It turns out that watching the Kings lose most of their games wasn't hard only because relocation threats hung over the city or only because the Maloofs woefully mismanaged the team or only because the team lacked any semblance of a plan. Watching the Kings lose still hurts, even though the team is staying in Sacramento, even though we have a great new owner for the franchise and even though there's a clear plan. We've lost so much that the bruises remain tender; they've never healed. This team is going to give us an eighth straight losing season; the Kings will likely be one of the league's worst six teams for the sixth straight season.
It sucks. But it's better the Kings stink again now than later.
When the Kings get good, we want it to be a long stretch of good, not a flash in the plan. We want Spurs excellence, not We Believe era Warriors excellence. When Sacramento makes the leap from embarrassment to relevant, from loser to contender, we want it to last for years and years. The Spurs have had one bad season in the last 20. That sounds nice, right?
You do that by taking your lumps and building. One trade, one move, one signing isn't the spark. It's the collection of the moves that matters. Draft picks matter. We can talk about tanking all day, but nothing changes the fact that a) stars rule this league and b) most stars are taken rather high in the draft. We can talk about tanking all day, but nothing changes the fact that they lower you pick, the less your likelihood of picking up a starter. These are just facts.
The Kings don't need to tank because they are losing just fine trying to win every game. That's a non-starter: this team isn't good enough to make a conscious decision to lose. It will lose regardless, because the shooting is really inconsistent, the defense is consistently awful and the team's depth looks pretty fake. (Fake depth is something we've talked about a lot: the roster looks deep because the guys on the bench aren't much worse than the guys in the starting five. But that's because some of the guys in the starting lineup aren't very good!)
We all know what the Kings need most: a defensive wing who helps share the ball, a shotblocking big man, some quality depth at power forward, some consistency at shooting guard. The current Kings playing better wouldn't make a winning team. Outside help is needed. The moves that Pete D'Alessandro has made to date have helped other problems, particularly with having at least an average player at small forward. Over the next couple of years, we think Ben McLemore will provide that consistency at shooting guard. Carl Landry might prove to be the quality depth needed at power forward; maybe Quincy Acy fits the bill, too. But Pete's not done, and the Kings aren't ready yet.
Adding that draft pick in June will surely help the progress over the long term. We don't want to rent success. D'Alessandro could probably make some deals to mortgage the team's future for more wins now. Remember when the desperate Nets, hoping to make a playoff run, traded a slightly protected first for Gerald Wallace a few years ago? How'd that work out? That's why I'm not going to complain too much about the losses: I care more about winning for a long time than I care about winning now.
That doesn't mean I won't -- or that we shouldn't -- complain about the state of the team, especially the defense. Hopefully this break in action gets the new Kings (especially Rudy Gay) on board with the team defense, and allows the incumbent Kings (cough cough Marcus Thornton and Jason Thompson cough cough) to brush up. I don't mind the losses because I understand the long view. But I'd still prefer not to see tied games turn into blowouts in the blink of an eye. And I really don't want to see our new coach's head pop off his neck during a postgame presser.