Webb trade)
- Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe for Chris Webber (Duh)
- Tariq Abdul Wahad for Nick Anderson (Let's say even)
- Corliss Williamson for Doug Christie (Umm, duh?)
- Jason Williams and Nick Anderson for Mike Bibby and Brent Price (duh?)
- Jon Barry & 2003 1st round pick (was Carlos Delfino) for Mateen Cleaves (loss but this was a financial move)
- Dan Dickau for future 1st that went to the Pistons
- 2003 & 2005 2nd rounder for Darius Songalia (Win)
- Keon Clark + 2 future 2nd rounders for rights for 2004 2nd round pick (loss but financially motivated again)
- Doug Christie for Cuttino Mobley and Michael Bradley (win)
- Chris Webber, Matt Barnes, Michael Bradley for Kenny Thomas, Corliss Williamson and Brian Skinner (win)
- Bobby Jackson for Bonzi Wells (win)
- Peja Stojakovic for Ron Artest (even--I'm being kind as I really want to say loss)
- Brian Skinner for Sergei Monia and Vitaly Potapenko (loss but financially motivated)
- Mike Bibby for Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, Shelden Williams and Lorenzen Wright (RIP) plus a 2nd rounder that became Sean Singletary (win--had to be done)
- Ron Artest for Bobby Jackson, Donte Greene, and 1st round pick that became Omri Casspi (Win--had to be done)
- top 55 protected pick in 2015 for Sam Cassell and cash (this was with the Celtics in 09--win)
- Brad Miller and John Salmons for Andres Nocioni, Ike Diogu, Michael Ruffin and Cedric Simmons plus cash from Portland (I'll say even although I know some will say loss--I see it as a good trade but I'm being nice with the even)
- 2nd round pick in 2014 for Will Solomon and cash (win--necessary)
- Bobby Brown and Shelden Williams for Rashad McCants and Calvin Booth (this was a financial trade and the Kings wanted to shake up the roster plus, as I mentioned with the financial end, shed the player option on Brown for the 09-10 season)
- rights to Jeff Pendergraph for Sergio Rodriguez and rights to Jon Brockman with cash (win as this helped the Kings pay for some of the roster--hey like it or not some of this was very necessary)
- Hilton Armstrong for a 2016 2nd round pick with conditions and cash to cover the cost of the rest of the contract (win if only because there was nothing lost in acquiring him and he was useful in the Landry-Martin trade)
- Kevin Martin, Hilton Armstrong and Sergio Rodriguez for Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey and Larry Hughes plus cash (loss but this isn't an argument I want to have again and I really could argue push)
- 2010 2nd round pick (top 41 pick and therefore pick will not be given) for Dominic McGuire and cash (win)
- Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes for Sammy Dalembert (Win)
- Jon Brockman for Darnell Jackson and 2nd round pick in 2011 (Win)
- 2011 top 55 protected pick for Jermaine Taylor and cash (Win)
There you have it. I think that lists exactly what Petrie is and isn't as a GM. Not everybody wins every trade, but rarely has been Petrie screwed in a trade (has he in any trade realistically?).
I know we all agree and disagree on what the high and low's are. And not necessarily the specific things I chose (although I'll address why I left the better seasons off), but the order in which I put them in. So, again, I think the trade for Christie was just as rare as a trade for a player like Webber, and given how it helped that team with Webber and Divac having been there for 2 seasons, I feel it's slightly more significant.
As far as why I left say the 02/03 seasons off, I just felt there were plenty of individual things to talk about in those seasons that don't really work for a list like this. There were certainly plenty of worthwhile highlights in the 01-02 season, but exactly how do you fit it in a list like this? I wasn't just after who had a great game at this juncture or that juncture, I was looking for decisions that have made the greatest impact on the past present and future. Decisions that often showed up in the good and bad sides of the ledger. I don't think it's as clearcut as saying the Kings got Webber, signed Divac and drafted Jason Williams. It's quite a bit more complicated and a lot less linear than that line of thinking suggests. Yes those were the most important moves, but they weren't the only one's. If they don't sign Scot Pollard to a contract, do they have as much success as they do down the road? If they don't sign Jon Barry or Vernon Maxwell to a contract, do they make the playoffs in 1999, and if they don't, what happens then? Yes, the big stuff matters and I won't ever argue it doesn't. To shortchange what seems minor and less significant to boilerplate and make it come down to "well they had more talent a better coach more money to spend" isn't a real accurate or honest assessment of how the Kings got to the better moments and on the cusp of winning a championship.
On a side note, I hope you enjoyed this and the companion worst moments. Have a good All-Star weekend. Go Kings!