As it is every year around this time and especially around this team, fans begin to assess their place in the NBA pecking order; just how far down the list do we have to go before we find the Sacramento Kings? We sift through a hundred different lists from a hundred different prognosticators with hot takes and cold hard “facts” about who’s headed to the playoffs, who sits in the lottery and who’s fans should start sacrificing their $10 LowBrau Bratwursts to the lottery gods, or the lopsided trade gods or the Texas-sized asteroid heading for the Pacific, and save for the brave few over the last decade, we’ve always seemed to find the Kings at the bottom of most predicted standings, at the top of most projected draft boards. The swirl of armchair experts and the random accounts with “sources” on Twitter, those suspected trolls in the comment section of every Kings article on every site, Danny from accounting who played JuCo ball in Wyoming and has been a Warriors fan “before Darren Davis”, the asshole preview writer who couldn’t spell Greta Gerwig’s name right if his writing gig depended on it; they all know the Kings suck, have sucked and will continue to suck in perpetuity and long past your corporeal demise. The feeling is as ubiquitous as is it is endlessly depressing.
Remember being small and closing your eyes then pressing slightly on your eyelids to see for a moment that array of phosphenes cascading through the perceptive void? Kings fans have been staring into that darkness, and rubbing our lids for 12 years, watching bright shapes whizzing and twirling by in the shapes of a Tyreke Evans or a DeMarcus Cousins (or a Luka Doncic). When you were young, did you ever try to open your eyes and see if you could keep that swirl of color out in front of you while also viewing the reality that light brought to you? Didn’t work, did it? It’s disappointing, opening your eyes as a Kings fan, watching a Rookie of the Year, a multi-time All Star, a EuroLeague MVP and prodigy fade away, leaving only the harsh light of reality before you. But you tried right?
I guess what I’m trying to bend towards is a question that has been sitting with me for the last few months, through the entirety of the draft process, through “superteam, just young”, through reading all of these really well thought out 30Q’s. It’s inherently farfetched and maybe I’ve pressed on my eyelids hard enough to give me a fun little bout of drain bamage. But every silly thing I see about the Kings, every time I roll my eyes... I stop midway through, because there is an inkling, a snowballs chance in hell, a non-zero chance of the question becoming a reality.
I’m not saying he’s right. I’m not close to attempting to pitch you on every way he’s right (Vivek doesn’t pay us enough for that), and I don’t have a bridge to sell you. I’m just saying: what happens if Vlade, and by extension Vivek and Brandon Williams etc., are right about everything? Where does that leave the Sacramento Kings? Where does that leave us as a fanbase? Where does that leave that ass Danny from accounting?
Close your eyes for a second and tell me what trickles by. Suddenly each of the previous questions posed on Sactown Royalty this month get answered, and with highest of high, pie-in-the-sky positive answers. What does that young super team do this year? How many games sell out this year (and I mean really sell out) if the Kings shock the league and win 40 games this year? De’Aaron Fox plays at a level that Akis argues in January that Fox was snubbed from the All-Star Game, right? There’s talk of Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles splitting the Rookie of the Year votes and someone else sneaking in there! Buddy is a shoo-in for the All Star Three Point Shootout. Bogdanovic is a modern Manu. Now, press a bit on your lids and tell me what the buzz around Sacramento looks like when the Kings average 110 points per game and how much purple do you see in the sea of kids and parents this holiday season walking around the mall? How do you feel turning to ESPN on a random Wednesday and hearing the talking heads argue about whether or not the surprise team of the winter out in Sacramento can keep all this up?
Look a little further, and past the immediate. Look toward the back of the void. It’s the Kings fourth straight season in the playoffs; a fully realized, veteran lead team made up of all the picks we hated or second guessed or were indifferent to years before. What kind of fan are you now that your team is favorite for the Western Conference Finals? How shook is Danny from accounting when you call his bluff after he says he’s been a Kings fan “since the Jay Williams days”? Six years, eight years down the road. Where do we realistically place a Vlade Divac-Brandon Williams duo in the history of Sacramento if the Kings go from blunder-a-day to team of the year candidates? In your mind, did Fox become a John Wall? Giles a Kevin Garnett? Bagley a Chris Bosh? How does it feel to be bored with winning? What’s it like to feel that sting after a loss? How close does the Larry O’Brien trophy have to be before it’s so close you can taste it? How much purple confetti ended up in random places in your house after shook yourself off after the parade? How many teary-eyed fist bumps are you giving Danny on Monday?
Open your eyes.
When you were young, you tried to make that bit of something different stick around. No matter how well you knew better. No matter how many times it didn’t happen, you tried right?
Staring into the abyss for as long as we have, we know better than to expect anything but the reality of the situation when we open our eyes. But what if this time we’re wrong?
What if Vlade’s right?