Sunday Musings: Be Rationally Optimistic, Kings Fans

3-2 start has Kings fans on high alert

Welcome to the return of Sunday Musings, a column that will run weekly at The Kings Beat that dates back to the Cowbell Kingdom days. 

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After 15 seasons of futility, Kings fans are on the brink and we’re five games into the season. The highs and lows are no longer gauged by five game increments or the first half of the season. It’s more like moment by moment, quarter by quarter, play by play.

The angst is real. You can feel it through your keyboard as you track the ebbs and flows of the game on social media. It feels like thousands of people who have found their voices and are living a shared experience despite no one being in the same room.

Welcome to Kings fandom. Welcome to the age of covid. Welcome to 2021.

Maybe it’s on the Kings and their mantra of “stacking days” and their desire to go 1-0 every game. On certain nights, it feels like fans want the team to go 1-0 every quarter or maybe even every play.

This is what happens when you starve a fanbase for a decade and a half and then give them a little sliver of hope. 

Hope. It springs eternal every year. Hold onto it as long as possible.

The players are taking the adventure in stride. Every player on the squad has felt at least a little success, but also failure, except for maybe Davion Mitchell.

While nothing has been easy, the team walks into Sunday’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks with a 3-2 record. They are also 3-0 on the road this season and 2-0 on the current four game trip. 

“You learn a lot about yourself early and you’d rather not dig yourself a hole early in the season,” De’Aaron Fox said. “It’s great that we’ve been able to get these wins.”

Fox knows what a hole feels like. This is his fifth season in Sacramento. “The Scores” was clever, but a better t-shirt to represent the Kings’ franchise might be “The Hole: Trying to dig out since 2006.”

Five games into the 2021-22 season, the Kings are over .500 against four playoff/play-in teams from a season ago and a team they finished tied in the standings with last season. All three wins have come on the road, one in Portland, one in Phoenix against a team that represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals a season ago, and the latest in New Orleans.

The schedule gods didn’t do the Kings any favors. This was a tough five game stretch and the fact that the team isn’t near the bottom of the standings at this point is stunning. 

In short, if you bet that the Kings would sit at 3-2 after five games, you aren’t good at gambling. You were allowing your purple colored lenses to override your better judgement. 

What you should be looking at are signs of learning. Signs of improvement. Signs where improvement can happen. 

It’s all right there in front of you. The players who are succeeding are the veterans. The players who are struggling or haven’t quite figured out their place in the grand scheme, have an incredible amount of room to grow and settle in.

So far, the team has been competitive in all five games. They made mistakes in the fourth quarter in all five. They allowed teams to come back in all five games. But learning to win is extremely difficult in the NBA and the Kings are firing on somewhere between four and six of their eight cylinders every night. 

There will come a point when Fox regains his form and adjusts to the pressure of being the most expensive player in franchise history. 

Haliburton is just starting to settle into his new role as a starter and is beginning to flourish. 

Davion Mitchell will only improve as the season goes on and Terence Davis will start hitting his shots while carving out his own niche.

The key is that these four players compliment Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield and Richaun Holmes extremely well. And the trio of Moe Harkless, Alex Len and Tristan Thompson are the types of veterans that play to their strengths and add to the overall depth.

This team has major potential for improvement, but they need some time in the pot to simmer. That is the case with plenty of teams in the league, but especially for squads like Sacramento that are shuffling in four or five new faces that weren’t on the roster prior to last season’s trade deadline. 

This team might have a chance. The longer they compete and hover around the .500 mark, the better opportunity they have of snapping the losing streak. 

But for now, keep in mind that basketball is escapism, especially during the incredibly difficult times that everyone is going through. The passion that Kings fans still have for this team, despite the losing seasons, is incredible. 

Nothing is guaranteed, but this season could be different. The chemistry of this team is already showing promising signs. They seem to have skipped a few steps in training camp and now they are trying to figure out how to close out games and consistently pick up wins. 

A victory in spectacular fashion, like the one we saw on Wednesday in Phoenix or an edge of your seat nail biter like the one in New Orleans can go a long way toward galvanizing a team and giving them momentum. 

The Kings aren't to a point where a win against another NBA team is given. To think that is to ignore the history that is hanging over this franchise like an inescapable dark cloud.

Everyone needs to give this group time to prove who they are and who they can become. We probably won’t know any of these answers until much later in the season, but until then, why not enjoy the action, even if it’s one giant roller coaster ride.

Give yourself the chance to be a fan. Yell. Scream. Buy a ticket and support your team. Hope springs eternal. Hold onto that thought as long as this team allows you to. Five games in, you should still feel excited about the potential of this group. That hasn’t always been the case in Sacramento.

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