As of today, there's a reasonable chance that we could see a first-ever Battle of Northern California first round matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
Given that the two teams have shared Northern California for more than 30 years, it says quite a bit about both franchises that Golden State and Sacramento haven’t ever even appeared in the postseason in the same year.
However, while the Warriors have ascended to the top of the league, are the Kings really ready to end their current 10-year playoff drought?
For some insight, I got in touch with Greg Wissinger of Sactown Royalty to take the pulse of the organization and get a sense of their direction.
Q&A with Sactown Royalty
GSoM: First, after a highly publicized and long battle, the Kings’ new arena has been built and they have firm roots in Sacramento. After all of that, what are your thoughts on the Golden1 Center and the fan experience there? Is there any concern about the rising prices or the loss of the old environment (something DubNation is a bit anxious about with the upcoming move to SF)?
Greg Wissinger: I haven't been there myself yet, but the reviews from everyone have been overwhelmingly positive. The biggest key is that the design purposefully kept the seats close to the floor, even eliminating cup holders in the upper level to move seats as close to the action as possible. The result has been a state of the art arena that still feels like an intimate venue.
GSoM: Moving on toward actual basketball, the Kings are right in the thick of the playoff race but I also think it's fair to say that they're clearly a tier below the teams in front of them. Is there any feeling among Kings fans that you'd rather have a lottery pick than sneaking into the playoffs? Or are people just ready to return to the postseason?
GW: The Kings are in the smorgasbord of mediocrity that is the Western Conference teams below the 7th seed. I don't think there's a consensus yet. Most of us expect the team to unload players like Rudy Gay (who will be an unrestricted free agent) before the trade deadline, but doing that probably means conceding any chance at the playoffs. Regardless of what the fans may want, though, the front office seems ready to go all in for a playoff appearance.
GSoM: How are you feeling about the rumors regarding Sacramento’s interest in trading for Paul Millsap? What are the pros and cons of that deal in your opinion?
GW: I'd love to have Millsap as a King. I think he'd be great next to Boogie. That said, I'm firmly in “I'll believe it when I see it” mode.
The gamble would be if you could convince Millsap to re-sign in the offseason. The Kings will have the cap space to pay him well. The hope would be that a few months is enough to convince him that the franchise is worth staying with.
GSoM: One of our contributors recently said that it seems that the Kings’ culture needs to change in order to get the most out of DeMarcus Cousins but that pushing the reset button and moving on from Cousins is the best way to change the culture. What is your current stance on what the Kings should do with Cousins?
GW: I believe Cousins has been part of the culture problem in Sacramento and that it would be easier to change the culture without him, but I believe his talent is great enough that it's worth taking the harder path in order to retain him. Teams like Sacramento don't get players of Boogie’s caliber. I think you hold onto him.
GSoM: Garrett Temple is one of the handful of proven NBA players under contract for next season. What kind of impact has he had on his team so far this season? How valuable is he to the team's future plans?
GW: Temple has been a pleasant surprise to even those of us who liked the signing. He's been consistent, he plays great defense, and he's arguably been Sacramento’s third best player this season. We're happy with the signing and I don't expect him to be going anywhere.
GSoM: The running joke is that the Kings are a mess of an organization that really doesn't know what it's doing. But with them challenging for a playoff spot now, do you see a more clear path forward for this team to be successful in the future? Are there positives about the franchise that people are overlooking?
GW: We get tired of the jokes about the Kings, but we also recognize that a lot of it is deserved. That said, I don't think it's fair to hold the Maloof era against the Kings. People already seem to forget just how awful they were as owners and how much they set this team back.
Vivek Ranadive hasn't done himself any favors since taking over. The team has consistently mishandled big tasks that should be simple. That said, I think the team might finally be heading in the right direction. The hiring of Dave Joerger should bring stability. He has his faults like any coach, but he's a good coach and you can see what he's trying to do. And I think the Kings were wise to not throw out huge money for second-tier players last summer. They signed Arron Afflalo and Anthony Tolliver to deals that are essentially one-year contracts. They have Rudy and Darren Collison expiring. They'll have a lot of flexibility going forward.
Now they just have to use that cap space without making a huge mistake.
For more on the Kings, check out Sactown Royalty.