It's time once again for our annual series "30Q" in which we answer 30 questions over the course of September as we get ready for the upcoming season.
It's been a long time since the Sacramento Kings have tasted any sort of success. Last year marked the 9th straight season that the team has failed to reach the playoffs, and even more embarrassingly, the 7th straight season the team hasn't even won 30 games.
Early on in the 2014-15 season it looked like things would finally be different, as the Kings came out of the gates winning 9 of their first 15 games against a very tough schedule. Then disaster struck as DeMarcus Cousins went down with a fluke case of viral meningitis and coach Michael Malone was ignominiously fired as the team struggled without its best player. The season spiraled downwards from there, eventually resulting in Vivek Ranadivé cleaning house of sorts by bringing in Vlade Divac.
Vlade, while new to management, has been incredibly busy this summer. In just a few months, the Kings have overhauled their roster, with more than half of the team being new players. He's been incredibly open and honest with the media, a change from the previous regime. His ability to lead as a player has seemingly translated to his ability to lead as a manager and things seem to be looking up for the Sacramento Kings.
So is this the year they finally turn things around? Is this the year that the Kings are more than just an afterthought come March? We've been burned before, but this year there's a few more reasons to believe things can get better:
- This is the most depth, talent and experience that the Kings have managed to assemble since the last time they were in the playoffs. The Kings have replaced guys like Jason Thompson, Nik Stauskas and Derrick Williams with Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli and Rajon Rondo. They re-signed Omri Casspi, who was stellar under George Karl last season. They also added some end of the bench depth with Quincy Acy, Seth Curry and Duje Dukan. Rookie Willie Cauley-Stein looks like he could contribute immediately on the defensive end. Darren Collison is healthy again. Ben McLemore improved mightily last year and could make another jump. And the Kings still have DeMarcus Cousins, one of the best young players, not just big men, in the league.
- George Karl will finally have a full training camp to work with this season. Karl spent much of last season improvising on the fly with few practices available to him and not much time to install a full system. That won't be the case this season as everyone will be on board from Day 1. Karl is a Hall of Fame coach who hasn't finished below .500 after coaching a full season of basketball since his first year as a coach in 1984.
- Vlade's reputation for being able to bring people together still seems to be intact. Both in public and behind the scenes I have yet to hear a negative word said about Vlade's leadership in the Kings front office. Everyone seems to respect him, and Vivek has done a good job of letting Vlade have the reins.
Of course, there's plenty of reasons to doubt as well:
- The Western Conference is incredibly deep. The Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Spurs, Grizzlies and Thunder are probably locks for playoff spots, leaving the Kings fighting for the final two spots with good teams like the Mavericks, Pelicans, Jazz and Suns.
- Cousins and Karl seem to be on the right path, but it's easy to be friends when nothing is going on. We know they've had some problems in the past, and those problems could come back to the surface if the Kings don't start to win games.
- Rajon Rondo is a bit of an unknown at this point. He completely disappeared in Dallas and feuded with a highly respected coach in Rick Carlisle. Even Doc Rivers had a tough time managing Rondo and they got along relatively well. In Rondo the Kings have added yet another strong personality, and they also aren't getting the best version of Rondo either, as he's hardly been the same player since injuries have taken their toll.
Me personally? I think this will be a good year. Every team has to start somewhere, and this is the first year where I think the Kings really did a solid job of addressing team needs in the offseason. This is a talented squad that should be able to compete every night on both ends of the court. Making the playoffs will not be easy and might not even be possible, but the Kings have to start getting better in order to have the foundation to take the next step. Maybe I've got purple-tinted sunglasses on, but hey, the Kings can't be bad forever right?