The Sacramento Kings Worst Season: 2009

The Sacramento Kings have been the NBA’s nomads for 73 years. They started life as the Rochester Royals. Incredibly, the BAA/NBA managed to put two teams in that Western New York Syracuse/Rochester market and make it work throughout the 1950s.

The Royals moved to Cincinnati in 1957 and put together a nice run with Oscar Robertson, but they never quite got over the hump into the first rank of NBA franchises. They were outclassed first by the Lakers and Hawks and then, realigned east, by the Celtics and 76ers.

Finally, after Big O left, Cincinnati sank into the abyss, fan support dried up, and it was off to Kansas City with them. They played home games in Omaha for three years, but once Kemper Arena was completed in 1974, the Kings stayed home in KC.

Where they stunk. Except for a weird season in 1981 where Kansas City posted a losing record and nearly made the NBA Finals—the WCF that year was between two 40-42 teams, with the Houston Rockets taking the series—the Kings were perpetually mediocre at best.

So they packed up and left for Sacramento in 1985, and they’ve been there ever since…and they’ve stunk for most of the trip.

The Kings have posted just eight winning records in 37 seasons in Sactown, all in a row between 1999 and 2006. They went their first 13 seasons without one; they’ve gone the last 16 years bereft of even 40 wins and often not even cracked 30.

But there was one season so bad, so utterly vile, that it stands out even in the Kings’ tortured history as a franchise. It was the sign that the good days were at last gone forever.

It’s time to talk about 2009 and a 17-65 baby’s diaper full of futility.

The On-Court Record

The wild thing about the ’09 Kings is the sheer amount of “almost respectable” peppered in with the losing.

They started the season 4-5. Then they stood 5-8 through 13 contests. That right there is good for about 31-51, not good by any stretch but not completely awful.

They lost the next eight in a row to drop to 5-16. But the Kings never posted a double-digit losing streak all year. Their worst runs were of eight games (this streak between November 21 and December 6), eight games again (January 16 to January 30), and nine games (March 31 to April 13.)

There was always a win in there somewhere to keep them out of utter despair. Trouble was, “won one then lost four or five straight” established a baseline that led to almost four losses for every win.

Advanced stats-wise, Sacramento posted the second-worst Net Rating (minus-9.2.) The Clippers, at minus-9.4, spared Sacramento the indignity of dead last.

On the other hand, the Kings’ defense stunk impressively. A minus-114.7 Defensive Rating was downright disgusting. Teams shot 48.3 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from 3-point range against the Kings, one easy way to run up the score.

And the Kings played the seventh-fastest in the league (94.2), making the average score of a Kings game 109-101 in favor of the other guys night after night.

Get your barf bag if you want to watch old Kings games.

The Featured Players

Kevin Martin of the Sacramento Kings

Injuries ravaged this squad, which forced them to start ten different guys for at least ten games.

Kevin Martin led the squad in Win Shares with 4.7 and WS/48 with .117. Brad Miller, in just 43 games, posted 2.6 WS and .091 WS/48.

But the name that really stands out is Donte Greene. Greene played 725 minutes in 55 games. In that time, he managed minus-1.1 WS. He occupies that vaunted tier of late first-rounders (28th overall by Memphis in 2008 and immediately shipped to Sacramento) who played their rookie contract out and ended up out of the league without ever playing another game.

Jason Thompson, Beno Udrih, and Spencer Hawes make up the 2,000-minute club for this team. They posted 2.7, 1.2, and 0.8 WS respectively. As such, they posted as many Win Shares in almost 7,000 combined minutes as Martin did by himself in 1,947. When your so-called best players can’t get the job done, you’re going to stink. But this team got hurt with regularity. It’s not like anyone expected them to run Martin out for 3,000 minutes.

This team had no star power at all. Except for Martin and Miller, they didn’t even have Competent Journeyman Power. They just ran out scrubs day in and day out. So the rest of the league just outclassed them.

The Coach

In 2008, the Kings posted a 38-44 record. Fans hoped would spark a turnaround. But Reggie Theus started 6-18 in 2009 and got the ax. He never again held a head coaching position on an NBA sideline.

Kenny Natt took over as interim coach, posted an 11-47 (.190) mark, then never coached at any level again. He worked as an assistant around the league for 13 years. And he’d toiled on Utah’s sideline behind Jerry Sloan for both of the Jazz’s Finals runs.

But even though he was just 50, that was it for Natt.

Bad teams kill coaching careers. It’s that simple.

The Aftermath

How’s 13 losing seasons and no playoff appearances strike you for an aftermath? The Kings stand in the role of perpetual loser. Which, considering their history since at least the ’70s, is about what the NBA always seems to expect.

Most old things in sports tend to have some glory in their history. Except for a championship in 1951, the Kings have none at all.

How anyone not from Sacramento chooses to root for this team is beyond me. Y’all got a legit garbage fire on your hands.

Good luck in 2023. You’ll need it.

NEXT: San Antonio Spurs. The jingle jangle jingle of lottery balls awaits. So tank merrily along through a year of injuries and “injuries”. And get your Wake Forest jersey out. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!