THE SHOCKER’s TEAM DREAMS: 2016–17 NBA Previews: The Sacramento Kings Are The Best Of The NBA’s Worst, And Deserve Your Respect
Before directly addressing the beautiful disaster of the Sacramento Kings, let me establish a rubric of sorts:
In the NBA, you can be Banal Bad, which is the least offensive but most boring variety. The Brooklyn Nets were Banal Bad last year, and are trying to be Productive Bad. Productive Bad means the team sucks by various objective metrics due to raw inexperience, but signs of future quality can be distinguished. The Phoenix Suns, for example, turned into Productive Bad after being numerous shades of Banal and Horrific Bad throughout the 2015–16 season, and want to continue being Productive Bad. Last year’s Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic were a similar mix of Productive Bad and Banal Bad — usually the former — while the Timberwolves were a reliable Productive Bad.
By contrast, the Philadelphia 76ers’ claimed to be Productive Bad from 2013 to 2016 but were most frequently Horrific Bad. Horrific Bad is a confluence of inexcusably shitty on-court basketball and front-office or locker-room melodrama, which sums up the Sixers and the Los Angeles Lakers with bow-tie succinctness.
And finally we come to Chaotic Bad. Several teams have adopted Chaotic Bad in recent years, but the Sacramento Kings were born in it.
Freakish joy overcomes NBA Twitter whenever some weird shit happens with the Kings — like Sacramento’s become the fucking Mets. First come the tweets, then the clickbait posts, then the defenses of the team by fan-blog writers and impassioned Sactown-loving tweeters (all of which is totally understandable). Eventually focus shifts to the next remarkable or outrageous NBA occurrence, but when the Kings disrupt the flow of things, they do so with grand, furious noise.
If the Kings front office ever experienced a tectonic shift that removed the team’s owner/Pinterest enthusiast/personified Upworthy article Vivek Ranadive from any decision-making processes, or if the team were to click this year under the reasonably sound stewardship of Dave Joerger, win enough games for an 8-seed and a respectable playoff run…well, numerous NBA fans wouldn’t know what to do. They would wonder where their joke fodder went, why their tweet-zings weren’t impressing as many impressions. They cry’d out in vain, needing the Kings to be fish shot in a barrel, like M*lo Yappa-dappa-dick-d*polous, or Drake.
…And then the stadium would probably explode or Ben McLemore would reveal that he was Literally Satan or something, but still. The league’s audience at large is not ready to process the Sacramento Kings as “getting there,” which is what Joerger seems to hope for per various interviews he’s given, let alone “good.” This is because their default state has been Chaotic Bad for nearly a decade.
Chaotic Bad teams are not necessarily “bad” by win-loss record. Slightly below .500 is the common range, and some Chaotic Bad teams, like last year’s Houston Rockets, squeak into the playoffs.
The true baseline for Chaotic Bad teams involves inexplicable decisions on and off the court that produce perversely compelling and endlessly frustrating results. Like drafting Ben McLemore…and having four centers on the roster and firing the only coach to successfully bond with your mercurial franchise player (and Pokemon Master) Boogie Cousins and getting fleeced in trades by buffalo-demon snowboardin’ Sam Hinkie and not telling Vlade Divac that he actually has to make personnel decisions beyond “Call Peja” and “I need another carton of Camel Blues” and hiring no-defense-ass running-and-gunning George Karl to coach a team whose star is made for halfcourt offensive plays and leaking plans to fire Karl and then not firing him only to for-realsies fire him two months later even though it probably would’ve been better to fire him earlier and rid the team of his frankly pessimistic attitude and letting Isaiah Thomas walk only to see him flourish a year later on the Celtics and…you get the point, and that was solely a non-chronological list of questionable or outright bad moves by the front office.
AND YET, I had one hell of a lot of fun watching the 33–49 Kings last season, because an efficient, crisp offense is fun to watch if you’re not personally invested in the team having its shit together otherwise to actually win these games with like, defense and stuff, which — as much as I wanted to see Boogie and Rajon Rondo succeed — I was not. I already wrote about this for another outlet at great length so I won’t rehash it much more than that. TL;DR: The Kings are Chaotic Bad. They are never boring, even in defeat.
Since I already wrote about Boogie Cousins in a piece linked above, I’ll move right along to Kings soldiers who look to be pivotal in the coming season:
MATT BARNES is what most conventional people would call a “not-great person.” He is also a fairly apt metaphor for the belligerent American character — most of us are all Matt Barnes, in one way or another, and he most certainly is the antihero we deserve. Barnes spent the past four seasons on teams notable for a disreputable or ragged-ass nature (three with the Clippers, one on the Grizzlies), and is where he belongs: the great Kings island of misfit ballers with Ty fucking Lawson. In many ways Barnes has the best pedigree out of all of them — except Boogie, what with his Olympic gold medal and Pokemon League championship title — with more experience in the playoffs as well as in the vital art of punking recently deposed Knicks head coach and documented sex addict Derek Fisher. Barnes’ numbers are dropping in all categories but he’s still the perfect goon for this team, and will randomly fuck around and get a triple-double in between solid defense and contract hits on low-level mob targets in the central California area.
Kendrick Lamar once rapped that he used to dream of being ARRON AFFLALO. This song came out when I wasn’t paying much attention to the NBA (I kinda blacked out after the Celtics lost to the Lakers in 2010) and was, I think, the first time I heard Afflalo’s name. It’s a surname with a ring to it. I wonder if Lamar has changed his mind after seeing Afflalo on five different teams in a four-year span with a declining 3-point percentage and receding hairline that resembles the oceans drying up from all the millennials and their downloading. Regardless, this song is excellent and I sorta wish it’d made the cut for good kid, m.A.A.d city, despite believing GKMC to be perfect as is.
RUDY GAY has been called many things that are not complimentary, including a virus. This makes me wonder about the taxonomy of Mr. Gay. Is he of the Marburg variety, originating in the bat-guano-flecked rocky walls of Kitum Cave, ready to cause blood-bursting underneath the skin, convulsions and psychosis, or merely a bacterial agent incipient in delicious burrito bowls from a notable Mexican food restaurant whose worst symptoms are demeaning ass explosions and stomach gurgles? That can, and perhaps will, be the subject of a later Shocker investigative report, because we’re always looking out for you.
If there’s anything truly exciting about the Kings (other than Boogie), it’s WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN. In addition to being an acrobatic dunker and showing signs of truly elite defensive potential, he is apparently a motherfucking outlaw:
DO NOT FUCK WITH WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN. WHEN 2 CHAINZ WROTE “FEDS WATCHING,” HE OBV WROTE IT ABOUT WILLIE TRILL.
Beyond that — in keeping with this team being Chaotic Bad — the remainder of the team is a hodgepodge of vets and potential busts, whose names I’m not going to bother bolding because there are about to be a bunch of names: potential suspendee Darren Collison, the aforementioned McLemore, aging former Piston Anthony Tolliver, un-clandestine Mossad asset and 3-point sniper Omri Casspi, noted anarchist demonstrator and bald guy Kosta Koufos, the two new intriguingly named bigs (Labissiere and Georgos Papagiannis, whose dad will fight you on Twitter), peanut-headed backup guard Jordan Farmar, Ty Lawson (no jokes there; really hope he stays on the sobriety track regardless of basketball) and alleged human being Garrett Temple, about whom I say alleged not because I think he’s a bad person on or off the court but because I cannot confirm at this time that he is living, sentient meat.
2015–16 season record: 33–49, 3rd in Pacific Division
Vegas championship odds: 500/1 per Vegas Insider, second-worst in the league
2016–17 win prediction, courtesy of the BLUDOG-420 machine: 40–42, which, yes, does bear some resemblance to 420, and that could potentially lead you to question the predilections of our proprietary technology, but also seems like a reasonable projection of what the Kings can do if they manage to only shoot themselves in the collective dick six times or less, instead of 12 or more. Because gun violence is stupid and bad, and Boogie Cousins is the good and true spirit of America.