Fork 'Em: Sacramento Kings
(Man, how long has that fork been in dude's back? Looks rough.) The Kings have not been above .500 since December 4, 2006. Officially eliminated from playoff contention earlier this week, Sacramento hasn't been able to put together a winning streak of even two games since the second week of November. The Kings boast (boast?) the fifth-worst defense of the modern era. To date, Sacramento has racked up an 0-24 record against the East.
Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. What went wrong? What went wrong?! Wrong question, Holmes. Everything went wrong.
The team executed the trade of Ron Artest for two reasons: Ron Artest does not do well on losing teams, and the Kings were able to slip two draft picks (one already consummated) out of Houston. But clearly, the trade made the team worse in the immediate term.
The bad summer move was giving up the full mid-level to Beno Udrih -- five years, $30 million. Udrih made people smile a bit last season, offering something wholly different than Mike Bibby, whom Kings fans had grumbled about for several years. (Grumbling and salary have a direct positive relationship.) In the end, Udrih really did offer something completely different than Bibby: Mike has been great this season, while Beno has sucked. Too many turnovers, too little scoring, absolutely no defense ... I mean, Beno is basically a microcosm for the entire franchise.
On the positive side, Kevin Martin is still a scoring maniac, and could very well finish over 60% True Shooting for the fourth consecutive season (unprecedented for a 20 ppg scorer). Jason Thompson has been one of the league's brightest rookies -- he's a screamer, a fighter and a killer rebounder. His mistakes have been those which can be fixed -- on defense, he fouls too much and needs to learn the dark arts of boxing out ... and the white art of rotating. He'll learn, and be somewhere been great and GREAT. Spencer Hawes sits in the same zone, with more potential and risk.
Really, this team is in mid-combustion. The team will load up with three of the top 31 or 32 picks in the draft, including an almost certain top-3 shot. Sacramento can't be major players in free agency without some trickery, but Geoff Petrie has been known to whip out some trickery.
On that note, remember that the last time the Kings were this bad -- 1997-98 -- something wild happened. That summer, following the gawdawful season, Petrie managed to: trade for Chris Webber, sign Vlade Divac, draft Jason Williams, bring Peja Stojakovic over from Greece and hire Rick Adelman. That's almost an entire starting line-up, and one of the era's better coaches. Sleep on the Kings for the next six weeks, just as the entire league (save the Clips) has slept on Sacramento all season. But do not sleep on the 2010 Kings. Or the 2011 Kings. Or the 2012 Kings. We'll be back, suckers.