It’s Okay To Be Optimistic, Kings Fans
by Franklin Cartoscelli – Sports 1140 KHTK
It still doesn’t feel real.
Sure, the 2018-19 season is only halfway over, but the fact that the Sacramento Kings have a winning record in mid-January is a hard reality to grasp.
The harsh reality is that fans of Sacramento haven’t felt anything but disappointment for over a decade. Kings fans’ activities in January usually consist of studying mock drafts, looking into potential coaching hires, and diving into another summer of telling themselves, “maybe next season”, or “what if”.
For a lot of Kings fans, “maybe next season” had turned into “who knows”.
Things had looked bleak for a very long time.
When your idols become your rivals… Let your game do the talking. 😤 pic.twitter.com/k4lLLQRKLu
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) January 15, 2019
Most fans look back to the “glory days”, which included a streak of eight consecutive playoff berths from 1998-2006. While calling Sacramento home, the Kings have made the playoffs 10 times over 33 seasons.
It’s hard not to reminisce about those years, especially with so many familiar faces around the team.
Doug Christie is on TV and radio, while Bobby Jackson assists fellow front office member and former teammate Peja Stojakovic in Player Development. And of course, Vlade Divac, former All-star center and current General Manager is calling the shots for this Kings team.
The glory days, while fun to reminisce about, are also painful to reflect on. This is mostly because Kings fans don’t have much to look back at and hang their hat on from an on-court product standpoint. Saving the team from relocation will always be this franchise’s greatest triumph, but the after the honeymoon phase of saving the team wore off, tension mounted more and more with each loss.
Since their last playoff birth in 2006, the Kings have a 336-632 record over 12 tumultuous seasons.
Which is, again, why this season feels so surreal to many.
The Sacramento Kings were not expected to compete for a postseason spot this year. They weren’t supposed to be at the top of the league in pace. Even the odds out of Las Vegas expected the Kings to continue their trend of losing, pegging them as a 25 win team.
It’s January 15th and the Kings have 23 wins.
In order to coincide with their win-loss prediction, Sacramento would need to lose 36 of their remaining 38 games.
Not only do they have a winning record while sitting a half-game back of the eighth seed, but they are playing the game of basketball very, very, well.
After a 3-0 homestand, the Kings hit the road for six games beginning on Thursday night in Charlotte, a team that Sacramento beat at Golden 1 Center just days ago by a final of 104-97.
Coming out of a tough portion of the schedule that included four straight losses against the some of the top teams in Western Conference, the Kings are in a position to solidify their position as a playoff possibility as four of their next five games come against teams under the .500 mark.
Sacramento holds an impressive 15-4 record against teams under .500, and also hold a 10-3 record against Eastern Conference teams.
Those three losses against the Eastern Conference came against the top three seeds: Toronto, Milwaukee, and Indiana.
The Kings are very much for real, and it is a very exciting time to be a fan. The time for optimism has arrived. While it may be scary, it’s here. Meaningful Kings games are back, and they’re as fun as ever. The season is now 44 games old, and after winning four of their last five games, Sacramento is off to an incredible start to the second half of the season.
Head coach Dave Joerger and his staff have done a phenomenal job of turning this team around, warranting extensions into next season from Divac.
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts raved about Dave Joerger after the Kings win on Monday night: “He’s a terrific, terrific coach. The way he’s remade the team, the style of player–if you had to vote today, he’d probably be coach of the year.”
Another fan of Joerger is former MVP and current Golden State Warriors All-star forward, Kevin Durant: “I see a coach like that and he’s got these guys playing a different way than he’s used to coaching. They’re playing fast. He’s putting the ball in his players’ hands and giving them the opportunity to take advantage of the opportunity they have and putting them in great positions to be successful. I’m like, that’s the sign of a good coach and you can tell his players like that.”
A massive benefiter of Joerger’s run and gun offense is second-year guard De’Aaron Fox.
Fox is a Most Improved Player of the Year candidate, as he ranks 7th in the league in steals and 8th in assists. As for his numbers against his fellow point guard counterparts, he’s up there with the best:
Three West PGs currently rank in the top-10 in points, assists, steals, FG% and 3PT% at the position (per ESPN).
James Harden (age: 29)
Steph Curry (age: 30)
De’Aaron Fox (age: 21) pic.twitter.com/QSza3dpj9q
— Alex Kramers (@alexkramers) January 15, 2019
Fox has improved in every category from his rookie year, holding per game averages of 17.9 points, 7.3 assists, and 1.8 steals.
Buddy Hield is without a doubt one of the top three-point shooters in the league, scoring 20.1 points per game with 44% accuracy from the three-point line. The Kings are 14-8 when Hield scores 20 points or more this season.
Bogdan Bogdanovic is a dark horse Sixth Man of the Year candidate, leading the Kings second unit with 15.4 points and 3.9 assists per game.
Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley III are turning into a dynamic duo in the post before our very eyes. Giles has stepped up lately, holding averages of 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds over his past five games while shooting 61% from the field. Per 36 minutes, Giles is averaging 17.2 points and 10 rebounds per game, while Bagley is at 19.4 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Justin Jackson has turned into a valuable “three-and D” wing off of the Sacramento bench, knocking down 40% of his threes since December. Jackson’s defense has proven valuable late in games, as he usually finds himself guarding impact wings in crunch time.
There are so many positives for this Kings team, and while the hard work is just beginning, this team is up for the challenge.
No more looking back on the “glory days”. No more reminiscing. The best days are ahead for the Sacramento Kings.
And they’re coming sooner than you think.