Peeing in the Cheerios, or the Summer of "If Only..."

Beagle1_medium

Hi, I am a very cute puppy. My job is to take your mind off the current plight of your Sacramento Kings.

I was thinking the other day (I can always tell when I’m thinking because my head hurts and I smell wood burning) that Kings fans are multi-taskers unlike virtually any other NBA fan base. I mean, look at the things that we have to concern ourselves with:

  • Player Payroll Sure, most NBA fans have to be at least somewhat aware of salary cap rules. But how many have to worry about the cap minimum? Is there another fan base out there that does the math on prospective trades to make sure that we are still over the league minimum after the deal is done? There are currently 20 teams over the salary cap, with roughly half of them over the luxury tax threshold. That, my friends, is how the majority of the NBA lives…on average, about $17m over what we spend on players. And as a result, whenever you discuss the Kings in depth, the topic of dollars spent (or in this case, not spent) is usually included.
  • Player Development We continue to possess the youngest roster in the NBA. With the addition of two rookies via this coming year’s draft, we will have eight players playing under their rookie contracts. How many current NBA teams have to factor in player development to the level that we do? Sure, a lot of teams will have a Klay Thompson here or a Kenneth Faried there. But on a mass (and massive) scale? This year I count Cleveland and Washington as teams that are attempting to develop young players on a scale close to ours. Play to win? We play to wean.
  • Draft Has any fan base become more informed on how the lottery works, the ping pong balls split, the college and international pool of talent, or the features, benefits and perils of driving a tank? Is there any other fan base that looks at the draft as the only available method for improving the roster? I went to the Northern California High School Championship this year, and I felt like I should be scouting talent for the Kings. The NBA draft is perfect for ownership’s current model of don’t spend more than you have to.
  • Coaching Stability Six coaches over the last six years, with the only common thread being their willingness to work for pennies on the dollar. That’s Natted up.
  • Ownership Let’s not dwell on this one. Suffice to say that Clippers, Warriors, Raptors and Timberwolves fans can all now have a good laugh at our expense. If not for Michael Jordan, we would be the NBA-wide punch line. Even the NBA had an exit strategy as it pertained to the Hornets.
  • Management The Sacramento Kings have traded the #7 pick and Beno Udrih to the Milwaukee Bucks for the #10 pick and John Salmons. There are some things that you can blame on the fact that management has to operate under unfair budget constraints, and then there are some things that are just not forgivable. The Hayes signing? OK, the team had to sign someone to get to the league minimum, we needed a body up front, and Hayes was to give you a veteran presence. It sure has not worked out up to this point, but the move is at least justified. Travis Outlaw? Why not? $3m a year for four years is a dirt cheap flyer, so it’s a move virtually without risk. But to trade the younger/better/cheaper player (Udrih) for the older/worse/more expensive player (Salmons), moving down three spots in the draft in the process? Especially since your intent is to basically play him out of position? Guh. Almost every fan base has some sort of issue with the management of their team, so we’re really not that special in this respect.
  • Arena Again, how many fans really need to concern themselves with this crap? From the ridiculous (Power Balance Pavilion – really?) to the too-real (will we lose our team due to the arena situation?), few fans of current NBA teams have had to ride the emotional roller coaster that we have been strapped into since 2006. Seattle Sonics fans stand alone as a fan base that can currently say that they’ve had it worse than us, but that could unfortunately change in a year or two.
  • Supporting the Team Do you think that Wizards fans have to grapple with guilt over giving their money to Ted Leonsis? Do Jazz fans think twice over spending money at Energy Solutions Arena? Hell, even Warriors fans probably don’t fret over giving up their cash to Lacob – they just want to see a better return on their investment. But here in Sacramento, fans have to make that hard choice, knowing that their decision to go see the team that they love also results in lining the pockets of the douche bag owners they loathe. Congrats, M*loofs – you’ve attained the short list previously reserved for only Donald Sterling.

_

That’s some list. And it’s a list that we will carry throughout the summer. The summer of "If only…"

Other fan bases will spend a lot of time throwing around free agent acquisition ideas. For a few elite teams, these conversations will include players such as Deron Williams. For a lot of other teams, it will mean names like Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, D.J Augustin (restricted), Omer Asik (restricted), Jason Terry, Courtney Lee (restricted), Goran Dragic, Marcus Camby, Roy Hibbert (restricted), George Hill (restricted), Nick Young, Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez (restricted), Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon (restricted), Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Landry Fields (restricted), Ryan Anderson (restricted), Lou Williams, Robin Lopez (restricted), Steve Nash, Nic Batum (restricted), and C.J. Miles, among others.

Look at the above list. Now, reduce the list to those players that you would like for the Kings. Next, figure out how much it would cost to obtain those players. Proceed to factor in how much money current ownership is likely to spend on free agent players, considering that the team can pretty much attain the league salary cap minimum by simply signing their first and second round draft picks (roughly $48.4m in player payroll for 13 players, and that does not include Jason Thompson, Donté Greene or Terrence Williams).

We have salary cap money available, and there is going to be talent out there that could make this team better. But ownership has shown no willingness to spend money on players for the past several years (at least dating back to the trading of Kevin Martin). Andrei Kirilenko? Yeah, for all we know, an offer was made, Kirilenko declined it, and the team said, "Well, if you ever change your mind…" Remember, had Kirilenko signed when the rumor of the offer first came about, the Kings likely would not have signed Hayes or Outlaw, and the team would still be floating around the league cap minimum. Too bad we are forced to temper our free agent enthusiasm with the reality that ownership is not investing in their product (at least not to NBA competitive levels). If only…

If teams like Memphis or Atlanta disappoint in this year’s playoffs, there is at least a remote chance that players like Josh Smith or Rudy Gay could possibly be made available. Mind you, they won’t be free (the cost being draft picks or Tyreke Evans or Isiaiah Thomas), but there would certainly be enough smoke there to have a conversation about it. Unfortunately, those players would cost money, driving the Kings well over the minimum cap, so the opportunity goes from not very likely to almost completely unlikely. Once again, the ghost of M*loof present has snatched your daydreams from you. If only…

The front office needs a kick start. Fresh blood, fresh ideas, fresh money…well, so much for that idea. What’s the point in shaking up the front office if you’re not going to earnestly re-invest in the team, players, coaching staff, and scouting. If only…

_

A pretty frustrating exercise, eh? But for me, somewhat cathartic. Given that I do not want to spend all summer peeing in everyone’s Cheerios by responding to every trade or free agent idea with "Unfortunately, that will never happen under current ownership," I have determined to just take one giant pee right here and now. By emptying my bladder of all M*loof-related urine, I hope to now proceed without having to rail about ownership’s penny-pinching ways whenever we have discussions about the roster (I reserve the right to say whatever I want about those pricks in any arena-related posts or threads).

I do this now, because I want to be able to talk basketball this summer without depressing the hell out of myself (and everyone else) over current ownership. It’s a fool’s paradise, for sure, as we all know the truth of the matter. But as a Kings fan for going on 27 years, I’ve talked myself into living in a fool’s paradise before, and I can do it again. I certainly won’t hold it against anyone that feels the need to drop M*loofian reminders in the basketball-related threads, but I’m going to do my damndest to dream in the dreamer posts and threads, and restrict the harsh and unpleasant reality of current ownership to the arena and owner-related posts and threads. Separation of M*loof and State, I suppose.

So when I go on a Ryan Anderson or Ersan Ilyasova or Rudy Gay or Josh Smith bender, please understand that I am fully aware how incredibly terrible the odds are that it will ever happen. But I’m going to allow myself at least a little bit of a dreamscape. As a Kings fan, I believe that I’ve earned it.

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