Every kid selects a sport at a young age they love. If they are lucky enough they are gifted with the physical ability to excel in it. If they are even more lucky, and driven, then they excel to the point where they make a career out of it and reach the big leagues. It can get complicated as money is involved, a lot of it. The pressure is there and so are egos. But at the heart of it, the love that started it all has to be pulled out of everyone on a team to make it work and experience true success.
When a team is having fun, appreciating one another and respecting one another it can be a thing of beauty. Folks around Sacramento have seen it. It may have been what seems like a generation ago, but they have seen it. When it did happen some 15 years ago, the one in the middle of it was the tall dude with the beard running the show for the Sacramento Kings right now. Vlade Divac has a reputation as one who unites and as he continues to garner the respect of his squad, including DeMarcus Cousins, it is becoming clear he understands players and knows how to communicate with them – a "player's general manager" if you will.
Divac said he wanted to bring in help for Cousins and create stability this offseason. Everyone can question whether bringing in Rajon Rondo screams stability, but he deserves a clean slate in Sacramento. And it is going to take more than smiling photos to convince everyone George Karl and Cousins are going to successfully coexist, but there is no reason they can't if they agree on the common goal of winning. In the end, however, it is relationships between the guys on the floor during the course of the season that counts. New addition Caron Butler understands that.
"There's only so much a coach can do us as players have to police each other" Caron Butler on DeMarcus Cousins & George Karl— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) September 21, 2015
So to the players: Believe in each other and in Sacramento.
The veterans are here, the talent is here, the shooting is here, the defense is here.
The best center in the league is here.
A future hall-of fame-coach is here.
Across the country, they laugh at the "Suicide Squad." Use it as motivation if you must, but understand this team hasn't done much to prove the doubters wrong in recent years. That can all change this season.
The team-building exercises in recent weeks are a positive sign and I have been told the chemistry is good "right now," but that chemistry must spill over into the regular season. Now is the time to check the egos at the door and come together and recognize the best in each other. The past is the past and there is a new future in front of you.
In April, it will have been exactly 10 years since Sacramento's only professional team made the playoffs. The city is starving to have the rally towels flying, the logo splashed all over every building downtown, and all that it may take for that is a fighting chance at that 8th spot. The fans want to send ARCO Arena (OK, fine Sleep Train Arena) into the sunset on the right note.
The fan support is going to be there regardless of the record, of course. And the new arena will open with excitement even without a run at the playoffs this season. Add a potential playoff team to the floor in October 2016 and imagine the buzz. You all can make that happen for yourselves and this city that is dying to remind the rest of the country what their building is like when a playoff berth is on the line.
Divac felt bad for the players last season and is doing what he can to right this ship. Here's to hoping that begins to take shape this season, and all of you remember one of the main reasons you began playing basketball: because it is fun. Playoff run or not, the fans ultimately just want to see their squad having a good time and playing for each other. So have fun again Mr. Cousins, Mr. Gay, Mr. McLemore, Mr. Collison and Mr. Rondo. We all know you have talent, but so does everyone else in the league. Not everyone in the league is buying in, working together and above else, enjoying themselves.
You have probably heard all of this before, but this can be your time.
The playoffs were lost a decade ago. Sacramento almost lost this franchise just a few years ago.
Why not now?