This season has had a pretty rough start. We're 2-7, despite the fact that we have played 7 of our first 9 games at home. A few of those losses were due to plain old poor effort in win-able games. This is undoubtedly inexcusable. We have received at best lackluster effort from the majority of our roster so far. The only guys I can say have put forth a full, hard working effort every night have been Isaiah Thomas and Ben Mclemore. Demarcus Cousins has shown spurts of greatness, mixed in with some very poor efforts himself. When he stays on the floor he has been great, but he has been inconsistent to say the least. We have also been plagued by the injury bug already, which certainly doesn't help. Carl Landry, our best Power Forward and biggest offseason signing, had hip surgery that will keep him out for 3-4 months. Greivis Vasquez is still recovering from injury to start the season. More recently Patrick Patterson missed a game with a knee bruise. Needless to say, as Kings fans, this is not at all what we were expecting.
There has been a lot of negative reactions from Kings fans as a result of these circumstances, both here on SacTown Royalty and throughout Sacramento. Game attendance has picked up from last season, but is still not particularly strong given our history. More importantly there has been a lot of complaining from the fans about the organization from top to bottom. A quick glance at recent FanPosts will show fans calling out not only players, but our new coach, our new GM, and even our new owners, demanding that drastic changes be made. This is very concerning.
I understand where this comes from. I am a lifelong Kings fan. I have sat through more losing seasons than I care to count. I have sat anxiously through more Draft Lotteries than I care to remember, trying hard not to look back through old drafts and think of the potential we missed out on as I read over the long list of big names that we passed up in favor of far more disappointing players. I have screamed at my TV watching our team underachieve, year after year. Scratched my head trying to understand Keith Smart's rotations. Most of all, I sat through years of torture at the hands of the Maloof family, the only thing keeping me going was the the dream that one day they would be replaced, gone forever. And then, earlier this year, that dream came true. We finally got that new ownership group to come through and clean house in the front office that had plagued our franchise with bad decisions and cash considerations for years. Finally replaced the incompetent Maloofs with a group that was willing to play the game the right way, and willing to compete with the big boys.
It feels like a lot of people have lost sight of what it means that we still have this team. 7 months ago, it seemed like a done deal that our team was GONE. The bags were packed and they had 1 foot on the plane destined for Seattle. We were faced with the prospect of the NBA leaving, more than likely never to return (let's face it, if we can't get a new arena built for a team that we have supported for nearly 30 years, we more than likely would not get a second chance). I was not ready to accept that, and I never lost hope that the team would stay. The day the Board of Governors made it official that we were staying was, unfortunately, the best day of my last decade as a Kings fan. I grew up on crappy Kings teams and watched them go from cellar-dwellers to the most exciting team in the NBA, and I want my future kids to have that same opportunity for a long time to come.
However, the stink of the Maloofs has not completely left us yet. As Tom Ziller stated in his most recent article, 63% of the minutes played so far this year have been from players that were signed under the Maloofs, 75% if you include Demarcus. This is a roster that was thrown together because it was cheap. A roster that was designed to drive away the fanbase and blaze a trail up to Seattle, or Anaheim, or any of a variety of other places not named Sacramento. This roster was quite literally the NBA equivalent of Major League, down to sub-par facilities and all. Atrocities like this are not undone overnight!
Vivek and the rest of the new faces in charge have not been around for very long! They have had less than 6 months in power! With the contracts that they inherited and the makeup of the team, there was only so much that could be done, they can't just fire everybody and sign a team of All-Stars. They made some moves in the off-season, and unfortunately they haven't worked out swimmingly yet. But again, we haven't even played our 10th game yet! Give it some time, people! These things don't change overnight, and with what is essentially a brand new team, year one is the NBA equivalent of overnight.
You don't have to tell me how much losing sucks, I'm well aware, but it's time we get back to reality. This team is not good ! This is not a winning team. The Western Conference is loaded with talent. Barring a series of game-changing, roster-altering trades, we're going to have a losing record this season. And that's ok! After being on the brink of losing our franchise, I don't care if this team wins 20 games. I'll still show up for games, and I'll still watch all the games on TV. I'm happy that I have the ability to watch my favorite team wipe off the stench of Maloof, and work their way through a real rebuild as opposed to a prolonged, arena killing tank job.
I have confidence in Mike Malone, Pete D'Alessandro, Vivek Ranadíve and the rest of our new ownership group/front office. Some of the principle players involved came from the Warriors and their new ownership group. Lost in the success the Warriors have had recently is the fact that the Warriors SUCKED, for a long time. The first couple years with new owners were rough. The fans booed the owners openly and demanded changes, much like many of our fans are doing right now. But through all of that pain, they rose to the top. They drafted well (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, aka all guys we passed up on), and combined those draft picks with savvy trades and free agent signings, and have built themselves into a major contender in the Western Conference. This is the blueprint that our new front office is working with, and I'm confident that they will be successful. However, it will take time.
There are some positives so far. Demarcus has shown some progress over last season. He is not completely transformed like a Butterfly exiting a cocoon, but he has improved. He has put up big numbers when he can stay on the floor. Isaiah is a legit 6th man of the year candidate, scoring double figures off the bench every game and contributing 18ppg so far. McLemore, though coming along slowly, has showed flashes of great potential. He takes good shots (beautiful shots), gives 100% on both ends of the floor, has rebounded well, and possesses tremendous athleticism. Despite our record, the defense has improved, significantly I might add. This tells me that Malone is getting his message across that defense is not an option, and it's showing.
Nobody is saying that you should be happy about losing. Nobody should cheer or encourage lackluster effort by our players. Nobody should be happy about the product that is currently on the floor. But some perspective is needed! This is not our team of the future. This is not a playoff contender. We will get worse before we get better. We should focus on the positives rather than the negatives, enjoy the fact that we still have our Kings, and be patient! The future is very bright, and I can't wait to see the improvements that we will make next season.