Sacramento Kings, Vivek Ranadivé, winning at losing

Kings playoff drought hits 16 seasons, new approach needed

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Winning. 

The Sacramento Kings have found a way to separate themselves from every other NBA franchise. They are the best at one category, and they are so good at this one stat that they have taken over the all-time record.

Of course this category is losing. The Kings are the best at losing in the history of the NBA. 

For the sixteenth consecutive season, Sacramento will watch from the sidelines while squads from around the league battle through the playoffs. Sixteen years is now the gold standard for futility and the Kings own the honor all by themselves.

While teams like the Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves are all in position to at least make the play-in tournament, the Kings are on the outside looking in.

The current streak by the Kings is more than three times longer than any other team in the league. 

It takes the failing of many to reach 16 years. The Maloof family started the mess with seven consecutive losing seasons from 2006-2013. They were run out of the league after running the lowest payroll in the league for multiple seasons and then trying to relocate the franchise multiple times.

Current Kings ownership, led by Chairman Vivek Ranadivé has matched the Maloofs and then some. For the last nine seasons, Ranadivé has chosen one ill-fated path after another in his search to build a winner.

Ranadivé’s streak alone is nearly twice as long as any other current streak in the NBA. His alarming tendency to meddle on the basketball side is well-documented and his inability to avoid making the same mistakes has set the franchise back multiple times. 

There are plenty of accomplishments that Ranadivé can hang his hat on during his time as the boss of the Kings. He invested heavily in building Golden 1 Center and the entire Downtown Commons area. He’s helped revitalize a major part of Sacramento’s downtown and his dedication to social justice initiatives and community efforts have made a difference.

If his focus just centered on the business and philanthropic side of being an NBA owner, then Ranadivé is a success. Ranadivé has helped bring the Kings franchise through some incredibly difficult times and he has put an incredible amount of money into both the arena project and the product on the floor.

But…

Over the last nine seasons of bad basketball in Sacramento, Ranadivé’s team has done more than miss the playoffs every year, they have been flat out bad. The team has a 279-437 record during his tenure as owner, for a win percentage of just .390. 

The one coach that got the Kings close to a playoff appearance, Dave Joerger, was shown the door after a 39-41 record. No other coach during Ranadivé’s reign has won more than 33 games.

Ranadivé’s trends as an owner go beyond the wins and losses. He has created an atmosphere of instability on the basketball side of the franchise that may be unmatched. 

The Kings are a revolving door of management, coaches, basketball staff and players. In nine years, Ranadivé has sawed through six different head coaches, with a seventh expected next season. 

In most seasons, the Kings are paying more than one head coach and all three general managers during Ranadivé’s tenure have been asked to work with a coach that they did not hire. 

De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes, the two Kings players with the longest tenure, have played for three head coaches, countless assistants/player development coaches, two different general managers and a handful of assistant GMs. They have also seen a complete reset of the medical and training staff.

Change can be good. Change every season is exactly why the Kings have shown no consistency on the court. 

When will the carousel stop? The simple answer is that Ranadivé has given us no indication that he will stand aside and allow the basketball people that he hired to make the basketball decisions necessary to turn the franchise around.

We even saw it unfold in real time this season when Luke Walton was relieved of his duties and management and ownership had separate ideas on who should take over the helm of the team 17 games into the year.

To his credit, Ranadivé sits courtside to watch one car accident after another unfold. He isn’t an absentee owner that hides while his team fails, and he hears the vitriol that the fanbase spews his way. He has also poured money into the franchise and the Kings’ 2021-22 payroll was the highest in franchise history by a wide margin.

Now we have reached the moment of truth. The Kings are possibly at the most crucial point during the age of Ranadivé and they can’t get it wrong.

Everything is riding on this offseason and one miscalculation could spell disaster. This offseason matters because Domantas Sabonis is entering the final two years of his contract with the team and the Kings need to show the two-time All-Star that they are worthy, as a franchise, for him to sign an extension in the summer of 2023. 

General Manager Monte McNair needs to hire the right coach, but also build the roster out around both Fox and Sabonis. He doesn’t need his hand held. He needs a blank check, both physically and mentally, to do the work that is necessary to turn the Kings around. 

It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to pull away from something you are so invested in and allow the experts to run the show. But that is exactly what Ranadivé has to do this summer. If he doesn’t, there will be a 17th season without the playoffs and an 18th and maybe many more. 

Ranadivé doesn’t need to sell the team or step down as chairman. He just needs to change his approach to running the franchise and put his trust in others.

16 seasons of futility is too much. Nine seasons of futility is too much. The fans deserve better. The players deserve better. A once proud franchise deserves better. 

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