What was that about trading for DeMarcus Cousins?

The Sacramento Kings took a 99-81 beating against the Boston Celtics Wednesday night. It was punctuated by the Celtics’ unselfish play with six players finishing in double figures.

But my eyes were drawn to DeMarcus Cousins, the edgy center for the Kings and the rumor of many a trade bait despite many a denial by the Kings. Of all teams, the Celtics were linked to Cousins’ trade rumors incessantly, all the way up until the point Rajon Rondo was injured. Granted, these were rumors and demands fueled by fans, but they were so pervasive it became a part of the national basketball conversation. So it was fitting to see Cousins in person at the Garden (a chance to watch on TV for me) and evaluate how he’s changed over his tumultuous two years in the league.

Let’s just say there was nothing new to see.

Despite an impressionable stat sheet (17.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg) coming into Wednesday’s game, he tallied a lethargic 13 and 6 against the Celtics. At one point, it looked like Cousins was openly pouting on the court. His body language was terrible.

It’s self-evident that Cousins is a remarkably talented player and likely has a bright future in the league, given the right amount of growth. But you see the emotional baggage he carries on the court right now. The immaturity. The lack of focus.

And there are actually Celtics fans that want to see him play with KG? Please. Not only will it not happen, it shouldn’t. The Celtics rejected the same kind of player and adult project when they dropped Glen “Big Baby” Davis. There’s no need to go down that path again. Not now.

Men’s Health ranked Sac 95 out of 100

A screenshot of Men's Health Magazine's graphic of Sacramento's rankings.
A screenshot of Men's Health Magazine's graphic of Sacramento's rankings.
A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a person representing Men’s Health Magazine about their July/August issue in which the magazine ranked America’s top sports towns.

My hometown of San Francisco was No. 39 on the 100-city list, with a grade of C+. But the whopper I noticed on the list was Sacramento, which was a dismal No. 95, getting a grade of F. Other, probably more notable, cities to get that grade were Orlando, Fla., Miami, Fla., and Newark, N.J.

The list was based on a couple of factors: Who’s looking to purchase tickets to games and sporting events, who is buying team apparel and who responded to calling themselves a “fanatic” in a survey done by Scarborough Sports Marketing.

The No. 1 city on the list was Arlington, Texas. Shocking, I know.

This kind of reminds me of ESPN’s Title Town campaign, where Valdosta, Georgia won for its “high school tradition, young but powerful Division II college football and overwhelming spirit.”

It’s hard to argue these things when you know towns like Valdosta just had everyone jam ESPN’s servers and vote the crap out of it. But Men’s Health is different in this regard. It actually did some evaluating and selected the cities and towns on its own. Which leads me to a very simple question: How can anyone argue for Sacramento to be any higher than 95th?

Let’s take a look at reasons why Sacramento is probably so low:

  1. The Sacramento Kings suck. With a stadium that seats one of the NBA’s lowest figures (17,317), there were many nights when the purple and black barely touched 5,000 because of an 88-158 over the last three seasons and an atrocious 17-65 season last year. All is quiet on the fandom front, with the faithful holding it down for next season hopes.. Rocking a Kings jersey right now, is not cool. Not cool, man.
  2. A lack of a second major franchise. How can Sacramento compete with the only major franchise in town of the four professional sports leagues is the Kings? There’s just no way possible. Add on to the fact…
  3. There’s no major Division I schools in the area. Sacramento State ain’t cutting it. Neither is UC Davis, which is down I-80. Although they do make for interesting Division-II fodder. (Yes, UC Davis is Division I, but how many people realize this?)
  4. People don’t respect Triple-A baseball. Maybe this is a personal opinion here … OK, they’re all personal opinions. But who gives a crap if Sacramento has a championship-winning Triple-A baseball team. The Sacramento Rivercats get their due in Sacramento, but nowhere else. Because no one pays attention to minor league baseball except “fanatics” and baseball writers. It’s surprising — really, shocking — that they’re affiliates of the Oakland Athletics which continue to suck in their own right.

Below is the full list from Men’s Health, as sent to me. Click on the link here for the article.

Continue reading “Men’s Health ranked Sac 95 out of 100”

Kings draft Tyreke Evans

How strange is it that after flying back from Los Angeles last weekend, Tyreke Evans was on the plane to Sacramento.

My first thought when I saw him, which is to say, I didn’t know it was him: Dude looks like a baller. Money-wise, hoop-wise. Second thought: Why the hell is this guy on Southwest? Third thought: Definitely a baller, getting picked up by some professional looking white dude with an agent looking fella (hooked into his phone) at the airport.

Weird how I couldn’t have pointed out Tyreke Evans in police lineup two days ago and he’s now the saving grace for the Sacramento Kings. Face of the franchise? Hell no. But he’s still taking over a spot that has been a critical part of the Kings’ downfall. But that doesn’t mean Kevin Martin isn’t the man. The real question for the Kings, whose gonna be the locker room leader? I don’t see K-Mart doing it. Guesses anyone?

5 players I’ve got my eye on in the NBA draft

When your team wins 17 games, the NBA draft becomes that much more important. The Kings have three picks in the top 31 – 4th overall, 23rd, 31st. That means three players who haven’t proved anything will be counted on to turn this team around. Probably not right away though. I trust in GM Geoff Petrie. He’ll hit on at least two of these and the Kings will be back in the postseason hunt by the 2010-11 season. Guaranteed. I’m confident Petrie reads this blog and trusts in my basketball IQ, so let me offer up these five suggestions:

1. Ricky Rubio (PG, Spain) – He is absolutely at the top of my list … since Blake Griffin will be gone (never thought I would hate ping pong balls this much). Rubio’s a flashy point guard that reminds me of Steve Nash, which is exactly what the Kings need the most. Sacramento’s point guard play was some of the worst in the league, and Rubio will be the best chance to turn this team around quickly.

2. Stephen Curry (PG/SG, Davidson) – He played point guard this season, but leading the NCAA in scoring isn’t typical point guard play. I’m not convinced he can run a team and look to pass before he looks to score, but I’m willing to take my chances on a guy who scored 28.6 points per game. Two years ago, I fell in love with this guy’s ability to score from anywhere as Davidson made a run to the elite eight in the NCAA tournament. Even if he can’t be a true point guard, it’s up to the coaching staff to make him fit.

3. Brandon Jennings (PG, International) – I wasn’t really aware of this guy until he got cocky and said Rubio was all hype. We’ll find out, but either way I love his confidence. A great player must have that. At No. 4, you’re looking for a great player. He’s young, but has professional experience overseas, which is something most American players don’t have. Should Rubio get taken right after Griffin, and should the Kings want more of a true PG, Jennings is next on my list.

4. Ty Lawson (PG, North Carolina) – There’s a hidden theme among my first four picks. Lawson’s “upside” may not be as high as the others, but he’s proven he can play with the best and lead a top team. North Carolina struggled without him this season. There’s a rumor that he could go as high as No. 10 to Miluakee, but most other mock drafts have him going in the late first round, making him perfect for the Kings second pick, especially if they didn’t get a PG with the first.

5. Tyler Hansbrough (PF, North Carolina) – Ah, the goofy white guy who gets by because he tries so hard. Every team could use one. Did the Lakers win three championships because of Shaq and Kobe, or was it Mark Madsen? There’s no way of knowing. In all seriousness, while Hansbrough won’t ever be a star, I love what he brings to a team. The hustle of a guy who tries harder than everybody else is contagious, and fan friendly. Good pickup with Sacramento’s second or third pick.

Others on the radar: Hasheem Thabeet (C, UConn) – 7’3″ and not clumsy. Kings don’t need a center, but that may not matter. Twin towers part II. Jonny Flynn (PG, Syracuse), Jeff Teague (PG, Wake Forest), Darren Collison (PG, UCLA) – And all the rest of the point guards around the world. Omri Casspi (SF, Israel) – And all the other foreign players. Kings seem to have good luck with that.

Two simple reasons why the Kings really retired Vlade Divac’s jersey

Listen, I’m not a huge Kings fan. It should go without saying, the Warriors are my team. But I follow the Kings pretty closely for my newspaper and because I live in Kings country, the Northstate of California.

So this year, a year we all knew was going to suck for Sacramento (now 16-61), the only major franchise in the Northstate retired Chris Webber and Vlade Divac’s jerseys. These are the epitome of Sacramento Kings, in the team’s short-lived heyday all of five years ago.

Here are two reasons I believe the Kings really went so far as to retire Divac’s jersey:

  1. They’ve got nothing else to celebrate because they don’t know what they’re doing — Sounds tough right? I know. This really is a franchise in flux. As I’ve written here before, the Kings have failed to plan an overall strategy for their basketball relations. It should come as no surprise that the team also has no idea what it’s doing off the court. Community relations suck right now. With a matchup against their Northern California rival last week at Arco, the team managed only 12,975 in attendance for the league’s smallest stadium (17,317). The team lists their last sellout when the Lakers came to town on Tuesday, but that’s B.S. If they had a full stadium, I have a $1 million in the bank. So why not retire the jerseys of a couple of guys, who happened to be quite popular, we shipped outta here and see if we can catch some lightning in a bottle? What do the fans know, they’re stupid anyways.
  2. If we’re going to give it to one part time winner, we might as well give it to two part-time winners — I’m starting to like Chris Webber on TNT. He provides a more rational mindset to Charles Barkley and is a good fill-in for Kenny Smith. But Webber isn’t deserving of getting his jersey retired — yet. Not by the Kings. Not by anyone. Retiring his jersey sets a precedent that you can get your jersey retired easily. Webber averaged 20.7 points per game in his career, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 0 championships. Add to the fact he played only six of his 14 seasons in the NBA with the club, and Webber has all the characteristics of a voyeur. But there’s no denying he was dope and there was magic he brought to Kings-dom. His days in Sacramento were his best, and therefore made Sacramento a destination basketball city. Those were good days. His colleague, Divac, was brought in at the same time. They were joined at the hip in their success. In 16 seasons, Divac’s 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocks puts him in a small group of big men (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Garnett). Garnett surpassed these numbers well before his 14th season this year. Divac only spent six NBA seasons with the Kings, not to mention the eight he spent with their heated rivals the Lakers (whom dumped Divac in favor of an impressive stud named Shaquille O’Neal. On a side note, rumor is Shaq asked Divac “why the f*** are they retiring your jersey?” as the Suns took on the Kings last week. It was hilarious.)

Do you see a common thread between the two stars? They both were talents in their own rights, good players in general. Webber, was obviously the star, but neither were winners. And neither were long-time Kings guys. In my book, you should spend at least 10 years with a franchise for consideration of retiring your jersey. These guys are likely never going to get into the Hall because their body of work is lacking of any real substance. C-Webb has the closest shot and if C-Webb gets acknowledged, you damn sure Vlade who rode his coattails will get brought up. But here we are, with a real evaluation of the two players, and it appears neither deserves the respect from the Kings nor mention of HOF prospects, but both get it due to the popularity of the one (Webber).

Are you satisfied Kings fans? NBA fans? I don’t think I am, or ever will be. The litmus test for the NBA’s history is becoming shallower as folks who simply grace the pages of the book all of a sudden become the subject. Are we confused about how we record history? Wasn’t Mitch Richmond enough?

Spencer keeps getting better

It’s crazy how much I like Kings center Spencer Hawes. I remember very specifically the day he was drafted. I was driving home from work and turned on sports radio to have the draft read back to me. With the 10th pick in the draft, Sacramento selects Spencer “Noooooo!!!!!!!!!!! Not the white guy!!!!!!!!!” I screamed while pounding on the steering wheel, Hawes.

How wrong I was. You see, society has warped my mind into thinking that white guys aren’t athletic, and that’s simply not true. Shawn Bradley threw off the whole curve, is the problem. OK, and a lot of other clumsy guys. But Spencer isn’t like them. He’s got more athleticism than I thought he would, even at 7 feet, can score, pass and is getting better as a defender. He could’ve fit in nicely with the 01-02 Kings.

Hawes had a quiet rookie year, but showed promise, and is beginning to live up to it in year two with Brad Miller gone to Chicago. In 28 minutes, he’s averaging 10.5 points per game and 6.9 rebounds, and I expect those numbers to go up next year. The dude can play inside and out, as shown by his 28 three-pointers made this season, 35 percent (for a center). There aren’t a whole lot of 7-footers that can do that. As bad as the team has been (I think they’re 1-63), I still feel good about their future because of guys like Hawes.

They’re young, and still need to learn how to finish a game. That may be a cliche, but if you’re watching the games, you know how many ways they’ve found to blow it at the end – 5-second violations, backcourt violations, scoring on the wrong end of the court.

In an overtime loss to the Cavs last night, the final minutes of regulation into overtime included one dribble off the leg and out of bounds, two passes that went to nobody (one out of bounds, one saved), one horrible pass due to an elbow to the head from a teammate that led to the tying score, and two airballs. The final airball came on the final play of the game as Kevin Martin tried to draw a foul and couldn’t. They blew a double-digit lead midway through the fourth, and had no chance in overtime. They’re more of a first half team.

If you don’t like this video, you don’t like NBA basketball

Worst record in the league? The Kings? That can’t be right, just look at this video!

Ahhhh, those were the days. Videos like this help ease the pain from this god-awful season. I could watch that a million times. Right now I’m at about 50, but it’s a long day ahead. Note two things in the video – the reaction from the Kings player at the bottom right, who goes from calling for the ball to jumping up and down twice in excitement, and I assume screaming “Yahoo!” like Daffy Duck, and that Mateen Cleaves (alley) and Gerald Wallace (oop) were the Kings’ third stringers. Yeah, that’s how good that team was.

Somebody wants Kenny Thomas

I never thought I’d see the day, but somebody might be willing to trade for Kenny Thomas, the Kings forward who warms the bench for $9 million a year. The newest rumor is that if the Heat can’t trade Shawn Marion for Jermaine O’Neal, they’d trade him to Sac for Thomas and Brad Miller. Suckers! Am I crazy, or are both of those trades awful for Miami?

The Kings have been trying to get rid of Miller and Thomas for over a year, but nobody has been stupid enough up to this point. Marion carries a heavy price tag of $17 million, but his contract expires at the end of the year. Either Sacramento gets a great young player for a better price, or it’s money off the books. Win, win. I’m glad these discussions are being held over the phone, so GM Geoff Petrie can cover the phone when he lets out each giggle.

“You have to be open to just about anything at this point,” Petrie said. “What form that might take, I don’t know yet, but certainly I think you have to have a very, very open mind about what type of things you might consider and what immediate impact it might have – at least in some facet of what you’re trying to do.”

The Kings are a joke

Not just any joke, but a running joke in my newsroom. It’s odd because people still challenge their ineptness.

The other day, the Warriors beat the Wizards 119-98 on Monday. In response, my boss says he think the Kings, who played the Wizards Wednesday, will beat Washington as well.

Maybe you’re not catching the drift, so I’ll spell it out for you. He thinks the Warriors and the Kings are on the same level. I was shocked. Really, I was.

The Kings suck. All they have to go on is Kevin Martin. Every now and then, John Salmons surprises me. Same for Spencer Dawes. But in general, the collection of people that wear those purple and white jerseys are losers. They’re hurting — hard. At 10-33 Friday, they’re one game away from tying with the bottom of the NBA barrel (Washington 9-33, LA Clippers 9-32 and Oklahoma City 9-34).

The Warriors aren’t far away from this territory either. They’re 13-30, far out of the playoff hunt and still looking for their first good run.

The difference is, the Kings have had their full lineup and star player for at least 20 games when Martin came back from injury. Monta Ellis is returning to the Warriors tonight after that famous moped incident he lied about. It’s his first game of the 2008-2009 season.

Here we are almost at the all-star break, and we’re just getting our star player. (If you didn’t know, I’m a Warriors fan. I know, it hurts inside some days. I’ll get over it.) How are we supposed to compete in the ultra-amazing Western Conference when we don’t even have the guy that spurred the W’s management to let Baron Davis go find himself in La La land? We can’t. We won’t. Hence, 13-30.

What’s the Kings’ excuse? Firing Reggie Theus? Please, he was caretaker for rebuilding phase the owners weren’t aware of. I wrote about that before the season started.

Oh, and the Kings lost that game to the Wizards 110-107.

Man, it sucks ripping these teams. But you know what, if they don’t want to get ripped then maybe they’ll start winning some games. Or at least beat the other teams that suck. Geesh.

Dear Santa: Get me a winner!!

All I want for Christmas is a winner.

Kings, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders, Giants and A’s, take notes.

You too, Sharks. You’re not out of the woods yet.

When you step out, do so with the intention of winning. Nothing else. And when you plan for the future of your franchise, plan with the intent of winning. Nothing else.

If I hear about this false pretense of “rebuilding” one more time, I swear to the Lord almighty I will throw my television out the window and lead the rest of my days as a recluse in the Sierra foothills.

Why? Because I’d rather be ignorant of Northern California’s collective incompetence than spare another second of my time on Earth being complicit in this buffoonery. It’s either second place or the worst of the worst. And if history is any precursor, those that plan to rebuild are planning to fail. Just picture being a lifelong Cincinnati Bengals fan. Or how about an L.A. Clippers fan?

That’s hurt.

And honestly, that’s too much hurt for any one fan to handle. So instead of starting my own self-help group and letting my fantasy leaguemates get angry at me because I’m ignoring my duties as commissioner, I’m going for the Hail Mary.

Santa, you’re a few years overdue and I suggest you pay what you owe.

Is it too much to ask that when one of our area teams takes to the playing field (listen up 49ers), that they attempt to win every game? I can’t for the life of me remember a year in which there was more disappointment after acquiring so much talent to bolster team play. It’s just god awful. I want people who want to be better than before and have the talent to do it. Then, back it up with a .500-plus season.

Saint Nick, you hearing me? Singletary?

I want, for once in my young life, to have a team proclaim that off years are no excuses for poor team play and spending less money on available talent.

You got that Maloofs?

I want the guy on my team that says “put it on my back, and I’ll carry us.” Tim Lincecum, are you the man for the job?

I long for a general manager that has a better selling season than book. (Yo Billy, stop acting like Mr. Bean and take care of business.)

I need a new owner and a new coach in Oakland — for the Raiders and the Warriors.
And I need the Sharks to not tank on the cusp of a Stanley Cup. Just when I was getting into watching hockey, it went south. That’s unacceptable. Kind of like when I just got into watching golf, and then Tiger takes the rest of the year off. It’s killing my mojo.

Santa, if for once you can do what you’re supposed to do — bring joy to those that are good — then take heed here. I’ve paid for my fair share of tickets and memorabilia. And I’ve written about some of these teams way too much. Help a fan out that’s two steps away from his tube.

It’s sad that it has come to this, but I knew — for some reason or another — we were at this point. Maybe it was the collective surprise that both the 49ers and Raiders won on the same weekend. Or maybe, it was on Saturday, when the Grant Pacers football team did more for Northern California than the collective Bay Area teams have done in three years by beating Long Beach Poly for the state championship.

Those kids, their parents and the Sacramento region are swelling with pride right now.

I’m so jealous.

You can find this column and more on TheUnion.com.