For more than a quarter century, the Sacramento Kings have served as a rallying cry for everyone across the valley who drape themselves in purple. The fans are faithful, they are passionate, they know the game. They also have become accustomed to heartbreak.
That isnât unusual in sports. If you follow any franchise closely there are going to be big disappointments.
It comes with the territory.
The Kings, however, come equipped with a rinse and repeat nature of the cycle. The highs happen so infrequently, and for more than a decade those highs even come in low-stake situations.
We are now 20 years removed from the time when the best team in franchise history began taking shape, and since 2007, itâs been a vicious cycle of false hope, missed draft picks, a lack of basketball IQ and a number of âmeaningful gamesâ that you can count on one hand. (And a few of those were meaningful only because they were attempts by the fans to show the league that they cared too much to let the team leave town.)
The Kings lost a high-stakes game Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs. With eight games to try to position themselves to make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, the Spurs, with a depleted roster and a future hall-of-fame coach, put on a clinic in the fourth quarter on their way to a 129-120 victory.
Following the game there were many quotes. If the Kings were a band, the quotes could have been from their Greatest Hits album.
"We put a lot on him." - The coach on the star player
"We have to be able to help him." â A player about the star player who regularly shoulders the scoring load
"You look at the non-box out on the free throw line like those are the ones that as we continue to get better as a team, those are the ones we have to take out altogether. Thereâre little things that happened like that all throughout the game." â The little things are consistently missed.
"We have to be ready and play better, especially on defense.â â Defense, oh where have you been for all these years?
"We have to start better." â Where have I heard this before?
"We knew they were going to play small at some point, especially the Spurs, they have a lot of good shooters. They changed the game a little bit, they were driving and kicking it. Iâm not going to say we werenât ready for that, but we didnât execute it." â Not executing the game plan, thatâs my jam!
"Iâm not going to say we werenât ready for that, but we didnât execute it." â Yep
"DeMar was one of our keys to the game and he did a heck of a job in the second half. We knew he was coming, but we weren't able to stop him." â This could be a great chorus
"And then that the fourth quarter they just executed down the stretch better than we did.â â Another classic
"We fought back, but at the end of the day, in the fourth quarter with three or four minutes left, itâs a tied ball game, we have to be able to execute down the stretch." â The hits keep coming
âWe just have to want it more." â Itâs very true, but also something we have been hearing for years.
"I think we have to be more locked in defensively." â Another!
This isnât meant to take anything away from DeâAaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic â they showed up during the game and after to stand and take questions about the loss. They did what they could to try to get the Kings a victory Friday. They also havenât been in Sacramento all these years of despair so this isnât even about them. They want the playoffs for the fans as much as the fans want the playoffs. And this isnât even really about this individual game. Itâs more of a question about why the postgame comments reminded me of how itâs been the same things coming out of the locker room for years â not executing the game plan, no defense, putting too much on the star player, slow starts, breakdowns down the stretch.
The players and coaching staff always seem to identify the problems, but no one is ever able to solve them with any sort of consistency.
Hereâs to hoping this changes starting Sunday. The odds arenât in our favor, and even if things donât change, the fans will still be there.
They will be there yearning for a quick, first-round exit.
They will be there living the cycle that is Kangz.
Itâs all we seem to know anymore.