The Sacramento Kings are having the worst offseason in the NBA, and it’s not close.
The Kings have most recently been criticised for making a lopsided, salary-dump trade in which they gave up two players, their 2014 No. 8 pick in Nik Stauskas, a top-1o protected pick, and the right to swap two future first-round picks for two European prospects and a second-round pick.
However, that trade follows a slow trainwreck that’s been building since December.
The Kings then flopped through the rest of the season with interim coach Tyrone Corbin, who was given a new contract, suggesting he’d finish out the year as coach. Instead, two months later, the Kings then let go of Corbin and hired George Karl as head coach. At the time, there were reports that Cousins and his camp opposed the hiring.
The Kings missed the playoffs for the ninth year in a row, and the team has since seemingly fallen apart. Reports surfaced just before the NBA Draft that the Kings were considering trading Cousins, with Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski saying it was unlikely Cousins and Karl could “peacefully co-exist.”
Furthermore, Wojnarowski reported that Karl was the one pushing the trade and trying to gain support from the Kings’ front office, despite vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac saying they wouldn’t trade Cousins.
Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reported that Cousins and Karl haven’t spoken since April. Around the time of the reports, Cousins tweeted a thinly veiled shot at Karl:
This created another rift between Karl — who is known for wanting to have a say in personnel control — and Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, who was frustrated with Karl’s meddling.
Now, the Kings face an unpleasant dilemma: fire Karl, who’s their sixth coach in four years, or trade Cousins, one of the best talents in the NBA.
Firing Karl seems to be the better option, but that doesn’t make it easy. It adds further instability to the organisation, and strangely empowers Cousins. Cousins hasn’t gotten along with a majority of the Kings’ coaches during his five-year career, and firing another coach doesn’t make Sacramento an easy sell for any future coaches, knowing they will lose their jobs if they get off to a slow start or don’t get along with Cousins.
And this is only off-the-court. The Kings are also having their issues with fielding an actually competitive roster.
Though they cleared lots of cap space with the aforementioned Sixers trade, their plans to use it are not all that appealing. They were reportedly targeting a combination of Rajon Rondo, Wesley Matthews, and Monta Ellis with the space, a plan that makes little sense.
Ellis signed with the Pacers and actually reportedly left money on the table from the Kings, who offered him $US4.3 million more than the Pacers. Rondo had a horrible 2014-15 season and is a poor fit for a roster that lacks reliable shooters. Matthews, though one of the best wing players in the NBA, is coming off a torn Achilles, a historically devastating injury in the NBA, and is seeking $US15 million per year, which the Kings might meet. Matthews could end up being a good signing, but the risk is there.
At the beginning of last season, the Kings seemed to be on the right track, getting off to a 9-5 start with a decent squad, a stable relationship between Cousins and Malone, and the promise of cap space. They have since hired a coach that doesn’t get along with their star and is trying to undermine the front office, and are looking chase undesirable free agents or overpay the best ones.
Now, the Kings have so many issues to handle that it seems their gradual rebuilding process has taken several steps backwards.