This is reality for the Kings: They will have a better record than last season, DeMarcus Cousins could be a first-team All-NBA selection, and Rajon Rondo will lead the league in assists, barring an improbable surge by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
But the disappointments outweigh those achievements. The front office thought it had assembled a playoff-caliber roster. The fans, who have endured a decade without a postseason berth, believed George Karl, who has turned around every team he’s coached, would do the same in Sacramento.
“I am seeing this team in a positive light much more than anybody in the world,” Karl said. “I think I understand the bad times better than overreaction, expectation, doom that we seem to live in.
“I don’t think there have been stretches this season where we’ve played bad basketball; I think we haven’t played winning basketball. And I’m not the one that sets expectations. I’m not a predictor. I laugh all the time in the summertime.”
After last summer’s roster overhaul, Karl said he expected the team would be better than the one he took over with 30 games to go last season. But he didn’t know how much better, since there were 10 new players.
“I was very positive we were going to be a better basketball team,” Karl said. “I think we are a better basketball team. Now if you think we’re going to be a 45-win team, that’s not on me. That’s on you.
“I thought if everything fell into a good place, we could get to .500, but everything (didn’t) fall into a good place.”
Among the biggest setbacks were early injuries to Cousins, Cauley-Stein and Darren Collison that affected the team’s ability to build connections, something Karl said is crucial with so many new players.
“No one can predict how that’s going to work,” Karl said. “But it seems like that’s what we like to do in the summer.”
Karl said he’s focusing on the Kings improving rather than missing the playoffs again and other distractions that have surrounded the team.
“If you overburden your team with expectations, it can destroy your team, too,” Karl said.
The Kings have played better lately, going 5-5 in their last 10 games. But no one anticipated a championship contender, though they were expected to have a much better record. Perhaps the fact they’ll miss the playoffs has taken pressure off the players.
Karl isn’t about to use that letdown to explain this season.
“I’m not a big believer in blame and shame,” Karl said. “I think the season has had a lot more positive that didn’t get magnified because we wanted to focus in on the negative.”
But because the Kings have had 10 consecutive losing seasons, it might take a lot more winning to divert the focus from the negative.
End of an era
The Kings have just three games left at Sleep Train Arena before moving to Golden 1 Center next season.
- Today: vs. Portland, 7 p.m., CSNCA, 950, 1140
- Thursday: vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m., CSNCA, 1140
- Saturday: vs. Oklahoma City, 7:30 p.m., CSNCA, 950, 1140