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Northern California has become the epicenter of professional basketball. But a weird thing is happening this summer. The Sacramento Kings are trying to attract some of the seismic waves, moving them northeast up I-80 a bit.

What the hell is going on with our NBA?

We’ve had only a few years to adapt to the idea that the Golden State Warriors aren’t the lovable losers we assumed they’d always be. They are a basketball-breaking superteam. And no sooner have we gotten our minds around that one than the Kings — the Kings — are acting as though they want to be part of this tectonic shift.

Folks, are you familiar with the Kings? They moved from Kansas City to Sacramento 32 years ago, and have finished above .500 exactly eight times since. The most recent was 2006; only the Minnesota Timberwolves (2004) have a dimmer recollection of postseason excitement. Sacramento has made the playoffs just 10 times, eight of them bunched between 1998 and 2006, the era of Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovich and Jason Williams.

If these Kings wear crowns, their domain is dysfunction. Only the New York Knicks could challenge their legitimacy to that throne.

Principal owner Vivek Ranadive, who once suggested his team play defense 4-on-5, leaving one King to cherry- pick on the offensive end, has run through coaches as if they are disposable plastic water bottles. In the summer of 2014, Sacramento sent Isaiah Thomas to Phoenix for a trade exception and the rights to someone named Alex Oriakhi. This year Thomas, playing for the Celtics, finished fifth in MVP voting, just behind LeBron James and ahead of Stephen Curry.

Things didn’t immediately get better when the Kings hired Vlade Divac as general manager in the spring of 2015. Divac had been largely removed from the NBA for most of a decade. For a story that ran in January, several NBA agents and team executives told ESPN that they found “working with the Kings to be confounding, and negotiations, in the words of one, to be ‘abnormal.’ ”

Their most recent franchise player, center DeMarcus Cousins, was a bubbling cauldron of talent and volatility; they traded him to New Orleans in February.

Despite this toxic environment, the Kings have managed to stockpile several promising young players, like center Willie Cauley-Stein and shooting guard Buddy Hield, who averaged 15.1 points per game after arriving via the Cousins trade. Critics loved their draft last month. The Kings got Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox with the fifth overall pick, then traded the No. 10 for Nos. 15 and 20, which they used to acquire North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson and Duke power forward Harry Giles, respectively. For good measure, they added Kansas’ Frank Mason III, the NCAA player of the year, in the second round.

And yet many remained skeptical. With few solid veterans to set an example, the Kings would waste these kids, or even damage them.

Then came the real stunner. As the offseason dominoes began to fall, the Kings emerged as major players.

Within a short window, they agreed to contracts with Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill, three highly coveted free agents. Sacramento had added an intriguing mix of battle-scarred vets to its eager millennials.

On Monday, Divac and his three prize acquisitions sat elbow-to-elbow at a too-small table at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, where NBA teams have descended for Summer League games. (I watched a video of the press conference.)

All four were wearing black Kings T-shirts. Divac, whose deep voice and Serbian accent will always make him sound like a Bond villain, introduced the newest Kings.

“I don’t think we need any introductions for these gentlemans here sitting with me, but I would love to say how much we are excited about them joining our team,” he said.

The players talked about nurturing and instructing their young teammates. They also spoke, to a lesser extent, of winning.

“I mean, that was the first thing Vlade said,” Carter noted. “Soon as he sat down in the house, he’s like, ‘We want to win. And we want you to help us do that, accomplish that. You’ve been there, you know what it takes.’ And when he said that he was gonna add some veterans, boy — he added some veterans.”

Sure, everything here could turn to cow manure. Carter is a future basketball Hall of Famer; he’s also 40 years old. Randolph will be 36 on Sunday, and his minutes declined each of the past four seasons in Memphis. None of those young bucks has really proved himself.

But if the Kings aren’t guaranteed to be any good, they are suddenly — dare I say it — interesting. It’s a word they haven’t heard in a very long time. Maybe just enough Vince Carter and Zach Randolph can rub off on De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein, and the Kings can begin to make a pivot.

A vibrant franchise in Sacramento could be a lot of fun. With all those teams lined up along the Eastern seaboard, it’s easy to forget that, outside of cities boasting two teams (Lakers/Clippers in Los Angeles, Knicks/Nets in New York), the Warriors and Kings are in closer geographic proximity than any other NBA franchises. It’s a mere 86 miles from Oracle Arena to Golden 1 Center in downtown Sac.

The reason it’s hard to remember that fact is because this has never really been a rivalry, primarily because the Warriors and Kings have never been good at the same time. Remarkably, in the 32 years they have shared NorCal, these two teams have never posted winning records or made the playoffs in the same season.

It’s a rivalry that has been frozen in a block of ice since 1985.

Now the Kings are threatening to thaw the ice. We should all be rooting for them, if only to make their games against the Warriors watchable. Who knows, maybe Sacramento will squeeze into the No. 8 seed in the West and take on Golden State in the first round of the playoffs. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

I know what you’re thinking. These are the Kings we’re talking about. They’ll find a way to muck it up. But I know another NBA team they used to talk about like that. When the 2017-18 season tips off, they’ll be aiming for their third championship in four years.

Miracles can happen, even in Northern California.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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