The Sacramento Kings open their NBA season tonight in Phoenix with a new coach and a new arena, but with a roster that isn’t much different from the dysfunctional bunch that was the worst defensive team in the league last year.
The new coach is Dave Joerger, who got the Memphis Grizzlies into the playoffs three of the four years he coached them by putting a heavy emphasis on defense. Last year’s effort was particularly impressive, making the playoffs even through he was forced to suit up 26 different players during the injury-riddled season.
But Joerger was not happy with the team’s management, so when rumors started spreading he was looking for another job, the team fired him. The Kings scooped him up after deciding future Hall of Fame coach George Karl couldn’t solve their problems.
Joerger has his work cut out for him, inheriting a team that has missed the playoffs 10 years in a row and had the worst defense in the league last season, allowing 109.1 points per game.
The team’s ownership did little to improve the team’s roster during the off-season, drafting two more big men they don’t need and failing to sign any free agents who could actually improve the team’s performance. As it is, they have all-star center DeMarcus Cousins, high-scoring small forward Rudy Gay who will probably be traded, and a bunch of role players who play average to lousy defense.
Want an example of how bad it is? The Kings will start Ty Lawson at the all-important point guard position, a guy two teams didn’t want last year because of personal issues, and who missed a practice and a team flight when he was trying to make the team. The guy they want to start, Darren Collison, is serving an eight-game suspension for domestic abuse.
Joerger is the team’s ninth coach in 10 years, and the fourth under principal owner Vivek Ranadive, who tried the defensive route earlier when he hired coach Michael Malone. He lasted little more than one season.We’ll see if Ranadive is more patient this time.
At least the team can entertain its fan in the new $557 million Golden 1 Center, where they can recline in comfort while they wash down the $13 hot dogs with $14 beers and wait for the Kings to get better. (This assumes they’ll have any money left after paying $145 for the cheapest seat on opening night.)
At least the Golden State Warriors will be on national television a lot this season.
TALENT SEARCH: Despite the good draft positions the Kings have enjoyed in recent years, they have been unable to draft a rookie who’s good enough to start on a team that hasn’t made the play-offs in 10 seasons. New general manager Vlade Divac has given no indication he’s the next Theo Epstein, but there’s always the hope Ranadive will eventually wise up like ex-49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo did.
THANKS A LOT: You would think the NBA would help the Kings make opening night in Golden 1 Center a big success by scheduling an opponent like Brooklyn or the L.A. Lakers. Instead they get San Antonio Thursday, which crushed the Warriors by 29 points Tuesday.