Thursday, December 7, 2017

Do the King have a De'Aaron Fox problem?

Okay, let's get the prerequisite objections out of the way for the lackluster play of Kings rookie De'Aaron Fox.

He's only 19.

His shot is going to get better.

He's playing with slow teammates.

Fans need to show some patience.

All legitimate. All probably correct. But also red flags for the highly touted point guard out of Kentucky, who was drafted fifth by the Kings and was expected to wow the league with his incredible quickness.

So let's get down to reality.

He is not playing well.  He is not a threat outside of 12 feet.  He is not initiating the offense. He is not penetrating and making plays.  He's getting lost on defense. And he is turning the ball over.

Oh, and one last thing: The other rookie point guard - Frank Mason - is absolutely doing all of the things that Fox is not. He's been gritty and fierce and, most importantly, willing to take control.

Yes, Mason is older and far more experienced, but that doesn't excuse the biggest red flag of all about Fox:

Fox has been oddly passive,

It's strange to watch Fox simply get into the front court, hand the ball off and move quietly to the corner. It's even stranger because he's the primary ball handler, even with George Hill on the court.

But he's not calling for picks and he's not directing traffic. And he certainly isn't drawing defenders.

Maybe he doesn't feel comfortable yet in the offense. Maybe he doesn't want to step on toes.

But if the Kings are looking for an Alpha-dog attitude to lead their team for the next decade, the sight of Fox has to be concerning.

Fox obviously has talent. But does he have that intangible "it factor" that turns talent into stardom?  So far, we haven't seen it. And that's not a factor of youth. It's a factor of attitude.

The Kings desperately need a star.  Fox, an amazingly likable kid, shines in his off-court interviews. He could own Sacramento - and the league - by fulfilling his potential.

The odds are that Fox will figure it out on the court, but you can't change the internal combustion engine of a player.

Kings fans need to see a few games - even a few glimpses - that prove Fox is ready to grab the league by the collar and announce his arrival.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Cramped Feeling about the Overhyped Golden1 Center.

Look, I know I'm a cynic about the Kings.

But can you blame me? They never fail to astound you in terms of pure futility. They are the NBA's Ultimate Fail. Every move is a disaster. Every season an experience of painful, sadistic torture.

So with that said, I really wanted to love the Golden1 Center. I wanted to prove my sunny disposition. I wanted to show the naysayers that I could be a delightful supporter of this team and their noble effort to build a brand new home for the Kings.

And I actually felt a twinge of pride as I ambled up to the spanking new building for a concert last week. I turned to my wife and said, "You know, it's pretty cool having something like this downtown."

I could picture the surroundings brimming with nightlife and restaurants in a year or so, a hub of activity, a real epicenter of community.  We walked the perimeter of the arena, taking in the living wall of greenery on the exterior.

And hey, I gotta admit, the entrance to the new arena is impressive. Open and huge and spectacularly inviting.

Maybe this place was gonna live up to expectations. And then...

Sad trombone.

Okay, here's where I'm gonna get real.  For the next three hours, I had one of the most underwhelming, uncomfortable and disappointing arena experiences in my life.

First impression: The main concourse is, well, a concourse. Unadorned concrete. A few nostalgic neon signs tacked up without rhyme or reason. Very little wow factor.  And to make it worse, the concourse is populated with horribly overpriced and pretend versions of name-brand restaurant foods from the Sacramento area.

My wife and I both ordered pizza from the Selland's stand. It was dry, tasteless, meager and 10 bucks. A beer was $14. A bottled water was $5.  Thirty dollars later and we were wondering if Selland's was going to sue Golden1 for destroying their brand.

All of these names - from Selland's to Star Ginger to Centro to LowBrau - are essentially institutional food stands with cool names.

We spoke to others who had similar less-than-tasty experiences. But okay, maybe we set our sights too high. And maybe they are still working out the kinks. After all, arena food isn't expected to be haute cuisine.

We decided to explore a little. We had seats in the lower level, but decided to check out the upper bowl just for the fun of it.

Unfortunately, my wife took one step out into the upper bowl, looked up, looked down, and then retreated inside. "Never buy seats for me up there," she said. "Ever."

I couldn't resist and had to go back and check it out for myself. The seats are great - if you have a sherpa to guide you. It feels like it's straight up. And it's scary steep. Even after you sit, you need a minute or two to let the feeling of vertigo seep from your body.

I have read that other modern arenas are just as steep, but if this is considered modern-day arena design, it's time to go back to the drawing board. It just doesn't feel safe. And I never had that feeling at the old Arco.

With just a few minutes before the concert, we strolled back downstairs. The pitch of the lower level is far friendlier and we finally managed to find our row and seats without much difficulty.

And that's when we discovered the worst design flaw of Golden1.

They forgot to leave room for your legs.

I'm serious. They must have forgotten.

I mean, I've never seen anything like it. My wife - who is 5-foot-7 - could literally not sit without her knees pressed hard against the chair in front of her. She could not relax and had to sit upright the entire time. Lucky for me, I was on an aisle. And at 6-foot-5, there is literally no way I would have been able to sit through the concert.

I sat with my legs in the aisle the entire time. I looked around at the other rows. People were sucked into their seats, unable to move.

And when someone needed to get up for a bathroom break or a beer run?  It was everyone on their feet leaning backwards.

I won't go into the sound system - it was muddy - because I just can't get over the poor design of the seating. I mean, isn't seating the No. 1 priority of an arena? Don't you want people to be comfortable?

I left the arena seriously thinking I may not come back again, unless I am somehow able to score an aisle seat again.

So was it just me? Did anyone else have this experience?

I Googled Golden1 Center legroom and I found results like this.

The Yelp reviews for the arena aren't exactly stellar, either.

I think Golden1 most likely has a decent honeymoon period with people willing to accept some flaws in exchange for a terrific entertainment venue. But I wouldn't be surprised if the complaints continue as more and more people come home with sore knees and unmet expectations.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why Doug Christie Should Be the Next Kings Coach

Stale air.

Awful, stinky stale air.

You can see it.  You can taste it.

It's been like a thick layer of pollution hanging over Sleep Train Arena for the last decade and, most notably, over the past five seasons.

That's what it's like to be a Kings fan. You're trapped beneath a suffocating fog of despair.

You choke on every decision. You gag when you watch the team play defense. You feel your chest tighten every time DeMarcus Cousins goes full nut job.

And the worst part? There doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. 

The next four first-round picks are completely up in the air. Will they keep them? Will they need to swap them?

Their young players, except perhaps Willie Cauley-Stein, have been busts. Their veterans are of little value to a team that wants to compete for a playoff spot.

And their All-Star cornerstone - Cousins - has yet to prove he can behave well with others, much less figure out how to play a full game of basketball without making more anguished faces than a five-year-old waiting in an endless line at Disneyland.

But there's one thing they can do.

There's one thing that can instantly change the atmosphere, clear the air, and let the sun shine in.

Hire Doug Christie to coach the team. 

Yup, Doug Christie.

Forget the retreads like Scott Brooks and Mark Jackson. Not impressed. Seen 'em. Don't need to see them again.

Christie brings something the Kings and this city have been sorely missing for the past 10 years...


And enthusiasm.

And a love of the game.

Oh, and by the way, he's very smart, too. I'm a believer after listening to him as a team analyst this year. 

Now I'm not usually a fan of bringing in someone with zero experience as a coach, but there's just something about Christie that makes me believe he's a winner. You can feel it - right through the TV screen. And if you can feel it through the TV screen, you better bet you can feel it in person.

Christie's a fighter, too. Just ask Rick Fox.

Is it a gamble? Maybe. 

But at this point, Kings fans just want to breathe fresh air again. And having a joyful warrior like Christie at the helm would instantly bring a brand new karma to the team.

So Mr. Ranadive, it's in your court. You pride yourself on thinking out of the box. 

This one is sitting on a box right in front of you.

Make the call.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Scientific, Analytical Guide to How Many Games the Kings Will Win

Okay, forget the pundits and radio hosts and columnists pontificating on how many games the Kings will win this season.

There's only one true way to prognosticate. And that's with pure science and analytics. At Kings Talking Points, our staff of over 100 statisticians and part-time fast food workers always make sure our numbers are on the money.

So buckle up and read on and the suspense will be over. You won't even need to pay attention to this season.

Let's start with 82 wins.

Subtract 40 games right off the bat for being the Sacramento Kings. Climate scientists have proven this sad fact by looking at weather models over the past 10 NBA seasons.

Subtract 5 wins for the awful idea of putting veteran poison Rajon Rondo into the middle of an already volatile mix. Rondo can still see the floor and deliver a perfect pass, but his woeful shooting and fading athleticism makes him a poor fit for a modern NBA team.

Add 3 wins for the addition of Willie Cauley-Stein. Finally, a true athletic big man who can change shots and run the court. And who thankfully doesn't need shots.

Subtract 4 wins for Ben McLemore. Every year there's hope he'll take the next step. And every year he disappoints. Once considered one of the top shooting prospects coming out of college, he's not even streaky at this point. And his ball handling? Oy. He can't take anyone off the dribble and he makes you cringe every time he tries.

Add 2 wins for Omri Casspi. Nobody brings more hustle on the court and he proved to be a consistent fireplug off the bench last season. If he ever got his three-pointer to drop, he'd become even more valuable.

Add 3 wins for the acquisition of Marco Belinelli. Finally, a consistent 3-point shooter on a team filled with brick layers.

Subtract 2 wins for the rest of the bench.  Kostas Koufas is solid, but he won't win you any games. Quincy Acy was a wasted signing. James Anderson was a Sixers washout. And Seth Curry has the wrong first name.

Subtract 10 wins for DeMarcus Cousins. Yes, he's a load. Yes, he's supremely talented. But no, I don't think this team can win with him. Too selfish. Too explosive emotionally. Too hard for him to share the spotlight with any other player.

Subtract 4 wins when Cousins and George Karl have a shouting match on the bench after a particularly bad turnover by Boogie on one of his coast-to-coast jaunts.

Subtract 3 wins when Rondo misses a flight to Cleveland because he's been supplanted as the starting point guard by Darren Collison.

Add 6 wins after the Kings acquire a fresh boodle of talent when the Kings trade Cousins in January.

Add 3 wins as Rudy Gay feels revitalized with the depature of Cousins.

Add 4 wins as Karl finally gets his offense into high gear without having to dump the ball into the middle on every set.


Friday, July 3, 2015

How panic, knee-jerk decision making, Vivek and Cousins have destroyed the Kings

Creativity, long-range tactical thinking, and common sense are nowhere to be found.

Instead, the Kings organization is now a constant source of panic, knee-jerk decision making, and utter disregard for logic.

The installation of Vlade Divac as the head of basketball operations has changed nothing.

He is clearly in over his seven-foot head. And despite his bold proclamations that he's in charge, the mere fact that the team is pin-balling from one high-risk, low-reward target to another is clear evidence that Vivek Ranadive is still calling the shots.

Rondo? Vivek's been drooling over the uber head case for a year. Josh Smith? Vivek has desperately wanted the me-first chemistry-killer since last winter.

Vivek is partying like it's 2008. You wonder how a high-tech nerd could be so wrong on so many things when he has a boatload of analytics to use as research.

The recent salary dump trade would have been fine if a smart trade or signing was already in place, but now the team is scrambling for table scraps, offering low-level talents stupid money to join the stupidest team in the NBA.

There is absolutely no plan. There is certainly no regard being given to team chemistry. And nobody seems to care that you can't put a group of flammable personalities together on an already kerosene-soaked team.

I've been campaigning for a year to rid the franchise of its major stench-inducing player - DeMarcus Cousins - and bring in a fresh crop of young, unselfish, hungry players.

Cousins may very well be a top-five talent, but he is not the type of guy who makes his teammates warm and fuzzy. In fact, most hate playing with him. And now his relationship with George Karl is broken beyond repair.

DeMarcus is almost impossible to root for as a fan. He's a surly, self-centered jerk. He whines and scowls and barks at referees and glares at his teammates. If he gets his numbers, he's a happy guy. If he doesn't, it doesn't matter what the scoreboard says.

Yes, trading him to the Lakers would take guts, but there's only one way out of this current swamp of despair.

Put a young team on the floor consisting of D'Angelo Russell, Darren Collison, Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and Rudy Gay and watch your fans cheer like crazy.

The air will feel cleaner. The beer will taste better. The popcorn will be less rancid.

It won't happen, though. I have no idea why. But the smartest guy in the room at Kings headquarters is in danger of losing every last ounce of goodwill he earned when he saved the franchise for Sacramento.

Pessimism reigns supreme these days. A Rondo signing will only prolong that feeling and delay the inevitable total meltdown.

Vlade needs to do two things today:

Hire Geoff Petrie as a special advisor.

March into Vivek's office and tell him to shut up and sit down.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Cousins Era is Over. Nobody Wants to Admit It, Though.

If I'm running the Kings, I'm getting ready to field all offers for DeMarcus Cousins.

There's really no other choice at this point.

The sulking superstar has reached his Sacramento expiration date. There's been too much turmoil, too many deep-background leaks, too many coaching changes, too many on-court explosions. I don't think anyone believes the hulking center is ready to go through another season of losing.

Of course, the notion of trading Cousins seems ludicrous on first blush. He's the most dominant center in the game, a bull of man who punishes opponents. His defense has improved tremendously and his passing is sometimes remarkable.

But you can't deal a star from a position of weakness - and that's exactly where the Kings will be next season if things don't drastically turn around. A beef with coach George Karl or an eight-game losing streak would most likely knock him off the rails and send him into the final tailspin, eventually leading to a trade request.

And when teams need to deal players, there's blood in the water. Offers get diluted. Teams play hardball.

The Kings have a new arena coming on line. They need to freshen the air. They need to wipe away the stink of losing and turmoil. And, most of all, they need to bring in a crop of players who are likeable, unselfish and motivated.

Luckily, with a trade chips like DeMarcus and Rudy Gay (yes, I'd trade him, too), you can just about retool your entire roster. 

Could you perhaps deal Cousins and Carl Landry for a package of players like Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, Joaquin Noah and first-round picks from the Bulls?  I would.

But there are probably other monster offers that could come their way.

Yes, it's hard to get equal value for a superstar. But it's even harder to get value for a pissed-off superstar who wants out. I'd betting even odds that Cousins is a very pissed-off superstar by week six of next season.

Karl knows the type of player he wants. I'm not sure Cousins fits the bill. And I'm not sure he even gives a bleep.

Cousins is all about Cousins right now. The Kings need to be all about the team's future.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Eyewitness: Inside the room during the negotiations with George Karl

I was lucky enough to be invited inside the top-secret negotiations between Vivek Ranadive and George Karl. Here's my report:

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Show me the money, DeMarcus the victim, and other interesting musings

Things we know about the current state of the Kings:

Suddenly, the management is cheap. They don't have the cash to pay a new coach. Yes, they can buy into a professional soccer club, but when it comes to hiring real talent, they throw a fit.

The money issue just brings back bad memories of a former ownership group headed by a group of lunkhead playboy brothers. It's not a good look.

Ty Corbin should just resign and tell the ownership group to take his job and, well, you know the rest. He was put in a ridiculous position. The players had no desire to listen to him. And general manager Pete D'Allesandro barely made a peep to defend him.

DeMarcus Cousins needs to shut up and stop acting like he's the poor victim in all of this. We've seen some of his antics, including berating teammates and having complete mental breakdowns on the court. I'm not so sure that Cousins isn't the biggest problem in regards to the team's attitude.

This team's start was mostly fluke. Yes, Mike Malone had the team playing tough defense, but the early season was not as rosy as it seems. The offense was still a mess and the lack of outside shooting was evident even then. In addition, the poor depth became increasingly evident as soon as the injuries started to pile up.  This is not a good team. It's pretty much a bad one. And I'm not so sure it would have been that different if Malone had stayed on. Still, you have to credit Malone for one thing: He and Cousins seemed to have a connection - and that's hard to do.

George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins is gonna be pure theatre. I'm grabbing my popcorn now and waiting for the fireworks to begin.

Nik Stauskas was drafted for one reason: He was a great shooter. Now we're looking at possibly the biggest bust in the draft. He doesn't have Ben McLemore's athleticism to fall back on, so I'm not sure if there's much of an upside. He needs a summer of performance enhancing drugs just to have a shot at improvement. Some skeptics were comparing him to Jimmer after the Kings drafted him. They might have been right.

Rudy Gay has reverted to his selfish persona of the past. Toronto fans hated him. I'm starting to see why. He's all about getting his shots at any cost. And, most of the time, it doesn't matter if he's double or triple teamed. Can a new coach get through to him? If not, I'd put him on the block in the summer.

I'd explore a deal with the Chicago Bulls. Any deal. They own the rights to the Kings' first-round pick if Sacramento doesn't end up as one of the 10 worst records in the league. Make a deal with them in exchange for relinquishing the protections on the pick. Maybe get Taj Gibson. They need to give up this year's pick in order to have a first-round pick going forward.

Tempo is great when you have Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. It's a damn near disaster when you have the crew that the Kings put on the floor. If we never hear that word again, it will be too soon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Vivek's biggest blunder? Letting Isaiah go for nothing.

The Phoenix Suns hit town just in time to remind Kings fans that their owner, Vivek Ranadive, may be on the verge of a real organizational dilemma.

Yes, the firing of coach Michael Malone was out of the blue, but it might have been considered just part of a brilliant plan if legendary George Karl was waiting in the wings.  He wasn't.  And now nobody knows what's going on at Kings headquarters.  You'd need a Kremlinologist to figure out what they're thinking.

Malone was no offensive genius and his players shifted into panic mode far too often, but he was respected in the locker room and he got his players to buy in on defense.

He seemed to give the team a sense of purpose and order.  Most importantly, he was respected by DeMarcus Cousins, the moodiest mega-talent in the NBA.

Yet Ranadive dumped him.  Without a plan in place.

That's scary enough.  But you have to go back six months to find the biggest mistake of the Ranadive era.

The out-and-out disposal of point guard Isaiah Thomas.

An explosive scorer with a chip on shoulder, Thomas was a valuable commodity in the NBA.  But the Kings, with a chance to keep him on an extremely sensible 4 year, $27 million contract, let him walk.

For nothing. Zip. (Okay, a crappy trade exception that will never be used).

By the way, Thomas is currently 37th in the NBA in PER, higher than any King besides DeMarcus Cousins.

Now I don't care if your nerd analytic team thought he was not the right player for your system.  You do not let him go for nothing.

You sign him.  And you tell him to fit in.  Are you telling me the current Kings couldn't use another three-point shooter who can score from all over the court?

Let's say it didn't work out.  So what.  Worst-case scenario, you have an extremely valuable trade chip.

Want to know how the Kings might have convinced the Nets to include Mason Plumlee in the trade for Deron Williams?  Put Isaiah Thomas in the deal.

Instead, the current Kings have no trade assets.  They have no first-round pick to deal.  They are stuck looking for high-priced, past-their-prime big names who other teams want to pawn off.

You get the feeling Ranadive thinks he's always the smartest guy in the room.  Yet Ranadive's room is dark and secretive and closed to the outside world.

Sometimes you need to open up a window and let a little light shine in.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who are these guys? No, seriously, who are they?

I'm a little befuddled right now.

This is about the time of year I start to make fun of the Kings with wild abandon.  It's when I realize the team is hopeless, listless and positively devoid of talent.

But something strange is going on this season.  I'm beginning to wonder if there was some kind of NBA zombie apocalypse.  Bodies have been swapped.  That much is clear.

That's the only way to explain the team's fast start, especially after an off-season that left Kings fans scratching their heads.

I would have bet 25 wins at most.

I mean, Omri Casspi?

Yes, Omri Casspi!

The former King has returned with the type of high-energy, refined game that I thought was impossible.

And what about Jason Thompson, a man who never saw a pump fake he didn't take? He's turned into one of the NBA's best defensive big men, stifling the likes of Tim Duncan and Anthony Davis.

Carl Landry? Awful contract. Veteran coming off a serious injury.  Yet he's playing like a youngster again, winning down low and making all sorts of big shots.

Ben McLemore?  He's suddenly playing like a real-life NBA player, nailing long-range bombs like he's back at Kansas.

And then there's that big angry dude in the middle.  The guy they call Boogie.

He's been a revelation.  Banging bodies, imposing his will on anyone who dares cross his path.

I've never been a big fan.  I've wanted to see him traded on numerous occasions.  But I'm almost convinced that he may have put his time-bomb ways behind him.

Yes, the Kings are fun again.

And winning.

Let's hope the zombie apocalypse has a long reign in Sacramento.