Nothing about this season has gone to plan.
At the start of this season, I predicted the Kings would win about 33 games, maybe more. 33 was a number a lot of us latched onto this preseason. It would be a nice jump, a stepping stone towards eventual contention for a playoff spot. I predicted the Kings would be somewhere around 10th or 11th in the conference. And perhaps most importantly, I thought I'd be really upset with the state of the team if these targets were missed.
It's funny how things can change.
Today, I find myself as a fan in a sense of purgatory. I watch games, but I don't find myself caring that much if the Kings win or lose. And that's a good thing because the Kings have been an on-court disaster. I'll be surprised if the Kings finish this season anywhere better than last in the West.
But I don't really care.
The Kings young core is as confusing as ever. Should the franchise build around DeMarcus Cousins? Should the franchise build around Tyreke Evans? Should one, or both, be traded? Right now those questions seem even more confusing than they did at the start of the season.
Take DeMarcus. At the beginning of the season he was our cornerstone player. We laughed and made t-shirts mocking his "red flags". Now, he's been through ups and downs. He's played great for a spell, but played terrible for a bigger spell. If you made me choose between a long-term future with DeMarcus or Tyreke, today I'd lean towards Tyreke, but I wouldn't feel confident about it. And tomorrow I might give you a different answer.
Tyreke has played incredibly well this season. He's bounced back from last year just about as well as anyone should have expected. But there are still the same old issues. Sure, he's put forth a previously uncommon effort on defense, and he's been great at getting to the rim, but his jumper is still unreliable at best.
But none of this matters.
Even if the Kings were ready to part ways with one of these young men, the franchise is crippled. There will be no sense of hopeful anticipation at the trade deadline. Geoff Petrie is a lame duck, and the only moves that the Kings might make will be deals that don't add salary. Nothing to get excited about here. No great hope being pursued by a thousand Trade Machine GMs. The team we see now is more or less the team we'll see the remainder of this year, in all likelihood.
And I don't care.
There's no excitement about draft prospects. The Kings will once again be counting their ping pong balls. Normally at this point in the season we'd start having discussions about prospects. We'd argue and be stubborn and make presumptive comparisons and it would be the macabre kind of fun that gets Kings fans through yet another down season. But not this year. Sure, a few of those threads will pop up. But we won't be having those discussions on the same scale that we normally would.
But it doesn't matter.
The only thing that matters right now is the match-up between Sacramento and Seattle. Between the whales and Hansen-Ballmer. Between KJ and the Board of Governors. It's all consuming. Yes, it's the end game, and there's a relief in that. There's a relief knowing that the Maloofs will not be part of our lives after this season. Sure, there's an outside chance at an extended legal battle into next season, but I think one way or another the NBA will make every attempt to avoid that scenario. So, we are in the end game. That's what matters. That's where our focus, our energy, our words, our comments, our money, and our passion will all be poured into.
Nothing about this season has gone to plan. But that's ok. I'd rather face this lost season. A season where, when all of this is said and done, the on-court trials and tribulations will be a blur. I'd rather stand face to face with the end game rather than continue an indefinite period of Maloof ownership.
Every time I start to feel a sense of pessimism about our current saga, something happens to inspire me. Whether it's $22 million in new season tickets being pledged by Kings fans and local businesses, or Kings fans donating nearly $10,000 to buy tickets for local kids to be able to attend a Kings game, this community continues to astound me. Whenever it seems the rest of the world is writing us off, Kings fans are stepping up to the plate. It's an incredible display of resolve.
This is all that matters.
Because if we pull this one off, we'll have all the time in the world for everything else. We'll spend years arguing with one another about the roster, and draft picks, and trade ideas. We'll argue over the new direction of the team and how to build the roster and who should stay and who should go. If we pull this off, we'll have a lifetime of these discussions. So I don't care about the record this year. I'll still watch and I'll still hope the we win more often than we lose. But that isn't where the focus is. This season isn't going according to the original plan, but that's because that initial plan got torn to scraps in favor of a more important plan. We're focused elsewhere, because that's where we need to be focused.
The fight isn't over.
Go Stay Kings.