Seattle and Sacramento share quite a bit. Frustrating arena situations. Terrible 2006-07s. Falls from glory over the past decade.
Of course, there are striking differences: Seattle is well into its rebuilding phase, with an extraordinary summer of personnel shifts already passed. Meanwhile, the franchise seems all but certain to be gone from the city within three years; barring a miracle, the Sonics are moving east.
There's another difference, though: Seattle's been in a long, gradual slide into the depths of the league. Sacramento's descent has been harsh and immediate. This graph illustrates the ups and downs for each franchise since 1986 (when the Kings moved to Sacramento):
Barring the 52-win (and postseason vanguishing of the Kings) blip in 2005, the Sonics have been sinking -- slowly, patiently -- since the heights of Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. In that span, the Kings have climbed to the peak of the league and freefallen back to the base. Which is preferred? Fleeting success followed by abject failure? Or near-ultimate satisfaction as prelude to extended mediocrity? The elevator ride the past two years has been rough here in Sactown, sure. But I'd say it's more appetizing than a decade of 40ish wins with one nice campaign tossed in for giggles.
This year, both teams will again suck. That's actually not fair -- Seattle will suffer growing pains and lose many games in the offing; Sacramento will SUCK. Looking at the roster as it stands tonight, the Sonics will be better in three years; anyone can see this. Looking at the Kings roster? Who knows? Sam Presti has a depth chart of potential; Geoff Petrie has a depth chart which holds the serious potential of being wadded up and tossed in the wastebasket by next November. You can feel the pendelum swing for Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Delonte West. The anvil made of Kenny Thomas, Brad Miller, Mikki Moore and Shareef Abdur-Rahim is heavy, though... I don't think it's moving too soon.
Losses don't negate fun, though. Seattle will run; Kevin Pelton of Sonics.com sent some data which indicates Seattle is playing at one of the faster paces in the league so far this year. Playing Denver and Phoenix to open up the proceedings might have something to do with it, but the offense sure seems to rely on getting out quick enough on turnovers and missed shots that we could see some fireworks tonight. Of course, both the Seattle and Sacramento offenses have been highly efficient, so maybe we'll just build a few outhouses and call it a night.
Will Kevin Durant get his revenge on Kevin Martin? Will John Salmons score 50? Will Delonte West get annexed by Petrie? (West is the perfect Petrie point guard.) Will Robert Swift and/or Chris Wilcox eat any children who stray too close to the Sonics bench? THIS IS WHY WE WATCH THE GAME!
Home opener, fools. Tip's at 7 p.m. Enjoy it while you can; LeBron James and His Merry Band of Mudmen come next. And hopefully we can kiss the schneid goodbye. Go Kings.