The Kings were 5-13 when they made the Rudy Gay trade, and 6-14 before he suited up for the first time. Gay played in every single game until he and DeMarcus Cousins went down in Houston on January 22 with injuries. At this time the Kings were 15-25 and playing some of their better basketball of the season. Since then the team has gone 3-10, with inconsistent rotations and the disappointing but understandable "can vacation time just get here already" illness muddying their play.
For some fans, the team is an incomplete entity, bordering on mess. These fans are absolutely correct. We knew that going in, though. The last 13 games, and the season's first half to a larger degree, do nothing but further reaffirm an already known issue. The Gay trade brought the Kings much needed star power and consistency at a position of need, but it also robbed the team of some much needed depth.
Depth, however is a ruse. You know what this team would be if it had depth? It'd be good. If they still had their depth, they'd be without star power and production. This was a bad team at the beginning of the season, and the two moves they made weren't gonna do much in the short term to change that configuration. It's stated in the Law of Conservation of Mass of Building a Team or Something: mass can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can be rearranged. The Kings traded the mass (or dead weight, if you'd like) of John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, and Chuck Hayes for the mass of Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray. They weren't gonna create both star power and depth in one foul swoop, that's ludicrous my dear readers. And not because Pete D'Alessandro isn't a smart GM, but because he just isn't a warlock capable of reversing even the most fundamentally sound laws of physics (as far as we know).
With star power now in place, and financial flexibility forthcoming, the team is in position to add that much needed depth in the coming months. And we know that it's inherently easier to add depth and supporting players than it is to add star quality talent, especially because those supporting players need to be able to, well, support something. The rudderless state of the franchise to begin the season lies in stark contrast to what we have now, just four months removed.
It's almost ridiculous of us to look at the team's shortcomings and not be optimistic or content as we head into the All-Star break. This will be the eighth consecutive All-Star break the Kings have entered in need of making plans to be represented at the draft lottery rather than to host a playoff game. However for the first time in eight years, the path to reversing fortunes has never been more clear.
And in the long run, there's probably nothing wrong with this team losing these games. This team's been decimated by extraneous circumstances the last three weeks, most of the guys on this roster will likely be elsewhere when this team is ready to finally be competitive so there's no use in worrying about a "losing culture", and also the team will likely right the ship once more before the season ends. Let's rack up those ping-pong balls while we still can am i right!(?)
I find it evermore important to once again remind the people that this team is far closer to being good than they are to being bad again.
And that's why the game against the Knicks last night was so fun. To me it was nothing more than some much needed comic relief. Absolutely zero things will likely stand to be relevant lessons from that game in the team's more bright future.
Rudy Gay shot an inefficient 9-22 en route to 20 points. Eh, he's been far more efficient than that in his tenure as a Sacramento King. He hit a fun clutch jumper. What else?
The Kings had stretches of gouge-your-eyes-out defense? I see your point and raise you a "what else is new?"
But Jimmer Fredette had 24 points on 14 shots, guys! And he put in 6 threes. It's like we're back at BYU!
It's this kind of unsustainable fun that provides a break for the fan base right before the players enter theirs.
As hard as it to consume a season that will likely be important for reasons not related to the win-loss record, it has to be the primary way to view this team.
This might have been Jimmer Fredette's last game as a Sacramento King. I have zero idea how to properly react to that possibility but it's sad to me in the same way that it's sometimes sad when your favorite TV show gets rid of a supporting and oft-marginalized actor. Like, I'll still watch. Is the new guy good? Is the new guy cash or a protected second round pick?
Jimmermania aside, this game will likely be lost in the firmament of the long term grind, immortalized in basketball-reference pages rather than in our hearts and minds The same with this most recent stretch of lackadaisical Kings basketball. Barring a GM seeing this most recent game from Jimmer and throwing the whole farm at him in a trade offer, this team will most likely reach the same output they've already bought for themselves to this point.
As the team heads toward the All-Star break, and perhaps even more upheaval with Thursday's trade deadline approaching it's important to remember the bigger picture this team is trying to paint and to not get hung up on each individual brushstroke.
Ps. Tell me this season isn't funner now that we're viewing Pete D'Alessandro as a painter.