Kings Searching for Past Identity


The Sacramento Kings are painful to watch.

The Spalding balls we’re accustomed to have altered into a glue-based sphere that disallows passing entirely. A team that once thrived on chemistry and ball-movement has been replaced by one rife with selfishness and one-on-one play.

Will the 2014-2015 season be any different?

It’s difficult to prognosticate if the upcoming season will be a successful one, but the Kings are a team on the rise.

Since Vivek Ranadive became owner in May of 2013, the Kings – aided by their fantastic Mayor Kevin Johnson – have secured a new arena, signed a new head coach in Michael Malone, traded for Rudy Gay and maxed out DeMarcus Cousins‘s contract.

All great moves, yet the Kings mustered just 28 wins last season.

Talk surrounding the team suggests that 40 wins is obtainable this season.

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But how can they achieve this? By taking a page from the past.

From 1998-2004, the Kings were among the NBA elite. They never won a title (thanks to Shaq and Kobe), but their brand of basketball changed the league.

They filled the seats as players like Jason “White Chocolate” Williams and Peja Stojakovic showcased talent never before seen in the City of Trees.

There was a fluidity to their style that was beautiful. They jumped into their offense seconds after inbounding and always passed until the best shot became available.

It made them one of the highest scoring teams in the NBA for nearly a decade, and it created envy in the basketball world. Everybody wanted to play this ‘international’ style of ball, as the results were difficult to ignore.

But this current team is the complete opposite, and Coach Malone is privy to the negative ramifications of a stagnant offense.

“When I look back on last year, as I analyzed it, we probably spent 70 percent of the time on defense.

“Because we didn’t spend the requisite amount of time on offense, the offense took a hit. It was holding. It was dribbling. It was one-on-one. Coming into this season, we can’t be 30th in assists. We can’t be 23rd in turnovers. Just have more ball movement, player movement. Rebounding, better defense, leads to offense. The phrase we are using is “trust the pass.” ”

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Overlooked in the Kings’ past success was the tutelage of Coach Rick Adelman.

His players trusted that the extra pass was the right decision – never second guessing their coach – as his background with the talented Portland Trailblazer teams of the 80’s and 90’s was testament to his knowledge.

Trust is key. While Malone is only in his second season as head coach, his players are beginning to trust his beliefs.

He’s been referred to as a “straight-shooter;” an “intense guy.” Regardless, he’s respected in the locker room, and he’s using his most talented players to convey his voice.

Malone spent time in Spain this offseason with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay for the FIBA World Championships. While there, he communicated his desires for the upcoming season.

He wants Cousins to be the vocal leader on defense, and for Gay to be a catalyst on offense with quick movements and timely passing. While Cousins and Gay are the best players on the team, the influx of young talent and free agent additions have brought this team to the forefront.

Analyze this year’s talent and you’ll see similarities to past teams.

Nik Stauskas resembles Stojakovic. Darren Collison is the new Bobby Jackson. Ray McCallum‘s steady presence is reminscient of Mike Bibby. Ryan Hollins reeks of Scott Pollard. Cousins is the new Chris Webber. With better defense, Gay can become Doug Christie.

Are these worthy comparisons? I believe so.

The Kings of yesteryear won without a superstar, and this year’s team is trending towards a similar composition.

There will be growing pains; this team is still young and will need time to gel.

But there’s hope again, and it wasn’t long ago this hope resuscitated a dying Kings team and thrust them into the international spotlight.

The 2014-2105 season will be mediocre. But you can bet your bottom dollar that 2016 will be full of Kings’ victories.