The hyperbolic backlash regarding the NBA free agency piranha swim – that it was much ado about not much at all, and that the Golden State Warriors still own the planet and all its dominions, maybe even more so than ever – has hit hard.
That is to say the hired gasbags of our nation have disapproved of the fact that the Warriors are still perceived to be head, shoulders and torsos beyond all the other franchises, and demand that they be given more drama in 2018 than they received in 2017.
Well, this wasn't that year, and everyone who pays attention to the sport even in the summer was saying that loudly and clearly. The Warriors were perceived as unapproachable, and that this free agent market was merely prelude to the upheaval of next season when the names on the market include Kevin Durant (again), Paul George (also again), Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins . . .
. . . oh, and LeBron James.
So the improvements allowable under the current conditions were at best incremental. With Jimmy Butler, the Minnesota Timberwolves could become a playoff team. With George, the Oklahoma City Thunder could renew their mandate as a tough out in the West.
And then there are the Sacramento Kings, who spent $81 million on five years of George Hill and Zach Randolph Tuesday, and then showed enough interest in Andre Iguodala to help him get leverage over the Warriors and extract a $4 million improvement in his per annum and a third year on his contract.
In other words, the Kings seemed to have had themselves a sensible, orderly and potentially interesting offseason for a change, scratching owner Vivek Ranadive's need to tweak the noses of his former partners in Oakland while improving the roster only five months after seemingly decimating it.
In other words, the Kings, who have won one playoff game in the pre- or post-Rick Adelman eras, may have incrementally improved themselves – at the worst possible time for such a thing.
We say that not because the Kings have somehow failed. In fact, they have done fairly well between trolling the back end of the free agent market and drafting well (at least by their historical standards).
And we mention this because, well, it should be mentioned. Amid all the Oaklandish worship about how they achieved the perfect zen state of roster construction while disproving the notion about a rising tide raising all boats (in fact, to hear people talk, it is as if the Warriors' tide has swamped most of the rest of the marina), the Kings, below all known radars, have improved themselves.
Enough to be a playoff team in the radically different Western Conference, though? Well, probably not, though predictions about anything below the identities of the two NBA Finals teams in 2018 are fraught with danger. The top may not be shifted, but the middle is very volatile these days, and after you get past San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City and Minnesota, it's not easy to get a strong feel for spots 6 through 8, let alone 15.
But let's say the playoff bar is still beyond Sacramento's reach, just for the sake of getting to the end of this and going on with the rest of your day. The Kings still look more like a progressive and thoughtful organization than they have since the high-water mark of the franchise 12 years ago.
In other words, they may actually know what they're doing.
And if you want to credit them with helping Iguodala return to the Warriors on his terms rather than theirs by offering that third year, then they have also eased a crack into Golden State's facade of invulnerability by making them more mindful of the tax ramifications to come at their present course.
In a summer in which the talent flowed heavily westward, the Kings, who looked like a lock for last place for infinity when they did the preposterous DeMarcus Cousins All-Star Game deal, can no longer be counted on to make every decision a mistake and every choice worse.
That in and of itself is more progress from a team that impressed casual observers on draft night with De'Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson.
Plus, and this cannot be stressed enough, THEY GOT Z-BO, a man so respected in the town he just left (Memphis) that nobody burned his jersey in a cheap publicity stunt. If nothing else, he will be Sacramento's locker room and on-court wisdom, a combination of Iguodala and David West that the Warriors can appreciate.
So while it shall go unnoticed by many, it shall not here. The Sacramento Kings aren't nearly the laugh track they used to be. The problem is that the conference in which they toil has never been more difficult, and it may take 50 wins to finish eighth.
The Kings are not going to be 18 games better this year, trust us on that. But they've stopped being hilarious – if that helps.