ROUNDBALL DAILY

The Sacramento Kings are for real, even if the West isn’t ready for it

You definitely weren’t ready for this.

If you’re a fan of any team in the Western Conference not named the Sacramento Kings, you couldn’t have seen this coming from a mile away.

The West is rugged, and you knew it was going to be tough for your team to find wins on a consistent basis, but you knew whenever Sacramento came up on the schedule, you could pencil in a ‘W.’

Hell, you wouldn’t even write it in pencil. You’d use a Sharpie, and you didn’t even bother buying White-Out.

Haha. Life comes at you fast.

Like, De’Aaron Fox-fast. Blink, and he’s at the rim. Blink again, and he’s snatching the rock from your point guard and driving back at it, with that constant attacking, forward-leaning posture, like a comic book superhero or an actual fox, pouncing on a rabbit.

No one could have blamed you for not taking the Kings seriously because, no one outside of the Kings locker room did, either.

But 18 games into the season, the NBA’s most surprising team looks like it is for real.

The 20-year-old Fox is an early frontrunner for the Most Improved Player award, averaging 18.2 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 boards and 1.2 steals per game.

He’s got the Kings balling at breakneck speed, a hardly original but nonetheless perfect idea from head coach Dave Joerger, who has so vastly exceeded expectations that of course Vivek Ranadive’s natural inclination is to replace him. (Someone needs to grab that man and just shake him).

The Kings are 10-8, with wins over the Thunder (twice), Spurs, Heat in Miami (always difficult for Sacramento), Jazz, and the West-leading Grizzlies.

They’ve seen tremendous growth not only from Fox but from third-year guard Buddy Hield (18.7 ppg, 47.8 field goal pct), and Willie Cauley-Stein (15.4 ppg, 54% FG).

They’ve also gotten a boost from Nemanja Bjelica (11.7 ppg), and Bogdan Bogdanovic (13.6 ppg in 7 games), who along with backcourt mates Fox and Hield, has future All-Star potential.

This team is significantly better than most believed it could be, and for the first time since Peja Stojakovic was hoisting up corner 3’s, the future looks bright.

Are they going to contend for a title anytime soon? No. But for a long-suffering fanbase still smarting from being screwed out of the 2002 championship, just making the playoffs would be a parade-worthy accomplishment. Even that seemed impossible at the start of the year, but now, it’s legitimately within reach.

It’s a great time to be a Kings fan, and that’s not great news for everybody else in the West.

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