Sacramento Kings: Jockeying for position
By Ryan Rodriguez
As I was driving home from work yesterday an interesting thought popped into my mind: what would my 13-year-old self think if I went back in time (10 years) and told him that the Kings and Lakers would be battling tonight to improve their draft position while the Warriors and Clippers are preparing for playoff runs?
I feel like a simple, “Yeah right”, would have come out of my 13-year-old mouth, but alas, this is where we are in 2014 as the Kings are headed for their 8th straight lottery and the Lakers are headed for their worst season in their Los Angeles history.
Living in Los Angeles, I get to see and hear all the time about the Lakers’ “horrible” plight this season, something that I laugh at as the fans and talk show hosts bemoan one bad season. On top of this, I live with a Lakers fan who is in full-fledged lose mode, something that gives me a little vindication after I was saying all off-season that this Lakers team was going to suck, regardless if Kobe came back or not.
With all these thoughts and feelings going through my head, I decided to celebrate this bizarro turn in a childhood rivalry that helped shape my NBA viewing prism, by watching the Kings on TV (being a poor, just out of college “professional”, I can’t afford to pay for the CSN California in order to watch the Kings so I have to watch every game on League Pass on the computer), enjoying a few brews, and joining my housemate in rooting for losing. I know I have said that I don’t root for the Kings to lose or win as much as I root for them to show improvement in skill and understanding on the court, but when they play this putrid Lakers team, I kind of have to root for the loss. I mean, how horrible would it be if/when the Lakers finish with a worst record, get better draft position and potentially leave the Kings without a top player in a pretty good draft.
As we prepared to watch the game, we joked how the Kings and Lakers prepared for this toilet bowl, the Kings by sitting Isaiah out with an injury again, not wanting to rush him back and risk further injury, while the Lakers countered by declaring Pau out with another case of vertigo (which I found comical, even if that makes me a bad person) and Chris Kaman, following up some strong performances against playoff teams, by sitting in a game the Lakers could actually win. This left the Kings with one point guard (Ray McCallum), who has 38 games of NBA experience, going against a team that had Bob Sacre, Ryan Kelly, and Jordan Hill as the only available bigs. Needless to say, as the beers and jokes started flowing, I didn’t watch the game with my normal earnestness (it didn’t help that my two favorite Kings and, at times, the only two players worth cheering for, IT and Boogie, played a total 21 minutes).
I remember Ray doing some very nice things, Rudy continuing to try and suck me into hoping he will exercise his 19 million dollar (gulp) player option, and Boogie getting in foul trouble, but still playing against the aforementioned Laker bigs, so the double-double was a foregone conclusion. The game was entertaining and that was all I could really ask for, but that could just be because anytime you get to watch Swaggy P you will be entertained. This was not a full collection of real NBA talent playing, but it was still better than watching college kids use 28 seconds of a shot clock at their coach’s direction and then still have what seems like a 1 in 3 chance of knocking down an open jumper. S*%t, Ben is starting to round into scoring form over the last eight or so games and that is an encouraging sign going into the off-season.
After the game, I was a little numb to the win, definitely a product of wins and losses not mattering for so long, but also a product of the alcohol that can numb you as well. The game was a double-edged sword – on one hand it was nice to escape a season sweep from the Lakers and almost ensure a better record, but on the other hand I knew this makes it harder for the Kings to snag a true game-changer that comes with a top 3 pick. (Not that we would get that game changer, or that there are even 3 franchise changers in the draft, but having the odds in our favor would be nice.) But there was one thing I could fully get behind last night and that was the ‘Beat LA’ chants that were heard throughout the arena late in the game, taking me back to a more competitive time and reminding me that it is possible to create a perennial winner in Sac as long as some patience is exhibited and the front office creates and executes an intelligent plan.