They are the pro ‘USA team, not just the NBA, with the most consecutive seasons without qualifying for the playoffs. Mistakes in the draft, bad choices of the management and a pinch of bad luck the ingredients for the disaster
What is the most unfortunate NBA franchise? You may have wondered. In a society, the American one, and in a business, that of overseas sports leagues, where winning is everything and the gains are often directly proportional to the successes, losing systematically risks being costly. The franchise can be moved to another city if it doesn’t work, like a large chain franchise shop. Here, today the Sacramento Kings hold the unenviable record, which is also the absolute one, of consecutive seasons without playoffs. Even sixteen.
Then, at least since the transfer to California in 1985, I need not talk about it … “It can’t rain forever”, to put it as in “Il Corvo”, but in the meantime the horizons are perturbed: the Pacific division, theirs, is the most competitive in the league with the reigning champions Warriors and then Suns, Clippers and Lakers all aiming for the title …
The Kings risk being in the wrong place at the wrong time once more. With a team not even bad, however, but that can be crushed by the fierce competition. The Kings managed to do worse than the Los Angeles Clippers, fasting for 15 years from 1976 to 1991. There are 16 consecutive seasons without the playoffs. There will probably be 17, if we talk about it again in 12 months… Sacramento hasn’t played the postseason since 2006. It hasn’t even won an elimination game since April 29, 2004, when it beat the Dallas Mavericks 4-1 in the first round.
The Kings in Sacramento have enjoyed years of glory, mind you. But let’s talk about “prehistory” now. Eight consecutive seasons in the playoffs, from 1998 to 2006. The conference final in the West of 2022 with the Lakers remains the great regret. The Kings were very strong and played basketball that was not only spectacular, but futuristic. With a quintet of all shooters, five talents with technique and vision of the game: Mike Bibby was the director, Doug Christie the great defender of the perimeter, Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Webber the wings (the phenomenon from Michigan University was the franchise man) , and Vlade Divac, recently then a franchise executive, was the center. The ball was moving continuously, in attack the Kings were to peel their hands from the applause. Also because Peja Stojakovic, a sensational shooter and scorer, came off the bench. But, also thanks to a controversial refereeing, the Kings lost the final one despite being 3-2 ahead. It was the culmination of their parable. And also the beginning of the end.
Things fell apart quickly, from 2006 onwards. What could go wrong, everything went wrong on time: Murphy’s law applied. The losing franchise culture soon became permanent, contagious to every different work group. The choice of DeMarcus Cousins, called with number 5 of the 2010 draft, was the coup de grace. The Kings have never found corporate, managerial, coaching staff continuity and as references on the pitch. Sacramento is the capital of California, but it remains a small market. There is already no queue to go and play at all, if things get bad and the bad reputation expands, it becomes a general stampede. In the 37 California years since moving from Kansas City, the Kings have had 4 owners and 20 coaches. They didn’t finish with a losing record just 8 times. Damn, or almost. The construction of the Golden 1 Center, the splendid arena in the city center, saved them from moving to another city. The Maloof brothers, owners until 2013, tried to make them emigrate, first to Anaheim and then to Seattle. The Kings also had a lot of talent, but Boogie Cousins made them dysfunctional in the locker room and on the court and Indian owner Vivek Ranadive, still at the helm, did the same off the pitch despite him.
The Kings have a young and talented team core. Super athletic director De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis child art center are the jewels of the house. But Keegan Murray, fourth overall pick in the last draft, and defensive winger Davion Mitchell are also young prospects. The problem is to understand if one of them will want to become the long-term franchise man and if he will be able to reverse course, in terms of results. These are questions that are difficult to answer today. With a recognized and stable pack leader it would be easier to avoid constant shuffling of staff. For a change, there is a new head coach on the bench, coach Mike Brown. All to be evaluated in that context, where one historically navigates on sight.
There are those who are worse off than the Kings and their fans, however. Just think that in NFL football, the Detroit Lions haven’t won a playoff game since January 5, 1992. They played them recently in 2016, but “hit and run”. Yet the Kings have a very good, passionate support base. Yet Lions supporters don’t give up. It can’t rain forever after all. When it’s their turn to win, everything will be even more beautiful. after so much suffering. Except that the turning point doesn’t seem right around the corner.
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