Friday, April 6, 2012

Sactown Struggles

     Once a proud, decorated franchise, the Sacramento Kings cannot seem to get it together nowadays. It's hard to believe that only a decade ago Chris Webber and company were challenging the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Sacramento is one of those teams that you just wish can escape the gutterhole and return to prominence, because their fans are so loyal that they would do anything to keep their team from relocating. So what can the Maloof brothers and the Kings franchise do to return to decency? Here's a number of things I think they can do.

1: Stay in Sacramento.

     The fans have been loyal to the Kings ever since they got there. Mayor and former Phoenix Sun star Kevin Johnson is more than willing to work with the team to find a way to stay in Sacramento. What is your best alternative? Anaheim? Anaheim?! Really? There's two teams in the Los Angeles area. Both are solid playoff teams. One has been consistently good, and the other is on the rise. Tell me how a team who is under .500 who has no shot at the playoffs is going to, in lack of a better term, "steal" Lakers and Clippers fans? There's no way the Kings would make money in the short term if they moved to Anaheim, absolutely none. What other alternatives are there? Seattle? Well the Thunder formerly known as the Supersonics moved out of there less than five years ago, and the Seattle Mariners owner is trying to stop a San Francisco millionaire from constructing a new arena in the neighborhood that would be home to a basketball and hockey team. So Seattle is probably out of the picture. Las Vegas? You wouldn't have anybody showing up because they're either at the casinos or they're too drunk for security to let them into the game. There are other possible inquiries as well, but I think the Sacramento fanbase is truly loyal to its team and the Kings should stay there.

Isaiah Thomas (left) and Tyreke Evans (right) on the bench.
Both are important pieces on the team, but can they revive the Kings?

2: Get a respected veteran power forward/center to babysit DeMarcus Cousins.

Cousins is a great young center, but
immaturity issues can crumble him.
Can anyone set him straight?
     Ever since his days at Kentucky, DeMarcus Cousins has always had problems with immaturity. Some teams in the draft passed up on him simply because of that. They questioned his work ethic, leadership, and if he could really be one of the cornerstones that can turn around a franchise. His skill set is definitely worth the pick where he was selected, and he has been playing well since he was drafted, but he still has immaturity issues. Cousins has the ability to be such a game-changer, but he's still getting technical fouls, and he was one of the reasons former coach Paul Westphal was fired earlier in the year. I think the perfect options for Sacramento would be Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison or Rockets center Marcus Camby. Both of these guys are on the tail end of their careers, but I think each of them would like to take on that "teacher" role. They're both very humble and can still play at a nice level. Jamison also fills a hole at the power forward position for the Kings. He gives solid minutes and is efficient in all areas of the game. The Kings are still in rebuilding mode, and this move won't necessarily make them a playoff contender, but if Jamison can straighten out Cousins and his antics, it would be a very good move for the future of the franchise. Marcus Camby is also still a nice player. He would probably come off the bench in the Kings' system, or start at the 5 and move Cousins to the 4, but I think he'd be a great mentor for Cousins as well. Camby's game is predicated on defense, something that is hard to find in the league nowadays. If Camby can teach Cousins how to become a defensive force, as well as other things, I think that would also be a great move for the franchise. I don't think either of these players would ask for a ton of money, but I think they'd help the direction of the franchise by having a veteran input and presence in a young, inexperienced locker room. This leads to my next subject.

3: Get older.

     It's as simple as that. The Kings are one of the youngest franchises in the NBA. The only truly unselfish player on that team is suprisingly a rookie, point guard Isaiah Thomas. I don't get the feeling that Sacramento has that "team influence" yet. They need to learn to work together, and what better by getting veterans on the team? I think a nice trade would be to deal John Salmons, Hassan Whiteside and Terrence Williams to the Bobcats for Corey Maggette. Maggette is still a good player in this league who can automatically come in as a starter for a rebuilding team. Another trade I think could be even would be Francisco Garcia and a second round pick to the Raptors for power forward Amir Johnson. With Ed Davis emerging as the starting power forward for the Raptors, they might be willing to move Johnson, who is an understated rebounder and a fairly decent scorer. I believe Garcia is also unable to produce because of all the guards on the roster, so a change of scenery might be useful for him. I don't think either of these trades necessarily makes the team an automatic shoe-in for the playoffs, but they get rid of bad contracts while getting some veteran experience and potential in the locker room.

     The Kings have a bunch of players that can bid well for the future, but they need veteran experience to not only set DeMarcus Cousins straight, but also to insert a team influence in the locker room. With a couple smart trades and careful planning this offseason, I believe the Kings could return to decency quicker than a lot of people would expect.


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