The most offensive display put on yesterday as the Sacramento Kings opened the new season against the Golden State Warriors was Kings owner Vivek Ranadive bragging about an NBA championship that will come to “one of the most iconic structures on earth” — a downtown arena that is “going to put Sacramento on the world map.”
Ranadive touted his nonsense at a ceremonial groundbreaking at the arena site and reiterated his championship pretensions during a television interview while his team was putting on an embarrassing display of “me-first” basketball with little offense at all.
I suppose Ranadive is so accustomed to promoting fantasy — such as preposterous economic benefits to accrue from the new arena — that he thinks he can change what people see with their own eyes. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than an arena promoter envisioning the Kings as a championship team in the making.
As realist coach Michael Malone said after the Kings 95-77 loss to the Warriors: “I thought we played very selfishly, did not move the ball, pounded the ball. We looked very similar to the Sacramento Kings of last season.” That would be the team with a won-loss record of 28-54.
One fellow who fit Malone’s description was the team’s would-be leader, DeMarcus Cousins, who looked hellbent to score in the first few minutes regardless of how many defenders were around him. Early in the game, he had made only one basket in eight attempts. He finished 4 for 14. Equally bad were his six turnovers and mere one assist.
Ranadive has hooked the team’s fortunes to Cousins, giving him a four-year contract extension worth $62 million last year, the most he was eligible for over four years under NBA salary rules. Along with this hefty disincentive, Ranadive seems to think coddling the 6-11, 270-pound Cousins is an effective way to turn him into a team player.
Rudy Gay, who along with Cousins is supposed to supply a winning mentality, showed a preference last night for dribbling until he could get his shot off. He shot 33 percent and had no assists to go with his three turnovers. Maybe that shows what a salary of $19.3 million can do.
The Kings shot a woeful 30.8 percent, including three for 18 from three-point range. They committed 27 turnovers and amassed a paltry 13 assists – eight of them by Darren Collison, who evidently hasn’t read the me-first memo posted in the team’s locker room.
The Kings have the talent to improve considerably on last year’s dismal performance, but they seem to lack the heart, mind and guidance needed to become winners – except in Ranadive’s fantasies.