Taking the phrase “shootaround” to a weird new level, the Sacramento Kings spent the morning of their game against the Los Angeles Clippers giving new public vent to their latest power struggle between head coach Dave Joerger and assistant general manager Brandon Williams.
But it’s not like anything was solved. “The Kings” and “a solution” are so mutually exclusive that you’d need an unlimited Lyft account to get from one part of that Venn diagram to the other.
Just know that in Sacramento, the equation “good times today = bad times tomorrow” still applies. All the good things they have done with roster construction and style of play are on the verge of being sacrificed for political in-fighting, as though being the baddest dude on a rubbish tip is a title to be sought.
Williams was "invited" out of the morning shoot by Joerger after Williams showed up at practice Wednesday, the latest example of what most people believe is their basic incompatibility. Joerger believed that Williams was the principle source in Chris Haynes’ Yahoo story claiming that Joerger was in danger of being fired despite the Kings looking closer to being an actual NBA team than at any point in the past decade.
The issue has been simmering quietly while Williams has been away from the team on a personal matter, but his return Wednesday brought it back to boil.
The principal issue has been Joerger’s usage rates for the younger players, particularly first round draft pick Marvin Bagley III, as the team tries to decide if it is a playoff contender or just on yet another rebuild. The team has started faster than expected, and at 10-10 are only a half-game out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference – proof yet again that when you’re the Kings, even winning can work against you.
This is reminiscent in different ways of the way that Michael Malone was fired as Kings coach four years ago despite making the Kings momentarily competitive, and Williams being forced from practices harkens the days when Mark Jackson prevented Warriors’ front office people from watching his team’s practices.
But because the Kings have had so little success over the past decade and change, any waft of discord becomes a harbinger of a lousy future, mostly because it has played that way every other team, going back to the fading years of the Maloof Boys Era. Sacramento’s too-patient-for-their-own-good fan base has seen this dog-and-pony show enough times to anticipate when another one is on its way, so a Joerger-Williams blow-up seemed almost pre-ordained when the Yahoo story was published two weeks ago.
Divac put out a bland statement, saying only, “I have advised my front office and coaching staff to not focus on drama and rumors, but instead to focus on continuing to develop our young and exciting team. And that's what we're going to do.”
For his part, Joerger shed only slightly more during his pregame show-and-tell Thursday, opting for a modified form of cat-and-mouse by answering indirect questions about his relationship with Williams in the most oblique of ways. No fiery denunciations, no fist-shaking fulminations about meddling or politics. Joerger kept it dry and didn’t even use Williams’ name, doubtless at the behest of the higher-ups who would dearly love this problem to go away on its own.
But it won’t, not until the worst possible scenario is played out. And it doesn’t matter whether the worst-case is Joerger getting fired or Williams getting neutered, it will be the worst thing the Kings could have done. The fun they provided when they were in Oakland last week speaks to what they can be; the fact that front office knifings are back speaks to what they instead choose to be.