Tonight the Utah Jazz host the Sacramento Kings, and really these are two teams that are going in all sorts of different directions. The Jazz just recently changed who leads this team, saying goodbye to Greg Miller and his brother - but the team continues to be run by very strong leadership in the front office in Dennis Lindsey (and company). As a result the Jazz star looks like it will continue to rise over the next few seasons, as rookie head coach Quin Snyder and young players Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood and others usher in a new era for Jazz basketball. I really would love to say the same thing for the Kings.
But while the Jazz seem to hold onto stability the Kings seem to enjoy the type of stability and comfort not usually found outside of a George R. R. Martin book about frozen water and the carbon cycle. (It's a science textbook, right?) Vivek Ranadive, who was one of the co-owners of the Golden State Warriors, rescued the Kings from the Maloof brothers and the team won the right to stay in Sacramento. It was a liberating time, and everyone was excited for the future. But today mismanagement and a series of reactionary moves have brought about a cloud of uncertainty over the once very happy fanbase. (I guess, Vivek = Daenerys?)
Vivek totally initiated a "too many cooks" scenario, where decision making somehow happens through the gauntlet of owner Vivek Ranadive, GM Pete D'Alessandro, assistant GM Mike Bratz, Director of player personnel and analytics Dean Oliver, Adviser to the chair Chris Mullin, special assistant to the GM Mitch Richmond, PV of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac, and new head coach George Karl. (Karl succeeds Tyrone Corbin, who succeeded Mike Malone) ESPN's Marc Stein reports that, for now, it looks like Vlade is in charge (Chris left to take a job with his NCAA alma mater St. John's). Vlade has been with the team for a little over a month.
Time will tell who is leading this team when the draft comes around, but it's clear that their front office is a mess, which trickles down to influence who is coaching the team (three coaches ina single season is never a grand indication of stability), and the player moves.
Sacramento fans deserve stability though. Which is very sad because they do have a bunch of players who are actually quite talented in DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Darren Collison. Young guards Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum, and Nik Stauskas are a few seasons away from being legit rotation players on good teams. And they have a bunch of veterans like Jason Thompson, Andre Miller, and Carl Landry who could add good things to almost every team in the league. Still, though, they are 13th in the West, and have won only 27 games all season long.
Talking with some of their fans they tell me that being a fan of a small market team that doesn't have stability is a very unsettling situation. Generating interest is a big deal, which partly explains why they've gone ahead with a guy like Sim Bhullar (instead of, you know, sticking with David Stockton). Bhullar has the potential to make the Kings some money even if he is a limited basketball player. And in the long run, more money should help increase the number of options the ownership and management have to make the team better. But right now it's a long ways off.
Their second Canadian rookie finally played in the NBA last night, albeit for 16 seconds at the end of a home win. And at that, in a game where bigmen DeMarcus Cousins sat with injury, and Carl Landry was out for a suspension (for leaving the bench). So with two fewer bigs, and only really Jason Thompson, Reggie Evans, and Derrick Williams in his way, Sim still couldn't get off the bench. I'm proud of him making it this far, but to be real - the Kings aren't the team I would want to play for right now. They are very dysfunctional , but I hope that they can turn it around with a simpler organizational structure and a unified vision - that keeps the gimmicks on the low side.
Sacramento was in the lotto for a lot longer, but also appear to be a team that's going to remain there after Utah makes the jump back to the playoffs in a season or two (or three). Part of that is talent. Part of that is coaching. But most of it goes back to who is running these two franchises.
I will always support the Kings fans after their standing ovation for John Stockton, but right now I have to be worried about what's happening in the Kings' front office.