The world of 2006 seems so foreign. Then-young Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, went to and won his first Super Bowl ring against the Seattle Seahawks. Barry Bonds had just passed Babe Ruth’s home run mark. France’s Zinedine Zidane executed the famous headbutt on Marco Materazzi during the World Cup final. And, of course, it was the last time we saw the Sacramento Kings in the NBA playoffs, and the last time they managed to win at least 40 games.
Since then, Roethlisberger has aged and recently retired. Bonds is no longer the polarizing storm brewing within baseball. Soccer players have since regressed further in visible toughness. Even the Kings have moved to a new stadium and witnessed numerous head coaches, general managers, and even a couple different owners pass through in the process.
Yet, despite all that’s changed in the last sixteen years on the outside, nothing has really fundamentally changed within the Sacramento Kings as they look forward to another fruitless season.
Fruitless is no understatement. Time after time, this team has too often been in that no man’s land of being too good to get a top pick, but too poor to qualify for the postseason, even with the newly added play-in tournament at the end of the year. Even when opportunities arose to draft a top talent high in the draft, the Kings spoiled the opportunity (see McLemore, Stauskas, Cauley-Stein, Bagley over Doncic, and so on). Even when the team seemed to be approaching the precipice of success, the Kings have had a way of needlessly trying to turn the bus around on a freeway exit (see the firing of Dave Joerger).
This is what has become known as basketball hell, the closest thing to an abyss in all of sports.
This season seems to be no different in those respects as the team currently sits in the Western Conference’s 13th spot amid a 5-game losing streak that included blowout losses in back to back games, losses where the Kings looked up at the score at various points to see themselves down by 30 points in one game, and 60 points in the other.
It looks like the team has given up. They play with no passion, no desire to win. And as a result, fans are taking the players’ lead and starting to give up as well.
The Golden 1 Center remains empty on a nightly basis, despair and frustration echoes throughout social media, and TV’s are shut off before the final buzzer or not even turned on at all.
Going into this season, the Kings front office claimed that this roster construction was a playoff contender despite the fact that it is the same roster as the 2020-21 team that went 31-41 the year prior, the sole additions being that of Tristan Thompson and Alex Len.
In reality, if one is being 100% honest, this team isn’t even a play-in contender, so either the organization cares not for winning or they are completely inept. This is, after all, an organization that has gone all-in on an incongruent roster construction–lead by young talent, like Fox and Haliburton, supplemented by some veteran talent waiting around for contention, like Barnes and Hield, and filled out with other out of place pieces–despite never having established a clear direction needed to develop and form a winning mindset in the first place.
With the trade deadline approaching, it is imperative that GM Monte McNair establish that direction and begin engraving some element of a winning attitude into the organization’s culture. Whether that means moving key pieces for draft picks and/or prospects, or trade for a big name player like Simmons or Sabonis, the Kings must embark upon a clear path rather than merely treading water with flailing arms and gaining nothing from it.
The term rock bottom has been thrown around here far more than any franchise would be comfortable hearing, but what may be worse than that is the appearance that this team may be unable to reach such a place because it is descending at such a high velocity that any landing spot, rock hard or otherwise, is obliterated upon contact, only creating more space for the franchise to fall through. In other words, a rock bottom may be incapable of withstanding the falling force of the Sacramento Kings, opening the gates down into the abyss.
Change is needed in Sacramento. Should it even have to be said? It’s been 16 years since Sacramento’s loyal base last felt proud of being a fan of this franchise, and by the looks of it, this number will continue to rise until a direction towards reversing this 16 year-plus drought is thoughtfully charted.