The Kings have lacked an honest rivalry for a decade, and that's unfortunate.
No one in Sacramento is ever going to forget the Kings vs. Lakers rivalry of the early 2000s - the Doug Christie uppercut to Rick Fox's jaw, the Kobe burger - the good old days. Unfortunately, Kings-Lakers games have turned into just another day on the schedule, and let's face it, the black and purple haven't played anywhere near a team deserving of a rivalry since 2006.
But there may be hope for a new divisional clash on the horizon as the Kings move out of the Maloof era and into the Ranadive era. Vivek Ranadive has strong connections with the Golden State Warriors; connections that may fuel a nice (albeit friendly) rivalry. That rivalry could spill into the stands if the Kings can manage to catch up to the success of the Dubs in terms of wins in the next few seasons.
From plucking the Warriors' main assistant coach off their bench in Michael Malone to the Andre Iguodala drama, there are some interesting storylines between the two Nor Cal teams. And it all could be setting the stage for some potentially spirited exchanges between two franchises that have never been good at the same time and only have 80 miles between them.
Let's take a look at some of the history the new Kings regime has with the Warriors.
Ranadive is entrenched in the Silicon Valley world. His company Tibco, is a software company that more than 4,000 customers worldwide depend on to manage their data. In 2010, Ranadive became a co-owner and vice chairman of the Warriors. While with the Warriors, he showed a lot of out-of-the box thinking, developing an innovative fan mobile app and even putting on a "Bollywood Night" - he is a 3.0 kind of guy after all.
In March, it was announced Ranadive was part of the new Kings ownership group (and he was later announced as the majority owner). As the negotiations with the NBA played out, Ranadive could be found sitting courtside at Oracle Arena rooting on the Warriors in the playoffs. When the deal finally closed and Ranadive bought the team from the Maloofs, he hired Warriors assistant coach Michael Malone as the new Kings head coach, interviewed Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk for Geoff Petrie's job and reportedly sought consulting from both Jerry West, a Warriors executive board member, and Warriors Hall of Famer Chris Mullin. (West would later claim that his involvement was greatly overstated.)
So yeah, there is some history there.
Michael Malone Hiring
Ranadive was aggressive in his pursuit of Malone as the new head coach of the Kings, hiring him before he even landed a general manager. But Warriors head coach Mark Jackson was the same way about Malone in 2011 when he brought him on to be his lead assistant. Many say Malone was the strategy guy behind Jackson's motivational coaching style, as he was the one seen with the clipboard the majority of the time. Malone's ability to improve the Warriors defensively by leaps and bounds last season is a prime example of his importance. The Warriors saw statistical jumps in rebounding (from 28th to 3rd), defensive rebounding (24th to 1st), opponent field goal percentage (20th to 3rd) and opponent three-point field goal percentage (28th to 7th). Malone also was ranked the No. 1 assistant coach in 2011-12 on NBA.com's GM survey. So while the Kings stand to benefit from his services, Malone will likely be greatly missed by the Warriors.
One of the original new Kings owners to go public, Mark Mastrov is a guy who probably has a little extra incentive to want to beat the Warriors - he came in second to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber in his effort to purchase the franchise in 2010. Like Ranadive, Mastrov was seen numerous times sitting courtside at Warriors games last season as the battle to wrestle the Kings away from the Maloofs raged on.
New Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro joined the Warriors in 2004. He worked as the team's director of basketball operations and assistant general manager, before joining the Denver Nuggets in 2010.
Chris Mullin Connection
A few months back, Ranadive offered the Hall of Famer a job as a consultant to the Kings. Mullin was the lead executive with the Warriors for five years, spent the majority of his playing days with the Warriors and was part of the ‘Run TMC' team. Mullin reportedly played a key role in advising Ranadive to hire D'Alessandro. During his time with the Warriors, D'Alessandro helped Mullin with strategy and management of basketball operations.
Andre Iguodala Deal
When free agency opened, the Kings' new front office got their first shot at making a big splash (whales!). In early July, they honed in on Andre Iguodala. "Iggy" would have filled the void the Kings have had at small forward for years, and then some. They offered him a reported four-year deal in the range of $52-56 million as it looked like Tyreke Evans was headed to New Orleans to become a Pelican. Ranadive and crew wanted an answer quickly, but Iguodala wasn't ready to commit. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Iguodala was still contemplating returning to the Denver Nuggets and several other teams were showing interest in him at the time. The Kings backed out and a few days later, Iggy signed with the Warriors for a four-year, $48 million deal.
And then came Tweet-gate when Iguodala said D'Alessandro looked like a character in the movie "Despicable Me."
Despicable Me looking azz boi!- Andre Iguodala (@andre) July 15, 2013
Relax... Pete is my guy. Drop some great knowledge today- Andre Iguodala (@andre) July 15, 2013
Iguodala makes it clear he was joking around, but it's still very curious considering the timing of the tweets.
Carl Landry Deal
Forward Carl Landry gave the Warriors some key playing time off the bench last season (he averaged 10.8 points and 6 rebounds in 23 minutes per game). Many credited the play of Landry and point guard Jarrett Jack as two of the main reasons for the Warriors' surge. Just days after the Iguodala ordeal ended, the Kings offered Landry a four-year $26 million deal and he accepted. Landry had opted out of a player option to return to the Warriors for $4 million. The Warriors also lost Jack to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Landry ended up with a better deal and he will certainly help shore up the Kings' perimeter shooting (he ranked No. 12 for best field goal percentage in the league last season at 54 percent) and serve as another mentor for DeMarcus Cousins in the locker room. The timing of this deal was certainly interesting considering how the Iguodala exchange went down.
Season Ticket Sales
The Kings currently lead the NBA in new season tickets sold, likely a great feeling for a sales staff that has had to fight off all of the turmoil surrounding the franchise in recent years (they have done a tremendous job of this by the way). The ticket numbers are so impressive this season, that it led David Stern to state that it was "startling."
Well, guess who is in second place - the Golden State Warriors, who have increased the price of their tickets by an average of 20 percent.
You have to appreciate this tweet on Saturday from Kings Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service, Phil Horn, prior to the season ticket "Select-A-Seat Open House" event at Sleep Train Arena.
Summer League Matchup
In the Kings-Warriors Summer League matchup, it was reported by Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com, that the Warriors were well prepared for the offensive patterns the Kings were running. Strauss reported Warriors players were calling out the Kings' plays before they even happened and that Malone was using a Golden State-like "blueprint" (even though Chris Jent was the head coach of the Summer League squad).
Warriors are calling out Sacramento's plays. They're familiar.- Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) July 16, 2013
Sac ran something from GSW's "chest" series, the Warriors players called it out, and the play blew up.- Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) July 16, 2013
The Warriors ended up defeating the Kings 80-66. It is interesting that the Warriors were already looking to infiltrate Malone's strategy in a preseason game. You can't help but wonder what mind games will go on when Malone and Mark Jackson face off in the regular season.
The Warriors are working to get an arena built on the Bay in San Francisco. The arena is supposed to fit in to the cityscape and is expected to have a large window with sweeping views of the Bay Bridge. With plans to open the building for the 2017-18 season and the Kings aiming to open their arena in downtown Sacramento in time for the 2016-17 season, we could be talking about two teams competing in the playoffs in brand new state-of-the art facilities, which would be a nice touch.
Some have complained about the Kings turning into a "Warriors Lite" because Ranadive has relied so heavily on his connections with the franchise to get things off the ground in Sacramento. But it seems to be the right move because he has been able to surround himself with people who are well respected throughout the league. If these connections help spark an actual basketball rivalry that doesn't involve another city trying to steal the Kings, then I am all for it.
The Kings will play the Warriors twice in the preseason, so we'll get a look at how they match up early on. The two teams have traditionally played each other tough and both franchises have top-notch fan bases. It's not going to happen overnight, but one can hope that the Kings increase their win totals and this escalates in the coming seasons.
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