Kings guard Mitch Richmond
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Mitch Richmond: Teammate’s greeting with Kings was ‘Welcome to hell’

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When the Kings hired George Karl in 2015, Rudy Gay reportedly greeted his new coach with, “Welcome to basketball hell.”

Apparently, there’s a deeper history of calling Sacramento hell.

In 1991, the Warriors traded Mitch Richmond to the Kings for Billy Owens, that year’s No. 3 pick. Richmond recalls meeting with Golden State general manager Don Nelson

Richmond on The Habershow:

I walked in, and the first thing I said to him, I said, “I know you traded me. But don’t tell me you traded me to Sacramento Kings.” And he said, “I traded you to Sacramento Kings.” And I said, “Thank you. I really appreciate it.” And I turned around. And that was one of the worst days of my life, really.

Richmond wasn’t despondent only because he had to join the Kings. This deal broke up Run TMC – the Warriors’ high-octane trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. Those three reflected more on their time together on The Habershow. I highly recommend listening to it.

But Richmond also had reason to be leery of Sacramento. In six seasons since moving there, the Kings had a losing record every year.

Richmond:

It was unbelievable. I walk in, and the first thing I hear from one of the players, they go, “Welcome to hell.” And I’m like, “Aw, s—. Damn.” I’m like, “What? Oh my god.” So, I sit down. Now, I’m just sitting there. I have my clothes on and Spud Webb comes down sits right next to me.

Spud whispers to me and goes, “Man, I don’t wish this on nobody. But I’m glad you’re here with me.”

Coincidentally, Sacramento was playing at Golden State the next day. Richmond told the Kings he wasn’t prepared to play. Instead, he drove around Oakland. When he got home, he asked his wife the score of the game.

Richmond:

She wouldn’t even say anything. And I looked at it. We had lost by 61 points. I just started crying. I just started crying. I’m like, “Man, ain’t no way.”

I called my agent, and I – a young player, I didn’t even know the rules. And I called him, and I said, “Is there any way I can retire?”

I said, “Can I just retire and come somewhere else?” He said, “Ah, it doesn’t work that way.” And I was like, “Damn.” So, the story gets even worse.

So, the next morning – I just bought my house, and I already decided I’m not moving. I’m just going to drive up every day. You know what I mean? I’m just going to drive up. I’m just going to commute. Whatever. Why not? So, I drive up, and we’re supposed to have practice at like 10:30. I get there by like 9, trying to figure out, get there a little early. Walk in the locker room. No one is there. Ten o’clock comes. No one there. 10:30 comes. No one there. I’m still there. I stay there until noon. Randy Brown walks in, and I said, “Hey, what time practice?” He said, “Aw man, we’ve got two days off.” I said, “Two days offs? We just f—ing lost by 61.” Two days off – oh my god. I said, “Oh my god. Aw, aw.”

That year, I decided I wasn’t going to comb my hair. I wasn’t going to do anything. I didn’t comb my hair for the whole year.

Dick Motta was probably, it was the end of his career. He wasn’t really – it was crazy. We were only practicing like 30 minutes. And we sucked. I mean, we were so bad. And to be down at Sacrament and then, at that time, you see the newspaper. It’s all Golden State Warriors. I cried all that year. I mean, it was tough. It was really tough.

The Kings were awful. They actually lost that game to Golden State by 62. And it didn’t get much better. In Richmond’s seven years with the Kings, they had a losing record each season.

Maybe Motta was ahead of his time. Teams now deemphasize practice to promote rest. That loss to the Warriors was the second game of a back-to-back. When Jim Boylen called for a Bulls practice the day after a back-to-back last season, players nearly mutinied.

Of course, there’s a difference between deliberate load management and lazy habits. There’s little reason to believe the Kings knew what they were doing.

It hasn’t always been so bad in Sacramento. Eventually, the Kings traded Richmond for Chris Webber, who led Sacramento to some awesome seasons.

But the Kings went back to being horrid over a long, continuing period. Even now, they’ve lost six straight and just look dismal.

Some of it is isolated errors. Sacramento’s losing has transcended owners, coaches and players. But it also seems there’s a malaise ingrained within the culture. Richmond not cutting his hair is a telling example of the attitude. Buddy Hield called out the Kings’ reputation when agitating for a contract extension.

Several years after trading Billy Owens for Richmond, Sacramento traded for Owens to complement Richmond.

Richmond:

I kept the dream alive. I said, “I wouldn’t wish this on no one. But thank god you’re here with me.”

Just pass it down to the next guy.

Rumor: Next NBA season could begin in March

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and 76ers center Joel Embiid
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The NBA could reportedly delay the start of next season – currently planned for Dec. 1 – if fan attendance becomes foreseeable.

How long would the league wait?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

one plan includes starting in March if the NBA feels they can get fans in the arena by then, as well as not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.

I understand the temptation to delay. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for NBA teams to turn a profit.

But this plan would invite all sorts of complications:

  • What if there’s no vaccine, cure or comparable solution by March? Then, the league would have wasted months getting practically no revenue – rather than reduced revenue – without reaching a more favorable point. (However, maybe owners could also reduce costs with a lockout.)
  • Starting the season in March would radically alter the NBA’s calendar. Shifting back to an October – or even December – start date would mean even more upheaval, potentially for several years.
  • The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July and August 2021. The Olympics have been a powerful tool for the NBA and its players expanding their global reach.

These are unique and trying circumstances. Coronavirus is a massive and confounding variable. Everything should be on the table.

Do I predict next season will begin in March? No. But apparently the possibility is being considered, which is something.

Magic center Mo Bamba had coronavirus

Magic center Mo Bamba
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Mo Bamba has fallen behind Khem Birch as the Magic’s backup center (to Nikola Vucevic). At the NBA’ resumption at Disney World, Bamba has played in only two of Orlando’s four games, receiving just four and six minutes. Magic coach Steve Clifford cited the 22-year-old’s conditioning.

Bamba wants you to know the full story: He had coronavirus.

Josh Robbins of The Athletic:

Bamba received word of his positive test on June 11

The illness temporarily robbed him of his senses of smell and taste, made him unusually fatigued and caused muscle soreness.

“Part of me is reading the temperature of the room and just knowing that there are definitely going to be questions, and sometimes you’ve just got to address them with honesty,” Bamba said. “In this case, I think it’s best for them to have that context and have that understanding of what, exactly, is going on.

“I want people to know that I’m still working as hard as ever, if not even harder, and I’ll get through this.”

Bamba thought he had endured the worst by the time the Magic entered the NBA bubble on July 7. But the false positives required him to have an additional three-day in-room quarantine while his teammates practiced together on July 9, July 10 and July 11.

I appreciate Bamba being so forthcoming. It was easy for people to suspect he didn’t train properly during the hiatus. Though medical privacy should also be valued, transparency often alleviates the worst suspicions.

At least 54 NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus. Does that number already include Bamba? It’s unclear.

After going quiet during most of the shutdown, the league has announced the number of players who’ve tested positive since June 23. Maybe Bamba continued to test positive on June 23 or later. Or perhaps he’s an additional case from the quiet period. There definitely were some cases in that timeframe.

False positives are an issue – an unavoidable one. It’s unfair Bamba was stuck in his hotel room, not training, longer than necessary. But the NBA can’t risk allowing a potentially contagious player into the bubble. Better to err on the side of safety.

The No. 6 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Bamba improved steadily from an underwhelming rookie season. He still needs more work to become a quality NBA player. This is a setback, and one that makes him unlikely to contribute much the rest of this season. Hopefully, he’ll be able to pick up next season where he left off when this season got suspended.

Three Things to Know: What’s next for 76ers without Ben Simmons?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack — especially with games spread out every day in the bubble — so every weekday during the NBA restart we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) What’s next for 76ers without Ben Simmons?

“This one stings, for sure.”

That was 76ers coach Brett Brown, who has had to deal with a lot of injuries to players during his tenure in Philadelphia. But this one hurts a little more because of the timing. The Sixers will be without Ben Simmons for a while after he suffered a subluxation of the left patella — his kneecap essentially dislocated then popped back into place — against Washington.

The 76ers were adjusting to playing Simmons at power forward during the restart in Orlando. Now there are just questions.

How long will Simmons be out? That’s the big one and the answer is nobody knows for sure. The Sixers are evaluating treatment options. As Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes notes, Allen Crabbe had the same injury earlier this year and missed 11 days (three games), but he had no damage to the ligaments or rest of the knee. That’s the most common outcome for this injury and it would have Simmons back around the start of the playoffs. However, if there is any ligament damage, Simmons could be out much longer. (The early reports were the MRI came back clean, but that doesn’t tell us much about the real level of damage other than it wasn’t severe.) Philadelphia has always been cautious when it comes to bringing its stars back from injury.

Who starts for Philadelphia while Simmons is out? That’s one Brown has to decide by today (Friday) and the game against Orlando. He could plug Al Horford back into the starting lineup — the Sixers were +1.4 points per 100 possessions this season with Embiid and Horford on the court together without Simmons (it was -0.7 with all three and the floor spacing was a mess). Or, Brown could keep Horford on the bench and go with another wing such as Matisse Thybulle or Furkan Korkmaz.

Philadelphia seems locked into the six seed in the East (they are one game back of five seed Indiana with four to play, but the Pacers beat the Sixers last Friday and have the tiebreaker, so it is in practice a two-game lead).

Philadelphia is 6-5 this season without Simmons, and while they can plug other players into the four they will not have Simmons’ elite defense, nor his passing skills, and the new player will not be the same threat in transition. Philadelphia is just not the same threat in the East without Simmons.

2) Portland is in control of ninth seed in West after win, New Orleans loss

There is going to be a play-in series in the West — and Portland is going to be in it.

That much seems obvious after Thursday’s action, where Jusuf Nurkic was dunking on Bol Bol and Portland was picking up a 125-115 win over Denver.

That win has Portland half a game back of  Memphis for the eighth seed in the West — and the 0-4 Grizzlies face a tough game against the Thunder Friday. The West could be tied by Saturday morning.

Portland looks to be a lock for the play-in.

Can anyone else crash that party? Sacramento earned it’s first win in the bubble on Thursday, knocking off Zion Williamson and New Orleans, meaning now both the Kings and Pelicans sit 2.5 games back of the Grizzlies with four to play. Both need to win out and hope Memphis continues losing to have a chance to get into a play-in with Portland.

The undefeated-in-the-bubble Suns and the Spurs both sit two games back of the Grizzlies and with a chance to make a play-in. Just as with the Kings/Pels, the Suns and Spurs essentially need to win out and count on the Grizzlies continued stumbles to have a chance.

Memphis controls its own destiny. But without Jaren Jackson Jr., and with Ja Morant struggling from three, a sharp turnaround is needed.

3) Milwaukee wraps up No. 1 seed in East

This was expected, but the Bucks made it dramatic. Miami led this game by 23 points in the first half, but both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton turned it on — both finished with 33 points each — and Milwaukee came back to get 130-116 win. With that, the Bucks officially wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the East.

While this is good for the Bucks — who now get an easy first-round playoff matchup against Brooklyn or Orlando — they know they will be judged on the playoffs. This is a Finals-or-bust team. And Milwaukee fans don’t want to think about the options for bust.

Milwaukee has eased into games in the NBA restart, not worrying about wins now and rather being healthy and firing on all cylinders when the games matter. They have that luxury with the lead they built up in the East, but they need to flip the switch eventually. As they did coming back on the Heat.

Kemba Walker was ‘very serious’ about Knicks at one point in free agency

Kemba Walker practice
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Kemba Walker is a New York guy — born in the Bronx and attended Rice High School in Harlem.

Now Walker admits he seriously considered going home during his 2019 free agency and playing for the Knicks, but their inability to land another star ultimately led him to look elsewhere. Walker went on The Ringer’s R2C2 podcast with Ryan Ruocco and CC Sabathia and was asked whether he considered coming home.

“To be honest, yes. Yes, very serious. Very… Before Boston actually came along, the Knicks was one of my top priorities, actually, because I was thinking they were gonna get another player, but it didn’t work out.”

You can hear Kemba Walker pause and carefully choose his words in talking about the Knicks and why he decided to choose Boston instead.

As for that other player, I’d bet the rent that’s Kevin Durant. The two-time Finals MVP had been linked to the Knicks for much of the season, but when KD ultimately surveyed his options — and got together with Kyrie Irving — they chose the better foundation of players and more stable culture of Brooklyn. No Durant going to New York, Waker started thinking Boston.

That another All-Star/All-NBA level player was drawn to the Knicks speaks to the lure of New York City — players want to play there. Elite players. But they want to win more, and the Knicks with Tom Thibodeau have to build a foundation and culture conducive to winning. Do that and the stars will come.