The Kings who battled the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals are becoming forgotten.
As a child growing up I loved the Sacramento Kings. I've always preferred good team basketball over individual dominance and I love rooting for the underdog. The Kings offered me both of these traits and much more. Needless to say I ate it up. With the perfect mixture of chemistry and talent the Kings were able to establish themselves among the leagues elite and make multiple deep playoff runs. Unfortunately the NBA was going through a bit of crisis when the Kings were peaking: AKA Tim Donaghy (Kobe should only have 4 rings), but thats a whole different article. Everyone on the team had their role, Bibby commanded the offense and provided an offensive spark, Christie specialized in shut down defense, Stojakovic let it rain from downtown (except in the playoffs), Webber led the team in scoring, and Divac mastered the art of flailing his arms and yelling, which often prompted the refs to blow the whistle. Yes the Kings had quite the team back in the day, but time can really change things.
Management never said one day "Ok guys, we've had our run, now it's time to rebuild." Instead, it was a long, drawn out process that ended up hurting basketball in Sacramento to the point that the Maloof brothers were exploring the option of relocating. One by one the beloved players who made the Kings perennial contenders were shipped out or let go. Christie was the first to go when the Kings traded him to the Magic for Cuttino Mobley. Vlade, who ended up signing with the Lakers but never actually played due to injuries, was next as the Kings decided not to extend the big man with a quickly depleting game. In 2005 Webber didn't hide the fact that he wasn't happy with the Kings anymore so he was shipped to the 76ers for ten cents on the dollar (Kings got Brian Skinner, Kenny Thomas, Corliss Williamson). In 2006, Stojakovic was traded to the Pacers for troubled small forward Ron Artest, and finally in 2008 the Kings cut ties with Mike Bibby, the last player to remain from the glory days. So as you can see, the wheels were falling off the wagon for quite some time, but instead of accepting this the Kings delayed the rebuilding process which kept them in an overdrawn state of mediocrity.
Fear no more Kings fans, it appears there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to hitting the jackpot in last years draft with Tyreke Evans and potentially again in this years with DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings now have a solid, talented young core to build around. Gone are the days of ultimate Adelman team basketball, however with their new players, new opportunities for greatness await.
Front office is doing a nice job surrounding the two young hot shots. The Kings bring to the table an influx of young, talented big men. The Kings acquired Samuel Dalembert from the 76ers this off-season to provide a much needed defensive presence, they landed Carl Landry in a trade with the Rockets and also have budding young power forward Jason Thompson on their roster. Throw in Cousins and the only potential problem I see with this group is getting them all the playing time they deserve. The backcourt consists of a couple nice youngins to play alongside Evans in Omri Cassipi and Donte Greene. The only real glaring hole I see with this roster is at the point guard position where Evans will likely take over for the most part this season until the team can land the right player.
The Kings can certainly put checkmarks in both the talent and potential boxes, but it remains to be seen if this group can gel as a team. Attitudes are certainly aplenty on this roster, with the teams two cornerstones certainly being no exception. I can see this ship going one of two ways, and really both ways could not be more opposite. The ideal way would be if Phil Westphal can find the right balance of playing time amongst his big men, Tyreke Evans continues to grow, Cousins disposes of all those rumors circulating that he is the next Derrick Coleman, and everybody plays team basketball to some degree (I'm a realist, we might be raving about this group of players next season but I'm sure it will be for different reasons than team basketball). The other way would be if none of the above happened, which in reality is very possible. A lot of pieces need to fall in place for the Kings, but look for them to significantly improve on their 25 game win mark from last season.
The idea of Sacramento returning to prominence excites me. I am certain things will never be as good as they once were, but you can't hold on to the past forever. Kings fans have something to look forward to for the first time in years, and if they can finally get permission to build a new stadium (I love Arco Arena but that building is so out of date it couldn't even be classified as an antique) basketball could most certainly become a mainstay in the area.