Vivek Ranadive looks long term.
The Kings' principal owner said before Wednesday's season opener against Denver that this season "won't be judged on wins and losses" but rather in a "system put in to show forward progress."
Ever the competitor, Ranadive added he wants the Kings "to be the first franchise of the 21st century."
Next to him at the news conference, one-time Kings rival and now minority owner Shaquille O'Neal went bold with a prediction for this season: the playoffs.
A postseason berth would be the franchise's first since the 2005-06 season.
"Looking at the personnel here and the Western Conference, I think we can do it," O'Neal said. "We can get a playoff spot. Our goal should be the playoffs."
Bigs together – O'Neal said he will continue to work with DeMarcus Cousins, offering wisdom for the young center's development on and off the court.
But only to a point.
"I won't micromanage him," O'Neal said. "He's a young guy who is still growing up. I know he wants to be a great big man. I can show him the keys."
Hard-hat commish – Before the second quarter, NBA Commissioner David Stern was presented a key to the city by Mayor Kevin Johnson and drew a rousing ovation.
Ranadive threw in a bonus gift, giving the outgoing boss a hard hat bearing a Kings logo and a virtual invitation to grab a shovel and help break ground at the site of the new arena.
Said Ranadive at midcourt, "Now that you're retired, commissioner, you might be looking for something else to do."
Taking stock – Before the game, coach Michael Malone was asked to assess the Kings' preseason, in which they went 5-2. The main positive, he said, was that "our guys bought in."
"To a man in that locker room, they have all embraced the change," the first-year coach said. "They've bought in on the defensive end of the floor. They've bought in to becoming a team that's unselfish. And they bought in to becoming a team that works every day and tries to create the proper work habits."
On the flip side, Malone said the Kings need to cut down on turnovers and play consistently for the duration of games.
"We had great three-quarter games where we played tremendous, but a lot of our games we had one quarter where we did not defend at a high level at all," Malone said. "That can't happen if we're going to be a good team or competitive team."
Baseball voices – Dusty Baker and Jerry Manuel, longtime friends from the region who earned major-league Manager of the Year honors, soaked up the Kings' atmosphere. Both closely followed the Kings' relocation drama last winter and spring.
Baker bought season tickets for his late father, Johnnie, when the Kings moved to Sacramento in 1985.
"Heck yeah, this is important, and I was watching nervously, hoping this team would stay," Baker said. "I was pulling for Kevin Johnson.
"It meant so much to my dad to come to games here, and it does to my son now. We need this team here. And I'm a big basketball fan. It's my first love."
Said Manuel: "I hear from people all across the country about the Kings. We have some of the best fans anywhere right here in Northern California."
Et cetera – O'Neal on Kings fans: "In my 20-year career, this was the toughest place to play. We want to get back to that. Actually, before my 'Queens' comment (in 2002 with the Los Angeles Lakers), I was afraid to play here."
The game was telecast live in Ranadive's homeland, India. "It'll be live at 7:30 in the morning," he said. "I have a lot of friends there who will have employees get to work early to watch."
Ranadive gave O'Neal a tutorial on India's most popular sport, cricket, outside Sleep Train Arena. But Ranadive expressed concern that in a real game, he'd never find size-25 shoes for O'Neal and a paddle to fit his 7-foot-1 frame.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD. Bee staff writer Matt Kawahara contributed to this report.