Low expectations have been the norm for the Kings the past nine seasons. But training camp at UC San Diego has been marked by optimism.
While the roster was revamped during the offseason, nobody is predicting an NBA championship after a 29-win season. But players, coaches and executives believe a winning record is realistic.
“I’d be disappointed if we didn’t finish at least .500,” coach George Karl said.
The last winning season in Sacramento was in 2005-06, when the Rick Adelman-coached Kings finished 44-38. Sacramento has won fewer than 30 games for seven consecutive seasons.
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With a more experienced roster, the Kings expect to contend for the Western Conference playoffs.
Last season, New Orleans claimed the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with a 45-37 record while holding a tiebreaker over Oklahoma City.
“I think we should be above .500,” Karl said. “Again, you can’t help if DeMarcus (Cousins) tears a knee up. Injuries are a part of our game. The mental strength of our team will be tested. I don’t care how good we play, we will be tested.”
45 Wins last season by New Orleans, which earned the final playoff spot in the Western Conference
Karl expects those tests to come when the Kings endure a lengthy losing streak. He is intrigued to see how the Kings respond to playing 14 playoff teams from last season in their first 19 regular-season games.
“We don’t have a complacency problem, but hopefully some of those (playoff) teams will have a complacency problem,” Karl said.
Injuries – Guards Rajon Rondo (sore lower back) and Marco Belinelli (hamstring) sat out Friday’s practice. Rondo, however, actively instructed guards on the court.
His injury to the sacrum, the triangular bone at the base of the spine, is considered minor. Same for Belinelli’s hamstring.
“I think they’ll be back (Saturday),” Karl said.
Winding down – Saturday’s practice is expected to be the last intense session before the team departs for Portland on Sunday. The Kings open their six-game preseason schedule Monday against the Trail Blazers.
The Kings will have four games in six days. They play at Phoenix on Wednesday before returning home to face San Antonio on Thursday and Portland on Oct. 10.