Kings

The Ranadive Paradox: Every choice Kings face almost guarantees failure

The Ranadive Paradox: Every choice Kings face almost guarantees failure

Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac declared he had a better offer for DeMarcus Cousins two days before he took the New Orleans Pelicans offer, which means that this is not the worst trade in the history of the franchise.

It is, however, the one that best explains the history of the franchise.

The cavalcade of Kingsiana, from their halcyon days in Rochester to their fringes-of-good years in Cincinnati to their mostly thin years in Kansas City and Omaha down to the desiccated decades in Sactown, is summed by this – Boogie Cousins, a disputatious star traded for less than he was worth and for less than they could have gotten a couple of days before.

[RELATED: Report: Vivek Ranadive thinks Buddy Hield has Steph Curry potential]

And in its wake, a battered marketplace turns on itself yet again to rage against the amorphous blob of a team they horship and loathe in alternate moments. The fans are left to argue among themselves whether Cousins is better or worse than no Cousins, and whether the reward for no Cousins was sufficient.

Now they know, from their general maanger’s mouth. It wasn’t. Yay Kings!

The pro-Boogie and anti-Boogie factions break down along simple party lines. The anti-Boogies explain that Cousins was a volatile, ball-hogging non-leader who also was an easily distracted rage-a-holic who never made the Kings better than they were, and that any trade that removed him (and to a lesser extent the freshly waived Matt Barnes) could only help team and organizational chemistry.

But the pro-Boogie folks, while acknowledging his manifest faults, point out one thing the anti-Boogie folks cannot refute, namely:

There is no guarantee that this front office would take whatever bounty it received in a Cousins trade and not turn it into yet another colossal mess along the lines of everything they have ever done in the years bracketing the Rick Adelman Era.

And yes, this predates the Vivek Ranadive Era, although his unhealthy obsession with the Warriors has tinged his decision-making to the point in which he said that Buddy Hield has “Stephen Curry potential.”

Hey, thanks for that one, boss. You want to make Tyreke Evans Michael Jordan, or the second-round pick the reincarnation of Wilt Chamberlain? Or maybe just cut to the chase and say, “I am now going to make Buddy Hield’s future a horror show of unmet/unjustified/unrequested expectations?”

[RELATED: Isaiah Thomas' reaction to DeMarcus Cousins trade includes an 'LOL']

The point here is that Ranadive isn’t all that undermines the monarchy, but he is the first truly megawealthy Kings owner to maintain the low standards that have dogged the franchise since the early 1950s. The rest of the time, they could plead short-walleted owners, unresponsive audiences or miscellaneous meatheadery. Now, they have plenty of money, an avid fan base and . . . well, two out of three keeps you out of the playoffs if the third one isn’t solved.

Besides, while this trade will be marked as one that was meant to get DeMarcus Cousins out of town, the enduring problem is still right there. The Kings do things like this because they are the Kings, in the same way that the Warriors used to do stupid things because they were the Warriors. In that way, Ranadive has achieved his aim to be more Warrior than the Warriors. He just got the timeline horribly wrong.

And now we have this deal, which cannot be explained except by invoking two essentially untenable concepts – getting rid of your best player just because he is a monumental irritant and leaving the mechanism that makes deals like this necessary (a record held by many), and the idea that making yourself worse now is just making yourself better eventually (now known as the Hinkie Paradox).

Teams that have to tank almost always put themselves in that position because they are poorly run. People point to the San Antonio Spurs’ one year of suck before the Tim Duncan draft in 1997, but the Spurs’ history has almost exclusively a parade of winning teams going back to the NBA-ABA merger in 1976.

The Kings? They’ve had 11 winning seasons in that time, and every choice that confronts them now almost guarantees failure. That is the Ranadive Paradox.

The Cousins deal is endemic of who the Kings are, what they are, and what they have almost always been. It is, to strain the analogy, a bit like the Oscar Robertson deal in 1970, when the best player in franchise history raged against years of failure and his own coach, Bob Cousy, and was moved to Milwaukee for the talent haul of Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk. Robertson landed with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, won one NBA title and two division titles in the collaboration and ended his career far more cheerily than at any time in Cincinnati.

Nobody thinks the Pelicans are similarly positioned, although comparing Abdul-Jabbar and Anthony Davis is comparing generational with brilliant. But most folks agree that the Kings dealt their best player from a position of profound and ongoing weakness that they have built for themselves, didn’t get what they could have but are almost certain to get what they deserve.

Again.

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

It was a track meet from the opening tip Saturday evening in Houston. The Rockets looked like an inspired team after a rough start to the season, running over the Kings over for a 132-112 win

Houston rained down 3-pointers at a startling clip and when they weren’t burying the 3-ball, they were finishing at the rim. James Harden dropped in a game-high 34 points and Chris Paul added 24 points and nine assists in Houston’s win.

The Kings had plenty of chances, but their inability to slow the Rockets offense cost them any chance at a win.

Here are six notes as the Kings fell back to .500 on the season at 8-8.

Buddy scores 

After failing to reach the 20-point plateau for four straight games, Buddy Hield found the basket against Houston. The third-year guard posted 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists. He’s taken a few games to adjust to the return of Bogdan Bogdanovic, but the Kings second-leading scorer should be just fine.

How good is Fox? 

In his second season, De’Aaron Fox has put the NBA on notice. Not only is he a Most Improved Player candidate, he should be in the discussion for an All-Star bid. Against a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul, Fox finished with 19 points and three assists in 25 minutes of play. He can’t control whether his teammates hit open jumpers, but if he’s playing 36 minutes a night, the Kentucky product is putting up nearly 21 points and eight assists per night. 

Impactful 

Bogdan Bogdanovic completed the second-biggest step in his recovery from offseason knee issues. First, he made his way back to the court. On Saturday, he completed his first back-to-back and should be cleared for regular duty asap. The Serbian-born wing finished the night with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and added five assists in the loss. He’s ready for stage three, which is returning to the starting lineup.

Play me 

Marvin Bagley struggled against the Grizzlies and was clearly outplayed by fellow rookie Jaren Jackson. He had a bounce back game in Houston, finishing the evening with 16 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Bagley is a talent, but he needs time to figure out the defensive end.

[HAM: Kings deny report that coach Dave Joerger, front office have disconnect]

There will be a point this season when he jumps ahead of Nemanja Bjelica in the starting rotation, but he needs to show activity on both ends of the floor first.  

The disappearance of Willie Cauley-Stein 

If nothing else, Cauley-Stein has been consistent this season. Often times, he’s been extraordinary. Against Clint Capela, Cauley-Stein with less than serviceable. Cauley-Stein went 1-of-9 from the field and finished with three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. It’s possible he was winded on the second night of a back-to-back, but he can’t have nights like this if he hopes to cash in this summer.

Play some D 

The Kings struggled to contain the Rockets from the early stages of the game. In the end, the Kings couldn’t stop penetration, struggled with the pick-and-roll and they allowed Houston to shoot as many 3-pointers as they could muster. The Kings defense gave up a 132 points on 56.8 percent shooting and they allowed Houston to hit 20-for-47 from long range. It’s hard to stay in a game when your opponent outscores you 60-33 on 3-pointers. The defense has to get better, especially against top tier teams.

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status

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AP

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status

Dave Joerger wasn't in a mood to talk about his job status moments after his Kings lost to the Rockets on Saturday night.

Asked by reporters about a Yahoo Sports story claiming "substantial disconnect" between him and the Kings' front office, Joerger tried to deflect the question back to basketball.

"Well, usually, I would say, 'I'd be happy to answer all your questions about tonight's game,' but in this case, I'm going to tell you that my focus is with our team," Joerger said. "And coaching our team and getting better every single night. And we've got young guys, and they're mixed with older guys, and go in there and rally them up.

“This is a tough five-game stretch for us, so I want to make sure we stick together, grab onto each other ..."

Pressed on the reported disconnect, Joerger refused to address it.

"I'm not going to get into that stuff," the coach said before exiting the scrum after no other questions were asked.

The Yahoo story came out about 30 minutes before the Kings and Rockets tipped off in Houston. During the game, Kings general manager Vlade Divac issued a statement to NBC Sports California's James Ham and denied there was any issues between Joerger and the front office.

"Dave has our full support and confidence,” Divac said in the statement. “We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.”