The Kings have the 9th best record in the Western Conference. Forget that the record is below .500. So what? Who cares? For the Kings, it is getting into the playoffs that matters. It is breaking their decade drought. It is reversing the karma that has had them watching the playoffs on t.v. for what seems like forever. Other franchises can worry about getting a top four seed. The Kings just want to get in. The want to turn the page on the horror story that was last year and George Karl. They want to introduce playoff basketball to Golden 1 Center and start new memories and provide incentive for their franchise player DeMarcus Cousins who plans to sign a $207 max deal in the summer. Yes, he wants to be in Sacramento for the rest of his career.
But getting in the playoffs would be a Cousins accomplishment. It would show other talented players that Sacramento is a free agent destination. Yes, we can win here. No, the roster isn’t a championship roster yet. They have holes. But once you can show prospective talent you have a system, professionalism, high caliber players, that is when you can truly compete and build a roster that is title worthy.
The Kings last playoff roster. Do you remember?
Here is the refresher course. Mike Bibby. Bonzi Wells. Kevin Martin. Metta World Peace. Those were the 30+ minutes per game players with Bibby and Wells playing 40 minutes. The reinforcements were Brad Miller, Kenny Thomas, Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Unfortunately for that team, they played the Spurs in the first round. The Spurs were the defending champs so you know how that went. Game one, Spurs won by 34. Game two, the Spurs won by 9. Game three was a one point Kings win. Game 4 was an 18 point Kings win as they tied the series 2-2 going back to San Antonio. But in game 5 the Spurs won by 11 and in the close-out game they poured it on, a 22 point victory.
Mike Bibby would play in Sacramento for two more seasons and then officially become a journeyman, playing in D.C., Miami and NY before retiring. Bonzi Wells wouldn’t play in Sacramento again after the 2006 playoffs. He ended his career in Puerto Rico before retiring in 2010. Kevin Martin stayed around Sac-town then went to Houston, OKC (James Harden trade), Minnesota and he retired this year. Metta World Peace is the only player out of that 2006 group that won a title; that was in 2010 with the Lakers.
Despite the no playoff drought of ten years and counting, the Kings have a dominant player and face of the franchise in DeMarcus Cousins. All he needs now is talent to play with him. A lot of the Kings are going to be gone next year: Rudy Gay, Ty Lawson, Omri Casspi, Darren Collsion, Ben McLemore. All are free agents. That gives the Kings leverage to sign quality veterans with young legs and a versatile skill set. But first the Kings have to make the playoffs.
What does the schedule look like after the All-Star break?
The Kings have a five game home stand against mostly bad teams: only the Jazz and Hornets are playoff locks. They play the Spurs twice on the road in March and they also play the Thunder in OKC. They have to deal with the Clippers and the Warriors away from home. They end the season in L.A., at the Clippers who will probably be playing for seeding so it is not going to be easy but breaking a ten year streak is supposed to be hard.
And so here is where the rubber meets the road. What kind of heart do the Kings have? What is their toughness quotient? The next 44 games will tell the story. It may be back to the future with a new streak at hand. Or, it may be back to the past and 11 years and counting for the bad luck Kings who have a great player desperate to make history.
photo via llananba