The Sacramento Kings have been one of the worst and most unstable franchises in the NBA for the better part of a decade. A 10-season playoff drought is only the beginning — they’ve had owners who wanted to move the team, owners who change their minds every few minutes and shirk responsibility, coaches who don’t win, coaches who can’t get along with the team’s star player, etc. It’s been long enough that anyone involved could be forgiven for thinking there’s no escape.
Small forward Rudy Gay was apparently in that dark frame of mind when George Karl became Kings head coach in February 2015. In fact, he welcomed Karl to Sacramento with a harsh warning. From ESPN’s Marc Stein:
(An aside on Gay: He’s quoted in an advance copy of George Karl’s forthcoming book “Furious George,” due to be published in January by HarperCollins, as telling Karl when he met the new Sacramento coach for the first time in February 2015, “Welcome to basketball hell.”)
Gay then pulled up his hood and yelled “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
It’s possible that Gay was just making light of the fact that the 2014-15 Kings were something of a disaster. Head coach Michael Malone was fired in mid-December for no good reason — Sacramento was in the midst of a losing streak brought on by the prolonged absence of DeMarcus Cousins but looked much improved in general. Interim head coach Tyrone Corbin wanted the full-time job, and plenty of analysts couldn’t understand why the Kings turned to Karl given his history of not getting along with temperamental stars like Cousins. (Those fears turned out to be absolutely correct.)
On the other hand, some jokes are funny because they’re true. Sacramento is still the closest thing the league has to basketball hell. Here’s hoping someone — maybe new head coach Dave Joerger — journeys into the underworld and saves the franchise soon.