All this sound and fury – over a downtown arena, the city playing hardball with landlords standing in the way of arena construction and out-of-town forces spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to put the arena to a public vote – and at the heart of it all remains one terrible basketball team.
Even for staunch arena supporters, the absurdity of the situation is impossible to ignore.
If Kings players were as focused as the warring arena factions, they would be in first place right now. Despite beating Portland after nearly blowing a 19-point lead Tuesday night, the Kings are one of the NBA’s worst at 11-22. Exactly a year ago, they were 13-22 under the dreadful Maloofs ownership, terribly disappointing given the investment of money and energy by the new Kings owners.
But it’s not completely surprising. On many nights, the opposition is superior on paper.
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It’s the way the Kings have lost that has been so unbelievably galling considering the sustained community effort to keep them here.
Hard-nosed political and legal players have been bringing their A-games in the name of the Kings for years, even as Kings players fail to protect the basket and allow dismal teams to treat them as doormats.
Passionate Kings fans don’t just pack Sleep Train Arena – even as tickets prices have gone up – they pack Sacramento Council Chambers whenever a Kings-related issue comes up.
Sacramento has shown up every time, only so Kings players could go AWOL on too many nights.
It’s not just unacceptable. It’s insulting.
Is having a bad team better than having no team at all?
Of course it is, but let’s not wallow in cop-outs. Keeping the Kings as a community asset is, was and always has been the right move for Sacramento. A new arena downtown is a great outcome for a downtown core badly in need of life. The new Kings ownership is already making its presence felt through philanthropy and fostering business connections with local employers and brands.
People in Sacramento can tolerate a bad team for now given the way the Kings business was run into the ground.
What this is about is a team whose professional commitment wavers far too many times given the unwavering loyalty of the people paying top dollar to see them play – and keep them here.
It shows how the entire Kings enterprise is still struggling to eradicate a loser mentality that festered before Vivek Ranadive bought the team last summer. The players don’t trust each other; they let their emotions break down; their shoulders slouch; they wait for others to step up.
They expect the worst and fail to believe that you can achieve better by finding leadership in the mirror.
Right now, the real grit and courage is in the stands at Sleep Train Arena far more than on the court.
You’ll know things are different when the Kings players begin to believe in themselves as much as the community has believed in them.