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This Must Be The Place: A Sacramento Kings Season Preview

US Presswire

US Presswire


This year, for the first time, Hickory-High will be tackling the challenging of crafting season previews for all thirty NBA teams. Beginning today we’ll be rolling out these previews, one each day, leading up to Opening Night. This was a task of considerable size and complexity and it required the help of every member of our staff. The only guidelines given were that each writer approach team by staying true to their own style and the result is season previews of a difference sort. We hope you enjoy!

I. Home Is Where I Want To Be

Most completed previews on this site have focused on young players and the big nebulous future ahead of them. Most of the forthcoming previews will discuss winning basketball games, specifically how and how many. The Sacramento Kings have goals in both of these areas, but this offseason has felt more like a victory lap than a bad team attempting to retool. As you may have heard, Kevin Johnson and co. put together an ownership group and arena plan which forced the Maloofs out of the NBA for good and back to their cake-flavored vodka Palms suite of sadness. In the first few months of the Ranadive regime, the team made it’s best basketball moves of the past seven years. These transactions have been wonderfully logical and simple (draft the best player available, don’t throw big dumb contracts out because ‘loyalty’, buy low). Amazing what happens when an ownership group isn’t trying to actively sabotage it’s on court product in order to get out of Dodge. Those halcyon days of hearing that “James Johnson and Aaron Brooks are here to turn this franchise around why are all of you laughing” have mercifully faded into the realm of memory.

30 Previews, 30 Days

9/29 – Orlando Magic
9/30 – Charlotte Bobcats
10/1 – Cleveland Cavaliers
10/2 – Phoenix Suns
10/3 – New Orleans Pelicans
10/4 – Sacramento Kings
10/5 – Washington Wizards
10/6 – Detroit Pistons
10/7 – Minnesota Timberwolves
10/8 – Portland Trail Blazers
10/9 – Toronto Raptors
10/10 – Philadelphia 76ers
10/11 – Milwaukee Bucks
10/12 – Dallas Mavericks
10/13 – Boston Celtics
10/14 – Utah Jazz
10/15 – Atlanta Hawks
10/16 – Los Angeles Lakers
10/17 – Houston Rockets
10/18 – Chicago Bulls
10/19 – Golden State Warriors
10/20 – Brooklyn Nets
10/21 – Indiana Pacers
10/22 – New York Knicks
10/23 – Memphis Grizzlies
10/24 – Los Angeles Clippers
10/25 – Denver Nuggets
10/26 – San Antonio Spurs
10/27 – Oklahoma City Thunder
10/28 – Miami Heat
All Previews

What happens next is, of course, basketball. The roster is trending away from it’s “Island of Misfit Toys” past, but it’s still weird. Specifically, it’s got a lot of little dudes and not many who like to pass the ball and a lot of of big dudes but not many who can defend the rim. With the southward departure of Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins nominally becomes the main man for the first time, even if he was already the on-court leader for one and a half seasons. Cousins remains cloudy, but he might start to take form this year with some real coaching. Certain NBA players are there because they worked hard and polished their games endlessly, but some are so talented their ascendancy into the league is inevitable. Sometimes, players who progress all the way to the lottery without doing much of anything besides be really good at basketball find this approach doesn’t quite work out against NBA competition. Cousins rode his pedigree and bodily inertia all the way to a top draft slot and a status as one of the best rebounders in the game, all while rarely giving a shit at any juncture. There is something ominous surrounding DeMarcus Cousins: Basketball Player, as if he is one screw-tightening away from laying waste to the entire league. Cousins is full of snarling toughness, which could either fit new Head Coach Mike Malone’s skull-cracking ethos perfectly or make for a swift and ugly departure. We don’t know. This team is coarse and full of potential in various states of availability. That gets to what makes the Kings such a fascinating mess. There are plenty of crappy teams in the NBA, but none have as corrosive a culture as the ‘08-’12 Kings did.

II. Never For Money. Always For Love.

For all the mystery surrounding the Kings, the team won’t win a lot of games. Intriguingly bad is still bad. But sometimes just existing is enough. While fans desires will soon turn towards winning basketball games and fielding a competitive team, the warm glow from keeping the team grounded in such an emphatic way has people basking. This is unusual for a team fresh off its seventh straight losing season, and the psychic gymnastics involved with accepting a certain amount of settling can be understood through the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place.” In the famous video, David Byrne dances around with a lamp, symbolizing his alliance with the foreign and potentially hostile idea of domestic bliss. The Kings fans here are the lamp, pushed and pulled on the whims of a skinny, dynamic leader. Following a team and truly, emotionally buying in can be a scary thing, and fandom has the potential to frustrate more than most attachments. However, anyone rooting for the Kings is in the honeymoon, a beautiful salad days afterglow where it feels right to “make it up as we go along.”

When a new braintrust comes into power on a bad NBA team, they typically discuss forthcoming plans with a clumsily obscured rhetoric of ‘TANKING GOOD, DRAFT PICKS GOOD.’ This is sort of how things work in today’s NBA. Teams attempt to emulate the Thunder model because it feels the safest and perhaps easiest way to build a good team — which ignores the fact that they had to get incredibly lucky multiple times for that to work — and even now it is showing its cracks. Sacramento’s new basketball intelligentsia have not shied away from this, even going as far as maybe or maybe not electing to sign Andre Igoudala in order to preserve their own bubble a little longer. Igoudala is an incredible player, just the right amount of weirdness, but he may have not made a lot of sense on a Kings team that is just righting it’s ship for the first time. This move was not without its detractors, but the cynical vitriol was missing. There is a trust in place. The latent anxiety around the team’s existence has vaporized.

III. You Got A Face With A View

If you start to type ‘Talking Heads’ into any Google search bar, the titular song of this piece will usually pop up in the suggestions. The other song they suggest, “Once In A Lifetime”, is the band’s other very famous song and also the antithesis of all the ideas espoused in “This Must Be The Place.” In the former, Byrne paints domestic life as something not chosen or flowery, but rather as a catch-all of people living with blinders on. The juxtaposition of the two is kind of fascinating, and it can provide another window into the Kings fan experience. Over the last eight years, the entire team has lapsed further into dysfunction, until Sacramentoans were forced to confront important and basic questions of civic identity and fandom. It became easy to resign oneself to the fact that Sacramento’s future would be the same as it ever was, a topography-less little brother to the Bay Area, a place to pass through on the road to Tahoe or Yosemite. Many national media types called into question the legitimacy of Sacramento’s NBA bonafides, and things seemed dark. However, this hypothetical, barren future was avoided through a new marriage between city and businessman. Rather than staring at the dark side of a relationship gone sour, fans were treated to a new, conscious and healthy arrangement. Both the city of Sacramento and it’s Kings are privy to a series of inferiority complexes and pessimism can come naturally. The “Once In A Lifetime” reality was avoided and here we are, finally hopeful again.

Instead of picking between the Warriors, the Sonics or NBA-free lives, Sacramento fans get a new lease on fandom. The Kings won’t be in the playoffs this year, but there is reason for optimism. Ben McLemore has looked out of his element at times, but now that Sacramento theoretically has the proper guidance and culture, his talent will have the opportunity to gestate fully. The core of something resembling a functional basketball team is starting to assemble, headlined by McLemore and Cousins, fleshed out by solid players like Greivis Vasquez and Jason Thompson. No longer will fans have to watch brutal, aimless basketball! Team-based existential crises are merely bad dreams! Feet on the ground, head in the sky. It’s okay, I know nothing’s wrong. Higher!

  • john

    These takes are actually fascinating.

    • Ian Levy

      Thanks for reading and commenting John! Patrick’s off drinking beer in the woods this weekend but I’ll make sure he sees your comment when he returns to civilization.

  • abe

    nice writing big red

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