I’ve spent a lifetime working in sales and customer service. As a sales manager I used to tell my troops that 100% customer satisfaction was indeed attainable, but only for a nanosecond, as the precise moment that you achieve it, your customer raises the bar. The adage of movement – either forward or backward with no standing still – has been a truism in my professional life. And it is no different for your Sacramento Kings.
The Kings have absolutely blown the doors off of any and all reasonable expectations for themselves this year. March 5th and this team has a winning record? Craziness. That the team even has a remote (and it is remote) chance at the playoffs? Beyond comprehension. For most Kings fans I would guess that 100% satisfaction for the 2018-19 season was attained quite some time ago. And the nanosecond is gone, and the bar has been raised.
There are more than a few Kings fans out there that will be disappointed if the Kings miss the playoffs for the 13th straight season, and who can blame them? With no 1st round draft pick on the 2019 horizon, there is not even a consolation prize for missing the playoffs this year. Most of us would have never even considered the prospect of being disappointed if this team misses the playoffs this season, but it will happen to many Kings fans who, while appreciating an absolutely incredible season and the most fun rooting for the Kings since Ron Artest and Bonzi Wells rocked the black and purple, will be at least a little let down if this team fails to crash the West's top eight. Kings fans will be ecstatic when they look back on this season. But 100% satisfied? I think that only occurs if the team makes the playoffs at this point. And if by some stretch the team does make the playoffs, the bar will again be raised, at least to the realm of "I hope that we don’t embarrass ourselves in the playoffs!"
And this bar is raised for everyone moving forward. The front office has done itself proud with the drafting of De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley (and getting at least fair value out of the drafting of Wille Cauley-Stein). The brass ring that is becoming Harry Giles. The obtaining of Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Harrison Barnes. The signings of Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell. A solid-to-very good job, and one that hinges on what the front office does with its ample cap space this summer. The need to address interior defense and rebounding will chart the path for the 2019-20 Kings. And the bar going into to the summer will be raised, as the fan base will want the kind of moves that have this team challenging not just for a playoffs spot, but for 50 wins, and perhaps even hosting a first round playoff series.
The coaching staff has done a marvelous job of committing to and developing the youth on this team. At different points during this season, fans have been 100% satisfied with Fox, Bagley, Hield and Giles (again, with the bar always being instantaneously raised). On balance my opinion is that there are not six coaches in the world that would have this team sporting a better won-loss record. That said, not every rotation has been justifiable and when this team goes off the rails, it does not speak well of how well-coached this team appears to be. At the beginning of the season we would have hailed Dave Joerger as a Coach-of-the-Year candidate if he could coax anything close to a .500 record out of this roster. Now? Missing the playoffs would be a disappointment, and some of his decisions could be the difference between making and missing the playoffs according to a segment of fans…and those raised expectations, of course.
The players have this summer to mature into their games. We have seen some brilliant play by these youngsters, so brilliant that it is easy to forget just how young and inexperienced they are as a group. I liken it to when my kids actually act their age – it is such a shock to me when they do something immature that I have to remind myself how far ahead they are of me when I was their age (or my current age, for that matter). These guys have shown so much game at times that it is easy to forget how much they still have to learn, but their play has – you’ve got it – raised those darned expectations. This team is going to need to have the persona of a veteran team next season, on that rarely finds itself on the wrong side of a 14-2 run and one that executes and does not wilt down the stretch of a tight game.
It has taken well over a decade, but the Kings and their fans now must deal with heightened expectations. Expectations that, if met, will be met for only that nanosecond, and at that moment the bar will be raised and the next goal will be eagerly sought by the Kings and their fans. It is both an exciting and terrifying time to be following this team. These windows to be competitive are narrow and can snap shut with little or no notice.
Thanks to the Kings ownership, front office, coaching staff, players and fans for making this such a fun season, one to be celebrated. And as my boss used to say the day after we made our year-end bonuses, "Congratulations. You’ve earned it. Celebrate it. Also, today we are back at square one, and thanks to last year’s success this year will be even tougher. So let’s keep the celebration brief and get to the business of doing it again."
Go Kings. I'm behind you 100%.*
*(Percentage subject to change)