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The Royal Mailbag: Answering your early season questions

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You asked, we answered!

Kimani Okearah

From SMF-PDXConnection via the comments: How much more will people take? Seriously, how much longer can this go on before the minority owners revolt? How many more games like that until the arena is empty? What is it going to take for the people in charge to finally, FINALLY understand how badly they’ve screwed up and what their reputations are?

What is it finally going to take to break out of this cycle of dysfunction?

Tim: This is a loaded question that I think many folks are asking right now. Let’s break it down section by section.

1. How much more will people take? From a fan loyalty perspective, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize anyone from either totally walking away, or from taking a break from this train wreck of a franchise. It’s not the 0-5 start that’s going to chase someone away, it’s the thirteen year playoff drought with no end in sight that will make diehard fans quit. If someone has had enough, I can’t blame them. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it. Honestly, if I didn’t have an obligation to watch this team on a nightly basis and analyze what’s going on with the team, I might not watch another game this season.

2. Seriously, how much longer can this go on before the minority owners revolt? Here’s where things get (even more) depressing. If you assign a majority of the blame for this situation on Vivek Ranadive, and I don’t really see how you can’t at this point, it’s important to accept that he’s not going anywhere. Here’s some information from Kevin Arnovitz’s profile of the Kings a few years ago:

League insiders say the appointment was, for all intents and purposes, an edict of then-NBA commissioner David Stern (the listed address for the new Golden 1 Center is 500 “David J. Stern Walk”), though the league maintains that partnership agreements are drawn up by the ownership group itself. Sources say that Ranadive lobbied heavily for Stern’s favor, citing his experience as a minority owner of the Warriors and touting an “NBA 3.0” platform that promised to transform the Kings into a global, digitally integrated force.

According to sources with knowledge of the owners’ thinking, though, resignation reigns; the way the ownership is structured, Ranadive is King of the Kings. Only a breach of fiduciary responsibility, or instances of gross incompetence, could force meaningful change. So long as the franchise resides solidly in the black, that’s unlikely to happen.

Whatever on-court disasters strike in Sacramento, as long as the team is making money (and they are), minority ownership has no recourse to remove Vivek from his throne.

3. What is it going to take for the people in charge to finally, FINALLY understand how badly they’ve screwed up and what their reputations are? I don’t know if this is particularly helpful, but I can promise you that the leadership of the Kings fully understand where they currently stand with the fan base. The issue is that the people who are aware of the situation and are trying to actively fix it within reason are the same people who got us into the situation in the first place. Asking for this management and ownership group to lead us into the promised land is akin to asking the guy who constantly misreads a map to get you home in the wilderness. No one’s resigning and no one’s getting fired. More than anything, we have to hope for some luck. Yes, the situation is that bad.

4. What is it going to take to finally break out of this cycle of dysfunction? As much as I hate to admit it, Brad did a wonderful job of breaking down why the Kings have been at the bottom of the NBA for so long, and why they’ll probably never break out. It’s going to take either new ownership, or the current ownership to stop making terrible hires. A fun fact (spoiler: it’s not fun): Assuming the Kings miss the playoffs this season, the franchise will have sat outside of the postseason for 14 straight years. That will be seven years under the Maloofs and seven years under Ranadive. If Vivek can bring in real, qualified basketball folks who know how to run an organization from the top to the bottom and stay out of the way, there’s a chance the Kings will finally escape that playoff drought. Is that going to happen? Absolutely not.

Will: Nothing, nothing hits harder than the bottom-line. They change when the mass of people rolling in fall to a trickle, to a drip, to an embarassingly empty arena. See the thing is, the Kings are still profitable. Even with the merchandise being pretty cookie cutter, the food options being overpriced and mostly bad and the team being trash... Kings fans are still showing up enough for the status quo to be maintained. I can’t get into the minds of the uber-wealthy because I’ve never stiffed enough people to get to that altered state of consciousness, but safe to say that nothing happens until that bottom dollar shrinks.

My money isn’t on the minority owners. It’s on Ron Burkle. He’s back in the Sacramento market and has the money to make offers that others can’t refuse. Wouldn’t be surprised if he was the majority partner this time next decade if things continue down this road.

From Klam via the comments: How do you cope with being a fan of a losing and dysfunctional team? What’s your secret to staying sane?

Tim: I think I just swing between complete apathy and red-hot anger between each loss. Is that healthy for my mental state? Absolutely not. From a more practical perspective, this community, the other writers on this site, and (most) of Kings Twitter is a great place to share our sorrows and disappointments. I’m confident that without StR, I would’ve walked away from my Kings fandom many years ago.

Will: You want to know the real secret? It’s to stop fighting your sanity. Seriously. Somewhere down the road we all reach our breaking point with this team. You root for these men, invest in their storylines and their individual season and then rise and fall with the collective as they succeed and fail. For me, one day, a long time ago I just broke. I stopped wanting to dig into stats and stopped wanting to get hurt over millionaires missing shots. Think back on all the leads the Kings have given up, all the wild shit that has happened just since new ownership has taken over. That’s a metric fuckton to carry inside of you. It’s just easier on my soul to laugh at it. To poke a little fun, to have brevity and an angle of “Well that sucked.... What’s for dinner tonight?!”

Don’t get me wrong. I still feel for these guys. I still find interest in the storylines and root like hell when I’m at games but... I’m investing most of emotional currency elsewhere, where wins-losses, buzzer beaters and team drama can’t ruin my week. A day? Hell yeah. But anything longer than that just becomes a new tool in the belt that I get to spit back at you all . It’s been a great disappointment to me where Kings fans haven’t developed this concentration of angst and assholery into a Sacramento version of Weird Celtics Twitter. The Kings need a level of Dadaism introduced into their lives as an outlet like those Celtics fans have been able to get harness, because literally all this is game. It’s just a game. Sidenote, Kevin, I asked your question to my significant other just to reality check myself and she said “I just imagine all the times you breakdown laughing at the end of games and I come over and the Kings have just lost.” Go crazy, Kings fans. Literally.

From For Kings and Country via the comments: Would losing to the Hornets tomorrow actually be good for the organization? This is a serious question because I sort of want them to start like 0-14 which would force some change.

Tim: Part of the fun of answering mailbag questions is we respond a couple of days later than when the queries came in. A couple of days ago I had started my responses and made the assumption that the Kings would blow out the Hornets. Oh, how foolish I was. To actually address the content of the question, the only benefit to a horrible start will be our lottery position next summer. There’s a 0.0% chance that ownership will fire either Vlade Divac or Luke Walton in the first year of their four-year deals. The India trip, the new acquisitions, a new offensive and defensive system, and Marvin Bagley’s injury will be the chosen scapegoats for the terrible start to the season. No one’s going anywhere.

Will: I’m with Tim on this getting these a few days later. I, for one, knew the Kings were losing to the Hornets from the moment we lost game two. I saw Akis outside of the home opener and we were talking about where the Kings were headed and the idea of the Kings starting 0-What? got started and we both agreed that if the Kings went and lost against the Hornets I’d be able to write an extra special preview for Sactown Royalty. We sealed the deal with a handshake good by, lightning split the sky, wind swirled around us and getting swarmed by the Hornets was done with. (Btw, that preview really didn’t get written. It remains locked in the vault for another day). Again kind of continuing with my answers from above, losing is good only as long as you’re willing to endure a lot of it. 0-14 wouldn’t do it. 0-24 might not be. 4-45 might start getting us there. Can you handle that? Can we as a fanbase be willing to accept what happens if the team starts that way?

From jordanMC via the comments: Why haven’t we brought Shump back yet?

Tim: I was very, very anti-Shumpert over the summer. He started the 2018-2019 campaign pretty hot from the floor, but both his offense and defense regressed pretty quickly. The players complained about the trade because he was the leader in the locker room, but I his importance without a second thought. And I think I was dead wrong. Currently, the Kings have the dead weight of Caleb Swanigan’s $2 million contract on the books, a deal that no one is going to trade for, so it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world to cut Swanigan, eat the cost of his deal since they’re paying it anyway, and bring in Shumpert to spark some life into this group. In a perfect world, Luke Walton and the other veteran leaders should be enough of a catalyst for this young core, but there’s no harm in trying another method after such a miserable start to the year. And here comes Will with the vehement disagreement!

Will: Stop. Stop. You all have to fucking stop with this. I was writing a nice little mailbag until this crops up! Iman Shumpert was BAD as a basketball player for the Sacramento Kings. He offered nothing in the way of sustainable performance for the Kings and anything that he offered inside the locker room was instantly and immediate replaceable with one or two other veterans. Was ‘The Scores’ fun? Yes. It was a fun little vibe for the opening to a surprisingly successful season but this martyrdom of Iman Shumpert is borderline pathetic for the fanbase.

How do you see this going? The organization crawls back to IMAN SHUMPERT and asks to re-sign on some tiny deal, he agrees and like... what? The infinity stones being reconnected turn the Kings back into a team on pace for 42 wins?? The vibe is just back? There’s other veterans on this team now, different dynamics and different expectations for the players that were there when he was around being his quirky self last season. In the meantime, you’ve also enabled the guys on this team to think “see they were wrong and we were right” about whatever misgivings they had about his trade and introduce that the org will be willing to come crawling back to others in the same fashion if we just lose enough.

Iman Shumpert is that hip girl who kissed you at the Halloween party 6 years ago, added you on social media and then never spoke to you again. Now, you’re on her Facebook thinking about the kids you could have had together and how the feelings are still there. It’s midnight, you’ve packed on 20 lbs since then and you’ve had one too many White Claws. She wasn’t your soul mate, you’re just fucking lonely and in a bad spot right now. Close the laptop and go find a lasting relationship with someone who actually cares about you.

IMAN SHUMPERT AIN’T IT.

From ThreeBalls via the comments: According to Tankathon, with the second pick in the 2020 draft, the Sacramento Kings select Deni Avdijhgka. Who the hell is that?

Tim: I love Deni! And that’s not just because of his killer Grand Slam Breakfast. He’s a 6’9” small forward who can handle the ball, shoot a bit, and can act as an initiator on the offensive end of the floor. Deni’s got a little bit of a Luka Doncic skillset, although he’s not the same caliber of player. Beyond the on-court impact, Avdija has the sort of nasty attitude that this young core could desperately use. I would encourage everyone to read Mike Schmitz’s story from ESPN on the young character, but here are some of my favorite moments:

As Deni Avdija converted a tournament-clinching and-1 with 32.5 seconds left, the 18-year-old strutted toward his opponents’ bench with close to 4,000 fans in a frenzy.

First, a wave goodbye as Avdija shouted “adios” to the Spanish team. Then a salute in front of Spain’s bench, putting a bow on a 23-point, 7-assist, 3-block night and tournament MVP honors, lifting Israel to its second straight Under-20 European Championship while strengthening his status as a potential top-five pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

”I don’t want to be boring,” Avdija told ESPN.

Spain’s players and coaches didn’t take the gestures lightly, throwing things onto the floor in frustration.

When I met him for an interview in Herzliya, Israel, he was sporting a white T-shirt that simply read, “F---”, uncensored, in red letters. During a performance by Eden Ben Zaken -- one of the nation’s biggest pop stars -- at the Israeli League all-star game, Avdija joined in on the show, grabbing the mic, soaking up the spotlight and belting into song despite shaky vocal chords.

”I really like singing. I’m not a good singer, but I’m trying my best,” Avdija said, jokingly. “I think my future in singing is bright.”

Will: Why the hell am I answering this? Google and Youtube are a thing. IMAN SHUMPERT AIN’T IT!!!!!

From adamsite via the comments: Sigh…with Draft Express long since gone, where can I get quality draft prospect info that is not beyond a paywall?

Tim: First of all Adam, I’m disappointed that you didn’t think of our very own Bryant West in your query. He may be an apricot-loving, patchy-bearded galoot, but he knows his way around a college basketball court. From a non-Sactown Royalty perspective, The Stepien is a pretty great resource for in-depth analysis of collegiate and international prospects. They’ll target one player at time with film breakdown, statistical studies, and all sorts of other goodies. If you’re looking for a slightly less involved resource, the much too familiar tankathon will give you a solid big board, chances on lottery picks, some basis per-game and per-36 numbers for prospects, and few other nuggets. I know you said no paywalls, but Sam Vecenie (The Athletic) might be the best out there when it comes to forecasting future NBA players. He’s worth the money alone.

Will: IMAN SHUMPERT AIN’T IT!!!!

From cmkeiner_photography via the comments: Are there any circumstances where you would completely stop rooting for the Kings?

Tim: Yes. If the Kings had brought in another player or manager with a history of violence against women this past summer, I was planning on quitting the team. As angry as we get when management and ownership makes stupid basketball decisions, we should be even more upset when they bring in characters like Matt Barnes, Isiah Thomas, and Brandon Austin into the fold.

From a basketball perspective, I don’t see myself ever walking away. And that’s honestly more depressing than encouraging in this moment.

Will: Tim and I have very similar answers to this. The Kings have a spotty record at best with their history towards the type of men they’re willing to employ both on the management and basketball side of things. I could very easily skip town on a team that has no understanding of the damage they do when they elevate predators to levels of power, when they enable abusers to a status that young men and women can learn what lines can be crossed when they’re seen as leaders. It goes far beyond the coaching staff and players and extends through the public figures you hear about the Kings and any much more of the willful ignorance of it and I could very easily leave.