The Sacramento Kings have been mired in dysfunction for years. From mercurial star DeMarcus Cousins to a carousel of coaching and a meddlesome owner, we’ve heard all the stories. Or so we thought. In an incredibly thorough profile of the Kings and their myriad of issues, ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz unveils the true depths of the Kings’ multi-faceted mess. It’s a long read, but an absolute must read for any Kings fan.
Arnovitz has stories on everyone. Looking for something about how Boogie has hurt the Kings? You’ll find it here. Want stories about Vivek Ranadive ineptly mismanaging the organization? It’s here. Stories showing how everything was George Karl’s fault? Sure! Stories about how Karl never stood a chance because of a lack of organizational support? We’ve got that too!
There’s far too much in this story to boil it down into any one thing, so here are a few of my key takeaways:
Boogie and the Kings may never work together
A recurring theme in the DeMarcus Cousins sections is the importance Cousins places on trust. We’ve heard that before. But it’s alarmingly clear that despite the team’s insistence on building around Cousins, team leadership has rarely given Cousins reason to trust them.
In mid-December, sources say, Cousins was on his way to a "Santa Cuz" gift giveaway at a Wal-Mart near Sleep Train Arena when he was asked to drop by the executive offices. The team wanted him to discuss an urgent matter with Ranadive and the Kings' GM at the time, Pete D'Alessandro. Those with knowledge of the conversation say Cousins was told by Ranadive that the Kings would win substantially more games with assistant coach Tyrone Corbin at the helm. Cousins replied by asking the owner, in somewhat colorful profanity, if he had taken leave of his sanity. When he then asked the brain trust about the timetable for its verdict on Malone, he was told the decision had already been made. Sources say Cousins then responded by asking why he'd been diverted from a charity event for a matter that had clearly been resolved without his input.
If there’s hope for the current team construction, it could be in the relationship between Cousins and coach Dave Joerger
Much like Boogie’s relationship with Michael Malone was built around trust, it seems like Joerger and Boogie may have a strong bond forming.
For his part, when asked whether Joerger's less aggressive approach works for him, Cousins chuckles at any hint that the coach handles him with kid gloves. "Roll your big ass down in the paint!" Cousins bellows, imitating Joerger. "What I respect about him is it's always between the lines. Nothing on the outside, nothing about what was said two days ago. There's no power trips -- it's basketball. That's it. How can there ever be some type of disagreement when it's something he loves and I love. How can you disagree? It's basketball."
Vlade Divac is indeed deeply in over his head
Divac is the Kings' vice president of basketball operations and general manager. "Nobody in that position has ever been less qualified, less capable or a nicer person," says one league insider.
Vivek is an even bigger problem than we thought
Kings partners are profoundly frustrated with his governance of the basketball side of the team, as has been reported, and amazed that he appears to have been emboldened, rather than humbled, by seeing so many of his decisions fail.
"You would think that after making an ass of yourself, whether it's 4-on-5 or one bad hire after another, that you'd become more collaborative and seek out help," says a well-placed source. "Vivek has done just the opposite. Instead of putting together a brain trust, he's his own brain trust -- he and whoever the last person he talked to is."
And Vivek shows zero indication of changing.
One league insider says Ranadive told him some months back that he aspires to assemble a big three in Sacramento, with Russell Westbrook joining Cousins and Rudy Gay. Multiple sources say that Gay, who tore his left Achilles tendon on Jan. 18, has remained with the team rather than being dealt away because Ranadive believes deeply that the small forward would not leave Sacramento; this despite Gay's stated decision -- before his current injury -- to opt out of his contract next summer and his desire to be elsewhere as soon as possible, a sentiment expressed to the organization repeatedly.
"Welcome to basketball hell," Gay reportedly said to Karl upon the coach's arrival. But to Vivek Ranadive, it's inconceivable that Gay, or perhaps anyone, would want to play anywhere else.
If you just read these quotes, you might think you’ve got the gist of the article. I can’t emphasize enough that these quotes are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a week’s worth of discussion that could come out of this report. It’s easily the most in-depth review of the Kings mess that we’ve ever seen. Arnovitz is an excellent reporter, and he does his best to balance critiques when he can, but that’s not an easy task here.
I’m sure this piece is going to inspire some serious discussions. Please remember to be civil. We’re all in this mess together.