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The trumpet of the pawn: What the hell is going on in Sacramento?

While everyone else in the league is playing chess, the Sacramento Kings appear to be playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded Uzi complete with antifreeze-tipped bullets.

Sacramento Kings v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There are a few certainties in life: Death. Taxes. Someone mistakenly thinking that not watching Game of Thrones is a positive personality trait. The Sacramento Kings prematurely Kangzing all over their own face while in a supine position, permanently handcuffed to their own headboard.

For over a decade, Kings fans would rather have had a colonoscopy administered by Captain Hook in the middle of a rusty needle factory than live through the personal hell that is their rabid fandom. Year after year, the NBA season for the River City has only been lachrymose in an unforgiving fashion. Yet, we’re still promised the world during the offseason. We’re given slivers a hope that we cling to with our cut-to-the-bone palms. We take them. We swallow them. And year after year, they implode from the inside out, slowly ripping us apart until we’re nothing but a bloody afterthought in the West.

And here we stand (stayed), openly weeping through the pink vapor of an 0-5 start.

Who should we blame for this particular clusterfuck?

For the most part, all the pitch forks and torches have been aimed at one person.

Yeah, the goddamn new guy.

The Kings front office has had a reputation of treating almost every head coach since Rick Adelman like those narcissistic, dumbass dink kids in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory – if one failed someone’s imperceptible test, they were sent to the furnace room by way of the Bad Egg chute. After firing six coaches in a decade, stepping into the role of “lucky” number seven is former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton.

So far under the controversial coach’s red right hand, the Kings have fallen victim to the candy corn flavored Phoenix Suns (124-95), the dangerous Portland Trail Blazers (122-112), the fricking Utah Jazz (113-81), and * squints * the fricking Charlotte Hornets (118-111).

On April 9, former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson went on FS1’s Undisputed and spoke about Walton. “Luke was not ready at that time,” Johnson said about LA’s former head coach who was let go after three seasons. “But I’m happy for him. He went to Sacramento. He’s going to do a great job. Sometimes you get fired and you do a better job.”

Okay. Sure.

Both the Lakers and the Kings were, and still are, starry eyed over Walton’s tenure under Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors where he helped guide the champion team to a 39-4 record as Kerr struggled with back issues. While the Lakers’ Walton bubble was popped after three years, the Kings front office still has some semblance of hope that Walton will eventually grope his way to a winning lineup.

I never thought I’d would say this, but we should have listened to Lakers fans...

“Luke was not ready at the time.”

And Magic Johnson.

During his time in Los Angeles, most of the fans and media would often complain about Walton’s lack of awareness when it came to his underperforming rotations. His lineups simply did not work (one lineup featured Reggie Bullock, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, and JaVale McGee which had a net rating of plus-5.5 in 28 minutes at the time, but all that was ripped to shreds by the Lakers’ second units which was composed of net negatives who Walton continued to play together because HEY, WHY THE HELL NOT).

That’s NOTHING compared to whatever the absolute hell Walton is doing with the Kings’ lineups. It’s not just his particular maneuvers that are acting like dead snails on the court. It seems like if something is working for Walton and the team on the floor, he has to mix it up in the most frustrating way possible. And by “frustrating” I mean DAMNING.

It’s hard not to imagine Lakers GM Rob Pelinka calling up Vlade Divac in the middle of the night and yelling “SUCKER!” before hanging up.

During their loss to Portland, the Kings came out strong in the first half – something they struggled with during their loss to Phoenix – and went into the locker room tied with Portland at 57, but crapped the bed during the third after the Blazers smothered them with a 12-0 run right out of the gate. Even though third quarters had been an issue in the Phoenix loss before that, in that particular moment it was highlighted ten-fold.

I’m sure in Walton’s mindset, whateverthehell he does/says to the players during halftime in their locker room, he envisions himself invoking a William Wallace-like mold during his pep-talks. However, if reality has proved anything during these past dismal third quarters, he is just David Benioff and D.B. Weiss drunkenly trying to maneuver their words during a post-GOT fan Q&A .

And whatever that was, it managed to carry over like an airborne virus into Utah. And then to Denver.

And then it was back to Sacramento to be creamed by Charlotte.

This is unacceptable.

We were supposed to be the “team to watch.”

We were supposed to be the entertaining team.

We were supposed to be on the verge of greatness for the first time in over a mother effing decade.

And now?

We’re back to negative square one and too busy pointing fingers to accurately drop the blame.

What the what??

There are certain losses the Kings can accept, mainly the Portland one where the team went down fighting an actual luminous team in the West. However, there are those we can’t - mainly those limping fights we lost even though we were up by double digits. During those first two losses, it was Walton who managed to make everyone and their dog clinch thanks to the use of his stars during garbage time.

When it comes to garbage time, you don’t expect your own head coach to be a feverish and blindfolded novice. And as a direct result of Walton knocking down that first domino during those specific minutes in the fourth quarter of their Suns game, all this went down in a span of a single minute:

And in a rousing game of “Let’s Add Some Goddamn Insult To Injury,” Deandre Ayton was suspended for 25 games for NBA drug policy violation FOLLOWING that blowout loss – you know, after he treated the best Kings players like soggy piñatas.

During their home game loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, De’Aaron Fox (28 points, six rebounds, and five assists) suffered a minor hip injury on a flagrant foul by Rodney Hood. The thing is, that injury happened with 2:34 to play in the fourth. Sure, they weren’t down by like infinity points like they were during the Phoenix game, but it’s still not an exemplar scenario.

And now Fox isn’t performing up to par. And it was clear to see after the Charlotte loss, he’s pissed the hell off.

We closed our eyes during the blowout game against the Jazz.

But after the Hornets’ defecation - we need to issue a wakeup call.

Should all the blame be put on Walton’s shoulders? Well, if you happened to take notice during actual playing time...meh. There are minutes where we could probably replace the lineup with cardboard cutouts of my own ass and the inanimate objects would still put more effort in than what we’ve seen over the these past three games. They went into Saturday night trailing ninth in the league in pace and managed to mirror not just snails, but cooked escargot served on a silver plater in a collapsing salt mine almost the entire game.

And, of course, the front office isn’t coming up smelling like a damn rose either, even though they’re quickly trying to flash shiny objects in our faces while pointing fingers at everyone else but themselves. Our own Brad Geiser wrote a phenomenal piece about this fatal franchise and you can read it here.

But enough is enough.

There’s a famous saying that the NBA has adopted over the years “We’re playing chess while you’re playing checkers.” It’s common for players and coaches alike to use the phrase to mean that they’re playing on a much more intelligent level than most.

In the game of chess, a strategy board game that’s basically just a minuscule mimicry version of war itself, the most powerful piece on the board is the queen. She never asked for it. She probably never wanted it – to be intertwined with Bobby Fischer’s wet dreams yet excluded from man’s real version of war on some askew battlefield. Her job is simple: protect the king.

And, in the first few games, it was clear to see what strategy Luke was playing.

What Walton appears to be doing after halftime is a move known as “sacrificing the queen.” It’s a move that sacrifices your most valuable assets (or in the case of chess, the most valuable piece which is the queen) because he believes that it will gain him a more tactical position on the board and possibly force a checkmate after the queen goes down. It’s usually a rookie move in chess if you don’t know how to play the long-con. Sometimes this works. But in Walton’s case, it not. And it won’t work. Why? Because this is fucking basketball.

Our most valuable assets are dropping like logs in the final two quarters of the game - both on and off the court. You can see it in the players faces when they conduct post-game interviews - their moral is playing turtles. The finger pointing has begun.

Even though Walton is clearly used to sacrificing a queen, he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing and it’s making him, and the team, give off an offensive odor. The Bobby Fischer we were hoping for is turning out to be just an insensate pawn.

It’s burying him at an extremely fast rate (at a quicker pace than the Kings themselves) - a rate that has collapsed over into games where the team is completely blown out of the water in chunks of bile.

And if he doesn’t grasp the concept soon, the furnace room awaits. But unfortunately, not for...awhile.