Without a doubt, it has been a spectacular week for basketball in California. Everywhere in California, that is, except for Sacramento.
In Oakland, the Warriors put on a dizzying display of talent and teamwork Wednesday night to trounce the Memphis Grizzlies and set a record for the most wins in a single NBA regular season.
In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant, in his farewell game after 20 years with the Lakers, somehow scored 60 points on 50 field-goal attempts, making him the oldest player in the NBA to do so.
And then there’s Sacramento and the Kings. A team so dysfunctional that it essentially forfeited its last regular season game against Houston to keep a decent draft pick and, on Thursday, fired head coach George Karl after only a season and a half.
It’s enough to hit a new nerve with Sacramento’s age-old inferiority complex. The River Cats promise to be interesting this year, and Sacramento Republic FC has a promising bid to join Major League Soccer as an expansion team. But the Kings disappoint.
The team has not been in the playoffs for a decade. With the firing of Karl, the fifth-winningest coach in NBA history, the team can now say, not proudly, that it has had four head coaches in as many years.
Fans won’t put up with this kind of dysfunction for long. Nor should they. As taxpayers, fans stepped up. They did their part to pay for Golden 1 Center, set to open in downtown Sacramento this fall with a high-tech experience unparalleled in the NBA.
But people cheer on teams, not arenas. No amount of gee-wizardry will distract fans from the plainly awful play on the court. Not for long anyway.
No one wants to root for players who consistently curse out coaches and referees, and throw basketballs at other players when they don’t get their way. And no one wants to pay even more money than they paid for tickets at Sleep Train Arena for the privilege.
We don’t need the Kings to win every game. We just need them to be watchable. And to do that, the team needs to be stable.
That means Vivek Ranadive must stick to being an owner and Vlade Divac must stick to being a general manager. That also means the front office must let whoever agrees to take the apparently cursed job of head coach stick to being a head coach.
With the right management and the right players, the Kings can turn things around. Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago the Warriors were a mess, too. It has happened before. It can happen again.
We’re waiting. Ball’s in your court, Kings.