Update [2007-1-17 18:15:39 by TZ]: Thanks to some internet problems (snaps for Comcast!), I haven't been in any sort of loop all day. For analysis on the massive Warriors-Pacers trade, head to Golden State of Mind and Cornrows. - Tom.
Things haven't been this bleak in Sacramento in a decade.
Last season, the team hit eight games below .500 in late January, which is a tick worse than the current 14-21 record. But that low-point notch came two games after Ron Artest joined the team, galvanizing our spirits if not immediately our favorite squad's performance.
That loss that took the Kings to eight games under was in Toronto. Fitting.
After the Toronto loss, our new Ron-Ron guaranteed a playoff berth. It happened, with some room to spare. Despite a godawful record and substantial march ahead of the team, we as fans felt at least some hope. We felt optimistic about the near-term future; we believed the playoffs were in reach and possibly special things were afoot. It was the worst Kings record in eight seasons, but you wouldn't know it by listening to Kings fans.
The last time things were this hopeless - as hopeless-seeming as the Kings team we've watched lose six straight - was the end of 1998, when the Kings finished up a 27-55 campaign and young coach Eddie Jordan got fired. Mitch Richmond and Corliss Williamson were the only assets on the team. The Kings were persistently awful, and we as fans were getting pretty damn tired of losing.
Circumstances changed quickly. Richmond got traded for Chris Webber. Vlade Divac willingly signed a free agent contract. Jason Williams was drafted. Peja Stojakovic appeared out the woodwork. In came Rick Adelman, a coach with a proven record with a contender.
We haven't looked back since, save a dreary but ultimately rewarding winter last season. The team suffered some heart-wrenching losses, but we always knew the next high-point was around the corner.
Does anyone feel that's the case today? I don't. This team will win another game, probably many more this season. But this valley could last a while. I'm a proponent of rebuilding around Kevin Martin, John Salmons, and some of the other pieces we have. I've paid attention to rebuilding efforts for other franchises - Boston, Portland, Orlando, Milwaukee. Some take a long time - like a decade. Some take a season or two. When we call for this firesale and a refocusing on the long-term, we've got to be prepared for more nights eight games under .500. We've got to be ready to see a six-game losing streak. It comes with the territory when you tear everything down.
Artest was a reprieve from this. That stay on our team's execution has expired. It's time to pay the piper for all those winning seasons, those big contracts, and the extended high. It's time to lose.