For the first time in a long time, fans can tune into all the Sacramento Kings broadcasts for the right reasons.
The chips still haven't settled in front of this new Kings regime, and already majority owner Vivek Ranadive has displayed a gambler's mindset. Even the best power hitters in baseball are impressed by the ferocity in Sacramento's swings for the fences.
Staking a franchise on DeMarcus Cousins finding maturity and Rudy Gay discovering efficiency isn't easy. There's certainly no guarantee that these moves will pay off.
But all of them promise to provide can't-miss drama on a nightly basis. And there's a chance this team will serve up more headaches than it has to endure.
Surging Offensive Waves
What good is style without substance, flash without function?
It's been a while since the Kings have to had worry about those questions. This franchise has been brutal and boring of late.
Sacramento has won just 29.4 percent of its games over the last five seasons. Forgettable faces like Kevin Martin, John Salmons and Tyreke Evans have carried some of the offensive torch during that stretch.
Kings fans hid their faces in shame. The basketball world diverted its attention to save its sanity.
Yet here came Ranadive riding in like a knight in shining armor. The way he saw it, Sacramento's sickness was a league-wide ailment.
During a late-night TV session, Ranadive may have suddenly found his answer. Bring back the swag from Sacramento's past, the flair that made this franchise the captivating draw that it once was.
Bring back that unmistakable magic that is the cowbell.
These new-look Kings are still in the midst of completing their makeover. Gay—acquired with Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy in a seven-player trade on Monday, via ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Chris Broussard—has yet to make his Sacramento debut.
But already this looks like a different team.
With just 10 healthy bodies available, the undermanned Kings thrashed the playoff-hopeful Dallas Mavericks 112-97 on Monday. Cousins led the charge with the kind of showing Sacramento fans hadn't seen in more than a decade:
But Boogie's effort nearly took a backseat to breakout performances from two of his teammates.
Isaiah Thomas poured in 24 points and tossed out 12 assists against just two turnovers during his first start of 2013-14.
Derrick Williams made his bid to become the face of the one-team's-trash-is-another-team's-treasure campaign. The former No. 2 overall pick, who was cast off after two-plus disappointing seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 26, lived up to his draft slot with a showing that was equal parts dominant and efficient:
Oh, and let's not forget exciting.
It was the perfect blend of first-year coach Michael Malone's guidance and the roster's deep blend of athleticism. If the Kings buy into their defensive-minded coach's messages, then these players can hit a gear few other teams can match.
"We were getting stops and getting out and running," Thomas said after the game, via CowbellKingdom.com's Jonathan Santiago and James Ham. "I think that’s when we’re at our best when we get stops and get out in transition and get easy baskets.”
Swarming on defense and sprinting on offense?
Call me crazy, but I'd say that sounds like a positive identity to adopt. Something this franchise hasn't seen for quite some time; and something that should only get better from here.
Ask any true hoops head about the Sacramento Kings, and the same vision inevitably comes to mind.
It's that lasting image of the explosive, selfless and mechanical group powered by Chris Webber and Co. in the early 2000s.
Now that team was absolutely a can't-miss unit.
There were dazzling dribbles, first by Jason Williams and later from Mike Bibby. There were non-stop three-point bombs dropped by Peja Stojakovic and Doug Christie. And, of course, a ridiculous clinic on interior passing provided by Chris Webber and Vlade Divac.
It's an unbelievable stretch to think that this Kings team can even approach the standard set by that explosive group.
But these Kings might be the most talented group Sacramento has seen since.
That starts with Cousins, a 6'11", 270-pound mountain of flashy footwork, soft shooting touch and rim-rattling finishing ability. Even the big man's missteps are magical:
Then it falls on the lesser-known commodities like Thomas, Williams and rookie Ben McLemore.
Thomas is lightning quick with a sharp eye for finding the basket (.457/.425/.868 slash line). Williams hasn't lost the skills that solidified his draft position, he's just still learning how to translate them to this stage (career 10.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 22.8 minutes). McLemore oozes potential out of his 6'5", 195-pound frame thanks to a silky smooth shooting stroke and elite athleticism.
And then there's Gay, a mercurial presence in today's game.
His career 18.0 scoring average hasn't scored him many points with the analytical crowd, but the Kings faithful hold no preconceived notions.
Gay could be the final piece to the puzzle or the straw that breaks the camel's back.
But it's hard not to hope for the former.
Sure, the drama would be entertaining if Gay and Cousins are fighting for touches. Or Malone melts down when his pleas for defense fall on deaf ears among this offensive-minded crowd.
Good moves or not, though, at least Sacramento is finally stepping outside of that forgotten box. Maybe this transformation is being rushed. Maybe these moves don't paint the collective picture forming inside Ranadive's mind.
It's far too early to tell.
But the talent is undeniable. The appeal is real.
The Kings are deserving of our viewing attention, for better or worse. After years of silence, the cowbell is finally banging again.
*Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of NBA.com.
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