Yesterday morning, before the semi-insane Kings-Raptors trade featuring Rudy Gay, I asked my friend Greg Wissinger (@Gwiss) over at Sactown Royalty some questions about his team, the Sacramento Kings. I apologize for not having anything related to the trade here, but if you want to know more, I recommend visiting their page: Sactown Royalty.
1. Sacramento's off to a rough start, yet I've not seen some of the frustration from Kings writers as in years past. What's going on?
The difference is the changes at the top. With new ownership, a new GM, and a new coach who has the full support of the front office, Kings fans are in a bit of a honeymoon period. We understand that much of the current roster was compiled by the past regime, and that the new group needs time to implement their vision. And they've been active in working to improve the roster, as evidenced by yesterday's reported trade for Rudy Gay.
It also helps that the product on the floor has been fun, despite the poor record. The Kings have been competitive most nights, even against good teams. With this year's draft class, Kings fans are smart enough to be happy with fun games that ultimately result in close losses. We'd love a couple extra wins, but we're in a marvelous position compared to the past several years.
2. How is Ben McLemore doing so far? I've not seen him play since summer league.
McLemore played well enough to earn a spot in the starting line-up. That's due to a combination of his play, and the poor play of Sacramento's other shooting guards. Marcus Thornton began the season as the starter, and is now in a game-by-game battle to maintain playing time over Jimmer Fredette.
Since moving to the starting line-up, McLemore has had many moments where he looks like a rookie. He rushes things at times, and fails to rush things at others. But he's also the best player on the roster in terms of moving without the ball. He's incredible on fast breaks. And he's good for one heart-stopping dunk attempt every game. I say attempt because he's missed several massive dunks, but he's so exciting that it's a thrill even when he misses. He's much better than he was in Summer League, but he still has a lot of room to grow.
3. Kings have already made one move to acquire Derrick Williams; what other moves might be on the horizon?
This question was posed to me before the Rudy Gay trade, which shows you just how aggressive the Kings are being in the trade market. Two trades before mid-December in nearly unheard of. The Kings are being aggressive for two reasons. First, they want to improve the product on the floor. Second, they want to rid the roster of the past regime's mistakes. Removing John Salmons from the roster is enough for most Kings fans to consider this trade a win, despite Gay's contract and his shooting struggles.
I believe the Kings will remain aggressive. But they are also going to make trades on their terms. This trade is a massive talent improvement, and they sent out expiring contracts tied to players who haven't been producing. Sacramento is still a long ways away from being a desirable destination for free agents, so the trade makes sense. The Kings will be built through trades and the draft. I doubt the Kings are done making moves. The next one could be tomorrow, it could be at the trade deadline, or it could be in the offseason, but the front office is far from done.
4. Mavs fans might not be aware of Isaiah Thomas and what he's done this season. Could you give us a recap of his season to date and what he brings to the Kings?
Isaiah Thomas has been wonderful this season. He's currently leading all NBA bench scorers, although the Rudy Gay trade shipped out Greivis Vasquez, ensuring Thomas a spot in the starting line-up. Thomas' play is why the front office was comfortable trading away Vasquez, who the Kings had just acquired this summer in a sign-and-trade that sent Tyreke Evans to the Pelicans.
Isaiah is 11th in the NBA in PER. The other night he outscored the Thunder 21-19 in the fourth quarter. He still isn't a great defender, but he's a fan favorite in Sacramento and has been just wonderful.
5. With a 5-18 record, another trip to the lotto seems likely without a massive turn around. What are the goals for the Kings this season?
I alluded to this earlier, but this Kings season isn't about wins and losses. Prior to the season we heard a consistent message from the team's ownership, management, and coach, that this season was about changing the culture. The Kings need to remove the negative elements from the past several years. They are working to win back the community and the casual fans. They're improving the customer experience in the arena, which was atrocious.
A quick example, the new ownership spent a significant amount of money upgrading the parking lot, the visitor's locker room, the media area, the concourse, and the restrooms (which were notoriously left in disrepair by the Maloofs). Keep in mind, these are improvements to a structure that will be abandoned and destroyed within the next few years.
So while Kings fans would of course like to see a few extra wins, this year is about so much more. We've been compared to an abused puppy, and we're learning to love and trust again. That's what this season is about.