Kings' future far from locked in Sacramento

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Kings' future far from locked in Sacramento

The Sacramento Kings may have avoided the bullet for now, but if folks think this is absolutely the sure beginning of peace and stability for the plucky little team that can't sit still, well, you may want to give it another think.

Monday's announcement, designed mostly to make sure that Mayor Kevin Johnson got the credit and NBA commissioner David Stern got to be the dean of students, also had the additional component of perhaps beginning the slow process of selling the team by the Maloofs, Gavin and Joe, and George, even though they have consistently maintained they are not interested in selling the team.

Their financial setbacks are well known, the direness of their straits well documented.

NEWS: Deal in place to keep Kings in Sacramento

Even after cobbling out this deal, their position as owners of the basketball team may be no less tenuous than before. In fact, it might even be said that this may have hastened their departure rather than slowed it.

The Maloofs haven't been bad owners. When they were flush, they spent on the team. They are no longer, and their attempt to move to Anaheim last year, while seeming a slap in the face of their current fan base, would not have changed their generally parlous financial state.

In short, they own a team without the throw-weight to put behind it, and even a belated discovery of good intentions isn't the same as stability.

So the Kings may end up being for sale, perhaps sooner rather than later -- and that means that this shiny new arena hard by downtown Sactown has value if and only if the lease with the Kings is not only for a long time, but is ironclad and cannot be broken without the city being made financially whole, and then some.

The lesson of Seattle should be the lesson of Sacramento. Seattle made a run at the Kings because it lost the SuperSonics, because the team's owner, Howard Schultz, sold to a guy named Clay Bennett who lives in Oklahoma, and because there was wiggle room in the Key Arena situation,

Bennett could pick up the team and move it to Oklahoma City, which he did. Thus, Johnson's smile must be short-lived, because he is going to have to be hands-on with the sale of the team. Not because it's his team, but because if he isn't even more diligent than he has been, it might not be.

If they do decide to sell, the Maloofs are going to want sell to the highest bidder, and the league will approve it because the league is run by other owners who will want to do the same thing when their times come. That highest bidder could be like Bennett -- unmarried to the city where the team currently resides -- and without a lease and an agreement that is unlawyerable, the Kings might leave anyway.

That's the thing about building a place that relies on an irreplaceable tenant. The tenant ends up with the leverage, and the allegiance follows the leverage. In other words, the team owner can try to leave through any loophole the lease doesn't cover, and team owners usually have David Stern's allegiance, not mayors.

Thus, the issue for Kevin Johnson isn't over, even if the city council signs off on the arena plan that is supposed to keep the Kings. It is just starting, and that means his legal people need to be better than the legal people the unknown potential owner has. After all, nothing is over until the fine print says it's over.

And even then, you're never completely sure.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Kings fall flat after emotional win last time out

Kings fall flat after emotional win last time out

SACRAMENTO -- Managing expectations. The Sacramento Kings are neither the team that blasted the Denver Nuggets by a final of 116-100 on Thursday night, nor the group that was flattened 99-85 on Saturday afternoon by the Charlotte Hornets. They are likely somewhere in between.

As Dave Joerger searched for combinations that work together, the Kings struggled with massive bouts of inconsistency Saturday. They are a team of veteran role players and young talent, none of which have ever been a focal point of an NBA offense in their careers.

It’s a work in progress for all involved. Sacramento has 23 games remaining on the schedule and it will take plenty of those games to once again balance out the lineups.

“It’s tough right now, trying to acclimate everyone in and trying to move forward,” point guard Darren Collison said.

Willie Cauley-Stein had a breakout 29-point, 10-rebound game against Denver just two days ago, but things change when a team has time to gameplan. The second-year big scored just two points and grabbed two rebounds in 28 minutes of action against Charlotte as they clogged the middle and took away the pick-and-roll.

“I think teams are definitely going to start doing that now, playing the pick-and-roll where we’re not getting layups and dunks,” Cauley-Stein said. “They’re going to challenge us from the 3-point line. But me personally, I’ve just got to find other ways to make an impact.”

On top of the lack of scoring and rebounding, both Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos struggled to stay with mobile big man Frank Kaminsky on the perimeter. The 23-year-old center doubled his season average, finishing the night with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Kaminsky knocked in 5-of-9 from long range as the Kings’ big chose to take away All-Star Kemba Walker and sagged off the University of Wisconsin product. The rotations were slow, which is to be expected from a team that is just starting to come together.

“Tonight was a situation where you had a team that is a veteran team, a very physical team,” Joerger said in his postgame comments. “They pushed us around the court most of the night with their size and their experience at all positions.”

There were still some positives to take away from the lopsided loss. Skal Labissiere is finding a way to produce since making his way into the rotation. The 20-year-old rookie played 23 minutes off Joerger’s bench, scoring eight points on 4-of-10 shooting while grabbing 13 rebounds.

“Obviously, he’s got a lot of potential,” Anthony Tolliver said. “For him, I just tell him every day, ‘just go out there and play hard, man, everything else will take care of itself.’ As he starts to get more comfortable, that’s when he’s going to start to make a big impact.”

Taken with the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Labissiere has played very sparingly over the first two-thirds of the season, but with very little depth at the power position, he has received an opportunity and taken advantage of it. His length and athleticism were on full display against the Hornets.

Rookie Buddy Hield added 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, but 13 of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was long out of hand. He struggled to find a rhythm early, like most of the Kings perimeter players.  

Ben McLemore chipped in 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Like Hield all but two of those points came after the intermission and after the Kings had already fallen behind by double-digits.

Tyreke Evans started in his second game back with the Kings, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists. The veteran wing played well defensively, but he’s still searching for his place with this team.

Sacramento gets a shot to redeem themselves on Monday when the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves drop by Golden 1 Center. With the loss they fell a game and half behind the Nuggets in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Instant Replay: Flat Kings routed by Kaminsky, Hornets

Instant Replay: Flat Kings routed by Kaminsky, Hornets

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- It’s going to be a process. After a big win on Thursday night over the Denver Nuggets, the Sacramento Kings looked every bit the part of a team that had just completely revamped its roster on the fly. The result was a disappointing 99-85 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento left big man Frank Kaminsky open all night and he torched them from the perimeter. The second-year center scored 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point land while grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out three assists.

Nic Batum couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting just 4-of-17 from the field on the night. He stall managed to impact the game in a positive way for Charlotte, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds.

Marvin Williams chipped in 16 points and six rebounds. All-Star Kemba Walker scored just 12 points and dished out six assists and Marco Belinelli added 13 points and six rebounds in the win.

Rookie Skal Labissiere put up solid numbers for the second straight game. After bouncing back and forth between Sacramento and the Reno Bighorns all season long, the athletic big dropped in eight points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

Ben McLemore rallied late to score 18 points on 3-of-7 shooting from deep.

Buddy Hield went for 15, although most of his points came when the game was out of hand. Darren Collison added 10 points and five assists

Anthony Tolliver was one of the few players to find their range as the Kings fell behind early. The veteran knocked down 3-for-6 from long range on his way to 11 points.

Tyreke Evans turned back the clock and showed flashes of the player that averaged 20-5-5 as a rookie. The 27-year-old wing dropped in 11 points, five rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes starting at the small forward spot for Sacramento.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Kaminsky lit the Kings up. More of a stretch four than a true center, the second-year big looked very comfortable all night long.

TURNING POINT:
Charlotte finished the first half strong to take an 11 point lead into the break. Coming out of the intermission, the Hornets jumped all over the Kings, using a 12-0 run to start the third and push their lead to 23.

INJURY UPDATE:
Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson sat again with varying degrees of hamstring issues. Afflalo continues to be listed as day-to-day with hamstring stiffness. Temple is out for another few games with a left hamstring tear and rookie Richardson is out 4-6 weeks with a right hamstring thickness tear, but hopes to return before the season is finished. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings are back in action Monday evening when Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves roll through Sacramento.