Last season was truly an incredible experience for Sacramento Kings fans. After such a brutally long drought filled with disappointment, the Kings not only the drought but earned the 3 seed in the Western Conference. The Kings had one of the most magical seasons in franchise history, winning games with a fun style of play and lovable cast of characters. It was everything we dream of as sports fans.
So how does this upcoming season possibly live up to that? The element of surprise is gone, replaced instead by the burden of expectations. After years of having the rug pulled out from under me, I remain eternally cautious about expecting good things about the Kings. And yet I expect them to make the playoffs again. It terrifies me.
But beyond the fan backlash if the Kings somehow fell back to their old ways, how will fans react if the Kings are simply the same? We all know that growth isn’t linear, and yet it’s only natural to want the team to show continual improvement. What if the Kings win around 48 games again, and still make the playoffs (maybe with a lower seed in a tougher Western Conference), and have another first round exit? How long before we stop appreciating this level of success.
We saw some of this begin to surface even last year, when suddenly a handful of folks declared that simply making the playoffs wasn’t enough and that a first round exit would be a failure. The first round series with the Warriors was a disappointing outcome, don’t get me wrong. I truly believed the Kings could have won that series, and it hurt that they lost, but I was still able to view the season as a whole as an enormous success. But would that be the common sentiment if the Kings faced another first round exit?
Personally, I know my expectations have already shifted, but not so dramatically that I won’t be able to appreciate the journey. I want to see the Kings demonstrate improvement. I want to see the Kings go deeper into the playoffs. But I refuse to so quickly forget where we came from. Winning games is fun. The Playoffs are fun. I hope the honeymoon phase for fans can last at least one more season and we can simply enjoy the ride, no matter where it takes us.