Each day this week, NESN.com will take a look at a team that is virtually assured of having a worse record than the Celtics this season — thereby standing in the way of Boston landing the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA draft.
We continue with No. 3 on our list of lottery ballhogs: the Sacramento Kings.
Shaquille O’Neal won four NBA championships and went through the Sacramento Kings to win three of them.
You know the old saying: If you can’t stop beating them, join them.
O’Neal jumped over to the other side of the in-state rivalry between the Lakers and Kings when he joined the new ownership group in Sacramento in September. His stake might be nominal and symbolic, but it sure will be fun when he appears at Sleep Train Arena and yells, “Can you dig it?”
Adding a 41-year-old minority owner seldom makes a laughingstock into a contender all by itself, though, and the Kings will have to look deeper than a Big Investor to advance back into relevance. In fact, even relevance should be far from their main goal. For now, they just need to get other people from joking at their expense and work on moving out of last place in ESPN’s rankings of the best franchises in sports.
The recent long-term commitment to DeMarcus Cousins could be a boon or a bane for the Kings. Will the mercurial big man seize on the newfound responsibility or realize he gets paid no matter how he plays? In addition, the Kings must admit that Isaiah Thomas is one of their best players, even if he was the last player taken in the 2011 draft. Tyreke Evans, gone to New Orleans, is no longer around to gum up the works, but John Salmons, Jimmer Fredette and Marcus Thornton are still here to steal minutes. Hope springs eternal that Mike Malone will operate his rotation a little more wisely than Keith Smart did.
Until anyone sees evidence that the Kings actually do intend on operating more intelligently, we reserve the right to assume they will continue to run into walls. Even if Vivek Randive and the boys know exactly what they are doing, it will likely take a few years for the adjustments at the upper levels of management to trickle down to the court.
At the very least, Celtics fans can take heart in the fact that most of them trust Danny Ainge, Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca to eventually steward their team out of this rebuilding phase. In Sacramento, Kings fans merely have cautious optimism that this time, with this ownership group, things will be different.
Monday: Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo Give Magic Bright Future, But Still Unlikely to Pass Celtics in Standings
Tuesday: Al Jefferson, Brendan Haywood Personify Bobcats’ Curious Approach to Team-Building
Wednesday: Trey Burke Should Get Free Reign, Which Means Lost Year for Utah Jazz
Photo via Facebook/Sacramento Kings