SANTA BARBARA - This time of the year, every team likes its chances for improvement and the Kings are no different.
Coaches and management remain measured in their public expectations, hoping for improvement and changes to a culture that has fostered losing and seven consecutive seasons out of the postseason.
The players, however, have mentioned the playoffs more than once.
"We've always had the talent but we've got the pieces in place to be a special team," said guard Isaiah Thomas. "Not saying we're going to win the NBA Championship this year but the goal is to make the playoffs. That's everybody's goal."
The Kings were 28-54 last season. Realistically the Kings would need a 20-game improvement to have a chance of cracking the top-8 in the Western Conference.
The last time the Kings were above .500 to end a season was 2005-06 when Sacramento was 44-38 and lost in the first round of the playoffs in Rick Adelman's last season as head coach.
"I think we've got a reasonable chance of doing that if everything comes together," Thomas said. "If we play the right way, play consistently and give it all we've got we can compete for one of those spots in the Western Conference."
*Former Kings forward J.J. Hickson missed out on this treat.
During Hickson's brief stint with the Kings during the 2011-12 season after being traded to Sacramento from Cleveland, he would often lament the lack of a quality meals after games, practices, etc.
It wasn't uncommon to hear Hickson say "When I was in Cleveland ...," and opine of the good old days when he played with LeBron James and the postgame spread was of the highest quality.
Hickson wasn't the only player that arrived in Sacramento with that complaint. He just might have been the loudest.
And players that were drafted by the Kings, like Thomas, hadn't been on another team to compare eating options.
Well things have changed. Apparently the change in ownership and culture won't be limited.
"We've got meals after we workout, that's different," Thomas said. "Everything's different from the meals to just coming in early, guys staying late, everything is different."
Vivek Ranadive spoke with several players about things they wanted to see improved and I'm sure this came up. It's also why the Kings will see improvements to other amenities around the practice facility and arena.