My allegiance to the Kings since Lukenbill and Co. pledged to bring the team from Kansas City has never waned. From the early days listening to the radio to my daily download of SactownRoyalty via my iPhone, the Kings are never far from my mind. I used to post several times a year but have not posted anything for quite a while. Carving out time to find a topic that would be interesting and putting in the analysis was always a commitment even when we were filled with optimism given a new ownership and a new arena. It became harder with each successive year leaving us emptier and more depressed as fans. As such, I greatly appreciate and want to give a quick shout out to the Editors at STR and longtime contributors for their continued commitment and contribution to make STR worth reading. It is a thankless task and deserving of some kudos, Ziller Bucks, or a night out on LaBradford’s credit card.
While the lack of success was a factor, the changes to SBNation didn’t help. I cannot keep a browser open while working so most of my STR interactions have come from my cell phone. The Site still is not optimized for mobile devices so reading and commenting is a tedious effort to be a part of the conversation. I can pay most of my bills via a mobile app, shave, or drink a beer in the time it takes me to go to the site, download the post, download the comments, login, find the comment, and reply. And while I am at it, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are good examples that there is no need for an edit timer so please eliminate it so we can fix what was misspeled, confusing, or not coherent once we found our glasses or our sobriety or both. Finally, Fanposts need not be buried in the background, even if the post’s topic is beating a dead horse buried long ago. Less real estate for ads and more for content; less I digress.
For the most part, work travel and driving kids to twelve different places a day, #Duber, left little time for op-eds on a site dedicated to this team and organization. It consumed too much of my disposable time and money while abusing my love like an toxic marriage that even Greg could not ruin. That said, for me the final straw was an ownership group led by the ‘dismissive little chap’ that fostered a dysfunctional, unstable, and unqualified FO that fielded a cast of characters instead of players with character—especially during the Cousins era. It just turned my stomach like that 7th shot of absinthe that gave me the courage to disavow shots of absinthe ever again. Nice Arena though. For my own sanity, I needed to mothball my active fandom and supplant my analytic and sometimes creative energy elsewhere.
It didn’t take long to step into a new pile of crap. Like a puppy that can’t stop chasing its tail, I found a different perpetual distraction trailing the 2016 Presidential Election. The last couple years I supplanted Basketball-reference.com and 82games.com with Politifact.com and Snopes.com acting as a civic janitor cleaning up and calling out #fakenews, while supporting causes like #metoo, and #BLM. In vain I explained you can both support gun rights and gun regulations. I doused the vitriol spewed by online warriors with logic and reason hopeful of returning America to a kinder place. Instead, I was cursed as being an idiot, fucktard, snowflake, white privileged a-hole, fascist, and sometimes even in the same thread. This proved to be more intense, torturous, and counter-productive than riding the comment carousel here at STR where we essentially lose, lament, lottery and repeat. At least we all bled purple instead of GOP Red or Progressive Blue. In short, I gained renewed appreciation for STR. I essentially gave up my season ticket to a sports variety show with talented regulars including artists formerly known as; Pookyguru, Section 214, and Where For Art Thou Otis, where we debated advanced stats, free-agency, coaching, and our always undertalented roster for a verbal mosh pit at a political punk rock dive bar.
I concede even with the obvious rebuild last year giving a glimpse of hope, I predominately just lurked on STR and quietly went to my pro rata of Kings Games. Last summer with a loaded draft and a surprising lottery that gifted us the number 2 pick, I still stayed on the sideline because my gut told me the Kings FO would figure out a way to blow it or even if we landed LeBron 2.0 we would get Rick Berry’d again.
So what has changed? Why write again when the ownership and FO has not transformed and most people in the know the Kings are not a playoff team? For starters it’s the roster. We all know the Kings’ Roster over the last several years included a number of players that have made headlines for non-basketball things and represented a brand of basketball that was at best, hard to support. In fact, this last week saw three former players all make headlines. Tyreke was suspended by the team for not being at practice on time, Rajon Rondo was suspended 15 games for spitting and punching Chris Paul during a game, and Cousins who was not even playing was tossed for running his mouth. Thankfully, the Kings do not have a roster like this anymore.
Now De’Aaron Fox did receive a technical in the last game which may be the first of his career. How cool is it that this is no longer a thing. I looked it up. In six games this year there has been 2 technicals assessed to the Kings. Last year they were tied for first in the league with one technical every five games. Cousins’ last full year with the Kings saw them tied for second to last at .5 per game. Previous years were bad as well. Simply put this roster is filled with guys smiling and playing hard as a team. Absent is the constant complaining to officials. No one is verbally assaulting personnel. You do not see negative body language, nor anyone constantly challenging the officials. Instead the players are hustling back on defense in attempt to, wait for it, defend the counter attack. The starters defensive rating is legit while atop the league in pace. While wins will not come easy in the Western Conference, listening to the interviews leading up to the draft, reading the scouting reports and scanning the news it appears these Kings have high character. As such, I tip my hat to the FO, Joerger’s staff, and the players themselves for changing one of the worst aspects of the Kings.
Kudos to Dave Joerger who is running an offense that exploits the speed and athleticism of this young roster and clear that passing and off ball movement is being prioritized. The hustle and effort is there on defense even if they are not yet individually strong defenders. The team with this revamped style of basketball is absolutely fun to watch. Fox, Bjelica, Cauley-Stein, Giles, are already making passes that resemble the glory years of Kings Basketball. The results are still pre-mature but with a 3-3 record despite a difficult schedule to start the season the future looks bright. Bagley III seems to be NBA Ready, Bjelica is a steal with his high IQ, amazing all-around game that includes a ridiculous 57% from 3 giving us hope that he might be the stretch four we have been looking for. Fox now looks like he is top 15 PG he was slotted to be and Willie Cauley-Stein is now flirting with triple doubles v. flirting with being an end of the bench big. For the first time in a long time, there seems to be a reason to be optimistic again.
The real litmus test lies ahead. The Kings will have a tough 4 game road trip starting Monday where they will face Miami and Orlando in back to back games before visiting Atlanta and finally Milwaukee on November 4th. While it is easy to feel some excitement with the favorable start but an 0-4 road trip where our free throw shooting, turnovers, and general lack of defense catches up with them is also a viable result.
By comparison, there has only been two great starts since the 2004-2005 under Adelman. Malone’s abbreviated start to the 2014 Season led the team to a 6-4 start with six of those games being on the road and Paul Westphal started 5-5 during the 2009 – 2010 with 6 of those games at home. I like what I am seeing with this super team only young and if they can sustain it over this next 4 games on the road then I will be convinced that the Kings are finally on the right track.