Jerry Reynolds - OK, this really has nothing to do with the season per se. But when I was at the last game at ARCO/Sleep Train, it wasn't the appearance of Bobby Jackson or Doug Christie or Mike Bibby or Brad Miller or even Joe Kleine(!!!) that brought out my emotions. My emotions were piqued when Jerry Reynolds was given a little JumboTron recognition. It was at that moment that I realized that Jerry Reynolds is my all-time favorite Sacramento King.
One can argue Richmond vs. Webber, but I don't think that anyone can argue that the greatest emissary of this franchise and greatest conduit between the franchise and the fan base (especially the manic faction of the fan base) is one Jerry Owen Reynolds. Through tough times and tougher times, Jerry Reynolds has always been there, the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.
I have mentioned my good fortune of crossing paths with Jerry Reynolds in the past. There was February 28, 2011, which I recapped here. There was the season ticket sales event during the lockout of 2011. This was especially memorable, as Jerry could not speak about any current players without incurring six figure NBA fines, so he instead regaled Ed Montes and me with stories about Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird (the story of Bird attempting to gain access to the Kings locker room so that he could punch out Eddie Johnson was epic). And there have been a couple of other occasions, each of them peppered with warmth and kindness.
Jerry Reynolds is probably going to be around for a long time. He is a very young 72. But mortality hits us in the face every day (as my pops used to say, the buses run all night and if you don't pay attention, one will have your name on it), and I am not going to regret not ever having taken the time to thank him and, well, just let him know how much all of his efforts have meant to me over the years. And I'm betting that I am not alone here when I say that Sacramento Kings basketball has been exponentially more fun and more entertaining thanks to the efforts of one Jerry Reynolds.
I'm also going to bet that if this gets back to him, he'll be rather embarrassed by the whole thing. That is a byproduct of being a humble man, and Jerry Reynolds is, by all accounts, a humble man.
So here's to you, Jerry. And to your wife of 48 years, Dodie, for sharing you with all of us. It has been my great honor and pleasure to have you in my life via Sacramento Kings basketball, and I look forward to another decade or two of you guiding us through the morass that it Kings fandom. Bless you, good sir.
...and now for something completely different...
Basketball Operations (Ownership/Front Office/Coaching) - I was going to approach this as three separate entries, but they are really inexorably linked. Hot take coming: It's a mess.
One of the things that Kings fans were hoping for at the very beginning of the Ranadive era was that a synergy be created between the front office and the coaching staff, similar to what we saw during the golden days of Geoff Petrie and Rick Adelman (or as trolling Giants fan, Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy). Here we are almost three years later, and what we have is a train wreck of such epic proportions that not even the most esteemed of national and local scribes can agree on who or what is to blame.
Blame aside, what we do know is that basketball operations is a mess, and the result is that a mediocre roster still managed to under-perform, moving from the sixth worst team in the league to the eighth (tied!). This after trading an unprotected future 1st round pick, giving the Philadelphia 76ers the option to swap a couple of other 1st round picks, and giving up on its prior year's 1st round pick, all in an effort to free up cap space to add better personnel. I still salute the front office for not standing pat, as I preferred going "all in" with DeMarcus Cousins as a centerpiece than dealing him for a handful of magic beans. But the results currently scream that this was a bad decision. Miracles happen, and by the time it's all said and done, maybe the swaps never occur, and the draft pick given up winds up being of the non-lottery variety, which would then mean that a very savvy Vlade Divac sold a non-lottery draft pick for over $20m when you factor in the salaries of Carl Landry and Jason Thompson. But in the here and the now, it is a pretty pronounced failure.
The single largest failure, however, may be that of an organization that goes out and hires a hall of fame, strong willed coach with a history of doing it his way, and then balking at wanting to do it his way. Was this a bad vetting process? Was it panic? Was it the ever-changing front office? Was it bait and switch by George Karl? Whatever it was, the organization invested over $11m in a coach and then proceeded to battle that coach every step of the way. My take is that there are no innocents here. Everyone involved is to blame, as everyone involved seems to be incapable of compromise, middle ground, or achieving commonly-held goals. Ownership remains meddlesome, Vlade Divac (through no lack of effort) is in over his head, and George Karl refuses to budge even one little bit...and now the organization has told him to "budge off." The end result is yet another head coach biting the dust (you can't fire the owner or the players, right?), as the list of Kings former head coaches over the past decade becomes almost too big to enumerate.
Under these circumstances, does anyone really see a top flight coach coming here to replace Karl? I get the argument of there only being so many of these head coaching jobs available at any given time, but the truth is that these jobs come up each and every year. Would Scott Brooks be interested? Given the geography, perhaps. But I have a very hard time seeing anyone of note being interested in coming here to coach. I mean, what is the appeal and allure? To come to one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the NBA and coach a player that is acquiring a coach-killer reputation? That said, I suppose if someone offered me $11m guaranteed and I could set my watch to have the second half of the contract paid to me while I sat at home, maybe I'd sign on the bottom line.
I love the Sacramento Kings. Things are an absolute mess right now.
DeMarcus Cousins - Holy star-crossed numbers, Batman. Cousins is a shoo-in to make the all NBA team (I'm guessing second team), but he'll get there having missed 17 games and amassing a league high 17 technical fouls. He led the league in personal fouls per game. He was fifth in the league in turnovers (Rajon Rondo was fourth). Here's a list of NBA players that turned it over more than 2.5 times per game this season while amassing an assist/turnover ratio of less than 1/1: Cousins (3.8 to, 0.9 a/to) and Tony Wroten (3.6 to, 0.7 a/to). His usage was 35.4%, an absolutely astonishing number for a big man (Al Horford 20.6, Paul Millsap 24.3, Brook Lopez 27.3, Karl-Anthony Towns 24.8, Anthony Davis 29.6, and so on). He missed more field goals per game than 394 NBA players attempted per game, and his misses and turnovers combined for a total of 15.1 per game (only James Harden's combined number of 15.6 is worse - for perspective, Anthony Davis is at 11.4). His adjusted field goal percentage (48%) was below team average (51%, which would be higher if you backed out Cousins), though his 1.31 points per shot was legit, thanks to his ability to get to the line. Cousins led the team in rebounding and blocked shots.
In the end, the question remains unanswered: Can the Sacramento Kings build a winning team around or with DeMarcus Cousins? What has changed is that the Kings are rapidly approaching a tipping point as it pertains to Cousins' value, the trade market, and leverage. Cousins now has two years left on what is a very good value contract. This summer promises more willing and financially able suitors than ever before. The Kings also have cap space this summer, though they rank in the lower half of the league. If the Kings determine to retain Cousins, they run the risk of a shrinking market for him, and his value takes at least a bit of a hit every day that his good value contract attrits. I still balk at the thought of a "magic beans" deal for Cousins, but as each day of Kings suckidom goes by, such deals become more and more possible.
Make no mistake - as currently assembled, this team is better with DeMarcus Cousins than without him. The question is, would they be better with the assets that they could attain by trading him? And how would those assets impact or be impacted by the aforementioned Philly deal? The organization has painted itself into a bit of a corner by going all in with Cousins, and it will take an extremely nimble front office to get out of that corner. How are you all feeling about that?
Seth Curry - Simply, I'm not feeling all the love here. I mean, I'm happy for what Curry has shown over the past couple of weeks. But Curry's "big game" came against a porous and unmotivated Phoenix team. Ronnie Price, who I admire, is a backup point guard with a lot of miles on him now (10 seasons, turns 33 in a couple of months).
The funny thing is, the excitement for Curry escalated when he began doing what Karl indicated he needed to do, and that is get his teammates involved. Curry's future is as a guard that can handle and shoot, not an undersized and slower than average shooting guard. Could he be a viable backup to (say) Collison next year? Perhaps. But I bet that you could come up with at least 45 point guards that you would rather have, meaning that Curry would be a second tier backup point guard at best for next season.
Earlier in the season, I had Curry slated to opt out and take Leandro Barbosa's slot on the Dubs, behind his brother and Shaun Livingston. Given the fact that the Kings can match, perhaps they will retain his services. Or perhaps Ish Smith or Mario Chalmers or Jeremy Lin or Jerryd Bayless would be better, reasonably priced options.
And 1 - This business of Curry deserving more time earlier in the season lacks context. He had a couple of chances when others went down with injuries, but he turned up injured at the same time. Beyond that, when an organization invests almost $20m in a player (Marco Belinelli), they aren't going to mothball him at the first sight of a shooting slump unless the alternative is absolutely compelling. I have never thought to use the word "compelling" to describe Seth Curry's game. Additionally, Curry was not the same player earlier in the season that he has shown to be more recently, especially in the area passing (and the Houston game brings his progress into question).
I applaud Seth for making something out of his late season opportunity. I'm just not going to go all crazy over him.
Shooting Guard - Marco Belinelli, Ben McLemore, James Anderson, with undersized point guards playing in tandem as an alternative. Who put this roster together?
Willie Cauley-Stein - Is he the best thing that happened for the Kings this season? Very possibly.
Re-racking a draft after one season is a foolish exercise, one that is doomed for obsolescence by next year's all-star break. But because I just can't resist acting a fool, where would you place WCS if the draft was held today? I still take Towns and then Porzingis and Russell (yes, taking everything into account). Maybe Okafor...maybe. WCS and Myles Turner would probably be my next two guys, along with Nikola Jokic. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson may wind up being better than Stanley Johnson or Justice Winslow, both of whom I still like. I think that Cameron Payne will be for real. No matter how you slice it, the Kings get a nice "progress report" grade for drafting Willie Cauley-Stein, and that is something that cannot be said of any draft pick since Isaiah Thomas. Note to organization: do things like this more often!
I'm not at all bunged up about the minutes that Cauley-Stein received this year. He was on a nice trajectory before he got hurt, and then started over when he returned. There were certainly some odd minutes for him for a period after the all-star break, but when it was all said and done, he was 7th on the team at 21.4 mpg (between Belinelli and Ben McLemore). For perspective, Kosta Koufos averaged 19 mpg. I would have never envisioned WCS averaging more mpg than Koufos this season. Yes, he probably should have averaged another couple of minutes per game in retrospect. But in the grander scope of things, Willie Cauley-Stein progressed very nicely this season. For all of the blather and bluster regarding George Karl's disdain of playing rookies, Willie Cauley-Stein is a much better basketball player than the day the Kings drafted him. As contrived as that sounds, that is a major victory for Kings rookies and Kings fans everywhere.
In about a month, ping pong balls will drop. About a month later, the draft will take place. Then it's on to what could be a wild and/or wildly disappointing free agent season. And then your 2016-17 Sacramento Kings will prepare to launch the inaugural season of the Golden 1 Center era. Let's all hope that the basketball operations side of the organization catches up with the business side and delivers a product worthy of the new building.