NBA

NBA PM: Kings Daring To Be Great

On the surface, the Sacramento Kings look like trouble waiting to happen. But inside, they believe things will change with wins… No more gifts for division winners.

Steve Kyler profile picture
Updated 1 year ago on

6 min read

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Kings Have Dared To Be Great:  Insert an easily disgruntled star, a point guard who quit on his last team, a head coach who is incredibly stubborn and recently tried to construct a trade involving his best player; combine that with an executive who does not seem to care about any of it and let’s see what happens.

That’s the story from outside the Sacramento Kings.

From inside, it’s a very different narrative. As the Kings gathered their new free agent signees together so they could all head to Las Vegas together, there was a message. Just win. Easy enough, right?

They sat in a private plane together and talked openly about how it would have to go in order for all the problems to work themselves out. It was agreed on that flight that everyone would put their own luggage to the side and would look to play together and prove the naysayers wrong.

The problem was not going to be the players buying in. The problem was going to be the head coach and, according to those close to the discussion, it was made clear that if the coach wouldn’t get on board, he would be replaced. But all agreed the best path to success was with the coach they had and everyone pledged to try and make it work.

That was the plan as the Kings left the airport, and that was the message they tried to spread in Vegas when they were introduced to the media.

Now, time will tell if head coach George Karl will buy in. Time will also tell if DeMarcus Cousins can separate his emotions from the actions of the offseason, and if the NBA game has passed Rajon Rondo up or if he can put together a season with the Kings to get him back into the elite point guard category.

One thing that has been made completely clear by Kings vice president Vlade Divac is that talking isn’t going to cure any of the problems the Kings have faced for almost a decade. The cure comes with winning. That was Divac’s message to would-be free agents, it was his message on the flight from Sacramento and it was his message in the bowels of the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas as he tried to move past a rocky offseason filled with rumors.

Several of the newest Kings said privately that they liked what the situation felt like. They understood what was going to be said about them and their new team, but that the vibe inside the organization was actually pretty good.

Time will tell if the Kings can turn things around. On paper, the Kings brought in some solid players who are tough guys. If they can all do as they pledged, and leave it all on the floor, the Kings could turn the corner.

The problem is there may not be a more combustible situation in the NBA; if there is, you’d be hard pressed to find it. The Kings – in very Vegas fashion – have rolled the dice that all of the moves they have made will produce wins, and those wins will soothe egos, and soothed egos will become functional.

The problem is as much as that sounds great to say, how frequently has it really ever worked?

The Kings have dared to be great. The new guys seem to be on board so we’ll see if that’s actually what happens.

No More Guarantees For Division Winners?:  The NBA and the competition committee have been looking at the virtues of the current playoff seeding structure in the NBA and seem to have arrived that a change is in order.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said yesterday that he felt like the NBA would be doing away with division winners being guaranteed a playoff berth, and it would likely include the division winners being guaranteed a top four spot being done away with too.

“First of all, it’s never happened before that a division winner did not finish within the top eight, and our basketball analytics folks calculate that there’s less than a five percent chance that it would happen,” Silver said to the Associated Press.

“Where we are leaning right now is that we would not guarantee a spot for a division winner in part because it’s so unlikely to happen, and No. 2 if it does happen it would be potentially confusing to fans. No. 3, you would be displacing a team that did have a top-eight record.”

There has been a push for some time to make sure that the winning teams got the best seeding, and in part that means doing away with some of the rules that reward division winners.

From there the question becomes, if there is no reward for winning a division then why have divisions?

Keep in mind that much of the infrastructure in place was conceived around local territories, travel and venue scheduling.

As improvements in every facet of the process have changed, the usefulness of divisions has decreased dramatically. Every team travels via chartered planes and stay in luxurious five-star hotels, so the days of going to Milwaukee by bus are long gone – making the rationality of divisions a little unnecessary.

Equally, re-location has made some of the divisions a little silly. Oklahoma City is in the Northwest because that franchise relocated from Seattle. Instead of moving teams around, the Thunder stayed in the division despite it being geographically silly.

The NBA seems to be willing to take the first step in removing the value of the division by doing away with the rewards of winning them. That could lead to the next step, which is a shift entirely in how the NBA is organized.

The first step could happen as soon as next season; however, the bigger step may take a lot more talking and thinking because while it’s easy to say move this team here and move that team there, there are a lot of entrenched situations associated with a major change. But it seems on the surface that divisions as we know them may be headed toward the door.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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