FanPost

Changing the Narrative – A Supposing "What If" Sacramento Kings 2012-2013 Preview

PROLOGUE:

What if? It’s hopeless to ask but we do it anyway. What if? What if Webber’s knees didn’t give out? What if the refs had made the right call in Game 6? What if the Kings had won the draft lottery just once in the past six losing seasons? What if? It’s meaningless. It’s not reality. It’s potential in the hindsight of despair. Webber’s knees were shattered, Mike Bibby fouled Kobe’s elbow with his face, and despite six consecutive lottery bound seasons the Kings have not managed to pick higher than number four in the NBA draft. What if? It’s a sham. It’s bullshit. It’s nostalgia tugging away at an unforgiving past.

Conversely, a sports fan’s usage of supposing "what if" is only used half of the time in regards to the past. The other fifty percent of ‘what if’s’ come from the silver lining of hope for the future. What if this team gels together? What if this is the coach to lead us to a championship? What if this was the trade that put us over the hump? This supposing fantasy for the future, while still considered by some to be bullshit, every so often actually comes to fruition. Teams win titles, players rise above expectation, and the splendor of sports is realized. But like any other addiction, ‘what if’ is a fan’s soul draining excuse to keep coming back for more. In the case of the Sacramento Kings, the future what if’s are not solely about players on a roster.

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This team faces the most terrifying ‘what if’ any franchise could imagine. What if this team moves? What if there is no more basketball in Sacramento? What will we do when/if the Kings decide to leave? It would appear that the writing is on the wall. The current owners have walked away from a clean cut deal to keep the team in Sacramento. Now what? Much has been written about how hard it will be to cheer for a basketball team while so much uncertainty surrounds the franchise. I agree. It’ll be tough. It’s going to be damn near impossible to watch DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson night in and night out and not imagine the bright future that massive front line can have years down the road. Will that road remain in Sacramento?

Nearly every national media report has made the connection and labeled the current roster as a squad of ‘players who have just as many question marks surrounding them as the team itself.’ But what if that wasn’t the case? What if the Maloof’s had followed through with their handshake agreement in Orlando? There would be no connection to make. You cannot connect the stability of a franchise to the development of a young roster, can you? Before reacting, understand that I already comprehend that this is pointless, fictitious, and a waste of time to even conspire such a concept. But what if?

What if the rumors of the Maloof’s concerns over pre-development fees had simply remained gossip? What if they held true to their word and began construction of a downtown sports arena? What would the butterfly effect be if that had actually happened?

Personally, (again, this is only one man’s opinion) I feel that the sequence of events that have since transpired over the summer wouldn’t necessarily differ but the subsequent narrative that occurs every October in analysis and previews of the upcoming season would be far more optimistic. If only for a moment, I’d like to read a forecast about the loyalty of the franchise rather than its uncertainty. With all that in mind, I have devised an overall preview of the team, ownership, and fan reaction for the franchise that might have been 2012-2013 Sacramento Kings.


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He’s been described as a fan at heart. His trepidation was on display for all to see as Jason Thompson approached the foul line in the closing minute of a still undecided game at Power Balance Pavilion. The dejected look on his face was undeniable as the first free throw rattled in and out. Soon after, Gavin Maloof was as delighted as ever when his Sacramento Kings eventually beat the Utah Jazz 103-96. This professional basketball victory, however, was not the main storyline in the ensuing news cycle. In fact, that honor occurred without the presence of players, coaches, or even a basketball.

Throughout the highs and lows of his family’s tenure as owners of Sacramento Kings franchise, Gavin Maloof had never appeared more proud than he did standing center court on what was once known as Arco Arena. With a microphone in hand he addressed the ruckus, cheering crowd. He used his right hand as he pointed from left to right to display the bulky lettering of his long sleeve SACRAMENTO team sweatshirt. "At the end of the day it’s all about this."

The relocation roller coaster in Sacramento had been a ride for the ages. But eventually after many flips, dips, twists, and turns a final picture is taken and the ride is over. Later, Gavin was joined by his brother Joe as well as the Mayor of Sacramento, former NBA all star, Kevin Johnson. Together they joyously raised their hands in unison. The city of Sacramento, the Maloof family, and the NBA had reached an agreement on a new sports and entertainment complex in downtown Sacramento which will retain the only major sports franchise in the capitol of California for at least the next thirty years.

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That welcomed sight of a city coming together became the catalyst of what has become a nonstop parade of enthusiasm in Northern California. It’s been nearly seven months since that blissful Tuesday night in Natomas. Subsequently, the i’s have doted and the t’s have been crossed. A brand new Sacramento arena will officially open at the start of the 2015 season.

That is not to say there were not a few bumps along the way. Shortly following the handshake agreement in Orlando and the ensuing photo op at center court, rumors began to circulate of sibling dissention and potential buyer’s remorse from the Maloof family. This report was addressed by Carmichael Dave on his CD Network podcast during an interview with Joe Maloof. "This was a major commitment," said Joe. "We wanted to make sure, as a family, that all of our bases were covered. We wanted, on the business side of things, to know that this was a viable agreement in which the fans wouldn’t be burdened with an extortionate expense to come to the new arena."

At this point in the arena timeline, Mayor Johnson and the city council had cleared all of the numerous political hurtles to approve the sports and entertainment complex by citing new jobs and economic growth for Sacramento and its surrounding cities. Along with the town’s investment, the NBA itself was loaning a cordial sum of money to begin development. Their goal was to steadily progress the actual building of the arena so that the projected date of completion (2015) was not in question.

As a result, any sort of pullback this late in the game would be disastrous for all parties involved especially the Maloof’s who, before the arena deal had been struck, were not being well received locally or around the league. Their concerns, no matter how righteous they may seem, would have a bearing consequence if the project were to become further delayed. The family was stuck between a rock and hard place. Eventually, though, they agreed to the official principles of the arena deal.

"The NBA has been extremely gracious to our situation," explained Joe. "…and we thought that, when it all came down to it, any hold up or back out of this deal would be disingenuous to David Stern, the city of Sacramento, and everyone who had worked so hard to see this arena deal come to fruition especially the fans. Truly the best fans in the NBA and quite possibly all of sports."

It seems like so long ago that finances of the Maloof family were held in question. With this arena deal in place Joe, Gavin, George, and the rest of the Maloof family have continued to invest and strengthen their brand all summer. Adrianne Maloof threw a launch party in Beverly Hills to commemorate a new partnership with Zing Vodka.

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In addition, the family returned once again to South Africa to host its annual skateboarding championship event, ‘The Maloof Money Cup." Possibly more impressive than all of that though, it appears the Maloof’s have decided to double down on the basketball franchise itself. After years of possessing the lowest payroll in professional basketball the team is now currently just under the salary cap at $57.9 million.

It would appear that now, for the first time in over two years, Kings fans can focus on what made them fanatics in the first place, basketball. This young core of players which features former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans and outspoken center DeMarcus Cousins has quite possibly become more talented while addressing areas of concern with their offseason acquisitions. First they selected power forward Thomas Robinson out of Kansas with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Robinson was the first unanimous All-America selection since Blake Griffin in 2009 and will pose a unique and intimidating big man combination with DeMarcus Cousins for many years to come in the capital city. The Kings also took care of their own as they resigned reliable power forward Jason Thompson to a five year deal to join the imposing frontcourt rotation.

Next, the team picked up free agent and former most improved player of the year, point guard Aaron Brooks who will join an extremely deep back court of Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, and college sensation Jimmer Fredette. With defense being a gapping whole in last year’s squad, tenured general manager Geoff Petrie traded for James Johnson of the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a future second round pick. Johnson is known as a hard noised defender who excels in rebounding as well as block shots and will, with a bit of luck, help Sacramento solidify the small forward position.

As these young players begin to mature and grow together you may begin to see flashes of an up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder team. Perhaps not the championship contender you saw in the finals last year but quite conceivably a similar team that heavily contested the, what was to become NBA champion, Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.

Yet in order to obtain this status as "the next big thing," Sacramento will need to answer a vast number of questions, logically beginning with the most perplexing player on the roster. In a contract year, what kind of player will we see out of Tyreke Evans? Will he be the 20-5-5 rookie of the year, the underperforming guard/forward from the past two seasons, or could we see a whole new Tyreke? Will his extensive work on a jump shot this offseason transfer to the regular season during in game situations?

How will coach Keith Smart fair in his first full season with the team? Can he be victorious coaching a young a team whose veteran presence includes the insipid John Salmons and the justly amnestied Travis Outlaw? Can Francisco Garcia and Chuck Hayes find a way to match there on court performance with their leadership in the locker room? Will Jimmer Fredette’s second season as a pro and first season as non-virgin leave his fans satisfied? Finally, will DeMarcus Cousins continue to refine his game on and off the court to become the hall of fame player everyone insists he can be?

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Make no mistake, these are very exciting times to be a Kings fan. Though their attention is now primarily centered toward the growing talents of their young basketball team, fans have not forgotten what a monumental accomplishment a new arena was to the team, the city, and its loyal enthusiasts.

The group ‘Here We Stay’, ‘Think Big’, and blog fansite ‘Sactown Royalty’ have arranged an appreciation night for their owners astutely named "Fans Thank Maloof’s" night. FTM night will feature an outcry of admiration from this small market franchise to the Maloof family. In seasons past, social networking had been used on games such as this to showcase the unrelenting fandom instilled in the Sactown faithful in addition to humbly display gratitude for a franchise seemingly on its way out the door. Now it is now being used as a showing of respect.

Signs such as "Thanks for approving the arena deal!" or "Thanks for being loyal to Sacramento!" are sure to be on display on November 7 against the Detroit Pistons when FTM night takes place. Also, fans are encouraged to purchase concessions and merchandise as to further demonstrate that the dignity of a small market team can, in fact, leave a financial impact especially to those who are loyal and keep to their word.

Indeed these are encouraging times for this franchise. Though the fortune of prowess has yet to be determined for this basketball team at least one factor is certain, for the foreseeable future the Sacramento Kings will remain the Sacramento Kings. With its first preseason game against Phoenix on Wednesday night there will be much to evaluate about this unestablished basketball team. However, at the end of the day, just as Gavin said, it’s all about Sacramento.

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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