About a year ago, games with San Antonio brought a much different mood than tonight's match will.
The Kings were streaking, bearing down on the evil Lakers for the seventh seed after being left for dead at Thanksgiving and at Christmas and at MLK Day and at Groundhog's Day. The Kings were left for dead all those holidays this season, too; however, there was no February/March/April resurrection.
The tremors of anticipation last year when the series with the Spurs was to star was incredible, even for this franchise. 2003's playoffs came with a bright picture of positive anxiety, and anything was possible in that undeniably goosebump-ridden 2002 postseason.
But there's nothing for the team to play for tonight. Individual players, yes. Coaches, yes. But THE SACRAMENTO KINGS? Nope. Joe Folsom doesn't care about the final score. Elk Grove Mary won't seek out the score on tomorrow morning's scrawl. Auburn Bill and Roseville Bob won't even discuss the game at the water cooler tomorrow, unless Ronnie Price destroys someone's psyche or Ron Artest takes 55 shots.
But us diehards, we're still watching. It's not because we remember the glory of Aprils past. It's because we can't wait for the glory of Aprils, Mays and Junes to come. We know things will be different in a season's time, and hope will spring again. We know some of these pieces are the keys to the extension of said glory, be they Kevin Martin or Francisco Garcia or Justin Williams or even (gulp) Eric Musselman.
So Mike Bibby may get hot and Brad Miller may score a retro line. But they aren't why we're watching. We want to see glimpses of the future. Muss has delivered those so far these waning weeks... let's hope it continues.