When Vivek Ranadivé bought the Sacramento Kings in 2013, the team had a promising 22-year-old building block in DeMarcus Cousins, another future All-Star on its roster in Isaiah Thomas, and nearly all of its draft picks. Today, after sending Cousins to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield, a protected first-round pick, and some change, it has none of those things. The Pelicans were reportedly offering essentially the same deal, minus Hield, for Jahlil Okafor — this was a terrible trade.
Here is a quick rundown of every major move the team has made since Ranadivé became the majority owner in May 2013:
- Shipped Tyreke Evans for Greivis Vasquez and some change. Vasquez didn’t last 20 games on the roster and Evans is coming back as part of this Cousins deal.
- Stauskas? Stauskas!
- Chose to sign Darren Collison over keeping Isaiah Thomas, who is now a two-time All-Star on one of the five best teams in the NBA.
- Gave Sim Bhullar a real roster spot and real minutes in real NBA games in what can only be called a gimmick.
- Fired Mike Malone, the best coach the Kings have had since Rick Adelman, less than 25 games into his second season for reasons that remain completely inexplicable. Ranadivé said that Malone couldn’t work with then-GM Pete D’Alessandro, but Malone is now chasing a playoff spot in Denver under D’Alessandro, who was part of the group that hired him.
- Hired George Karl.
- Hired Vlade Divac as the de facto GM. (More on him in a minute).
- Traded Stauskas, a future first-rounder, and rights to swap picks in 2016 and 2017 to the Sixers for the right to offload the contracts of Carl Landry and Jason Thompson. That cap space was then used to sign Marco Belinelli, Rajon Rondo, and Kosta Koufos. Only Koufos is still on the team. (The team could have used the stretch provision on Landry and signed two of these three free agents, but didn’t.)
- Acquired Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere in a draft-day deal with the Suns. Neither has played in more than 10 games so far.
Think about this: The best roster move the team has made during Ranadivé’s tenure was trading spare parts for Rudy Gay, and most Kings fans have been ready to part with Gay for 18 months.
That accounts for every move of note, and none has been unequivocally “good.” The worst moves have been complete trainwrecks, signs that the organization has no idea what it’s doing. (Note: The list doesn’t include Vivek’s four-on-five basketball suggestion, since technically the Kings haven’t attempted that. Yet.)
And still, as a die-hard, lifelong Kings fan, I’ve never been able to be mad at Vivek. Without him there would be no Sacramento Kings. Sacramento and the NBA turned every stone they could to find a suitor for the team while the Maloofs publicly mulled moving it everywhere from Seattle to Virginia Beach to Anaheim. We got Ranadivé. His basketball decisions are confounding, though it’s better to have him and the Kings than no team at all.
This latest move is a stunner, in the sense that it’s shocking, but also in that it feels like Steve Austin just punched me in the face. DeMarcus Cousins is a Pelican, and the Kings got scraps in return. The Pelicans are currently 2.5 games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference, which means it’s likely that the incoming first-rounder won’t even be a lottery pick. New Orleans gets to watch two superstars terrorize frontcourts everywhere, while the Kings have watched their best chance at a playoff berth fly 2,300 miles east.
Ranadivé reportedly wanted to move Cousins to change the culture in Sacramento. Cousins has many blemishes on his résumé over the past few years, including a highly publicized feud with former coach Paul Westphal, a highly publicized feud with former coach George Karl, and a highly publicized feud with a Sacramento Bee reporter. This season he became the fastest player to ever reach 16 technical fouls (worth an automatic suspension). The Kings, obviously, had reached their breaking point.
But the culture is set from the top down. This franchise has cycled through coaches and players at an alarming rate. The organizational leaks are worse than ever — just look at how intimately Adrian Wojnarowski seemed to know how Sunday night’s deal went down. A couple of years ago, D’Alessandro, Divac, and Chris freaking Mullin had Vivek’s ear, and no one knew who was calling the shots. The only thing more consistent than the front-office instability has been Boogie’s level of play.
It’s a brutal day to be a Kings fan. Did you know that Cousins’s personal clothing brand is called “The Loyalty Collection”? That word — loyalty — is still in his Twitter bio right now. He’s always said he loves Sacramento — he called it his home over All-Star Weekend.
Fans feel angry, because we feel trapped. There are no “Sell the team!” chants we can take to Golden 1 Center, because we know there won’t be another buyer. Without Ranadivé there is no team. But how do we support this latest move? We are left with a feeling of suffocation unique to this fan base.
My hope is that Vivek Ranadivé is the Silicon Valley–bro version of Dan Snyder. I mean that sincerely! Remember when Snyder traded for Jason Taylor, or when he signed Albert Haynesworth? Those moves happened before he brought in Scot McCloughan and Jay Gruden. Since they took over football operations, Washington is no longer the laughingstock of the NFL — it’s just a normal level of mediocre. Vivek should make a similar adjustment in Sacramento.
Trading Boogie feels like a chance for a fresh start, if nothing else. Hopefully Vivek makes it one. He could fire Vlade Divac, who negotiated Sunday’s debacle, this offseason and hire someone with experience. I’m ready to go full Sam Hinkie on this operation — hire him! He’s already nearby, and it might be the only way to clean up this mess.