Yesterday was my most bizarre day as a Kings fan.
I woke up, ready to think about the draft. I spent an hour typing up lottery scenarios. I spent some time during lunch pulling some stats together for our year-end wrap-ups. I was OK the end was here. It's been a tough season, and I was ready to move on.
I thought I was ready to move on.
6:30 came. Checked the scores. New York was winning, Minnesota losing. Philadelphia won. Yay, I think. Threw it to Comcast - no pre-game show. Game's on News10. Furrowed my brow, ate dinner, twiddled my thumbs. 7 pm comes. There's Grant and Jerry...
And the strangest feeling came over me. The feeling of dread. The feeling that win or lose, it doesn't really matter. There's no tomorrow. For the first time in nine years - the first time since I was in high school - I turned on a Kings game absolutely knowing it was the last of the season. In the playoffs, there's always tomorrow unless it's Game 7 of the Finals. Sure, you can sense impending elimination. But there's always a chance. Not when you're a lottery.
The game was two hours of blank stares, for the most part. I couldn't bring myself to curse Brad and Shareef and Justin for the Kwame Brown/Andrew Bynum explosions. I just think "Pass it, Ron, pass it." I couldn't beg for Kevin to shoot, or Salmons to pass, or Douby to rotate, or Francisco to get over that screen. I couldn't pump my fist when Bibby drilled every single first-half jumper. I smiled when Kevin drilled the three over Kobe AND 1. I gave two claps, maybe three, for QD's outlet for the fierce Ron-Ron jam. There was an audible 'UNH!' when Justin let his frustration out on the rim. But all that's like a minute of expression in what's usually 48. It was so weird, watching a team who won't look anything like this the next time we see them.
But it didn't make me mad, that the Kings were playing for absolutely nothing. It made me appreciate the last eight playoff years, when the day after the regular season brought incredible anxiety and anticipation. Even in the tougher years - 2005, for example - you knew anything could happen. Last year, the Kings were an 8th seed. But the town was on fire the last few days of the season. Fans were calling KHTK promising seventh game victory over the Spurs. Some of us mooks (raises hand) were talking about a team of destiny, a perfect storm of retribution and redemption. I seriously doubt more than a dozen people bet on the Kings to win the series last year, but hope still abounded. Tomorrow was coming.
Today though, hope is in short supply. Imagine how Warriors fans felt year after year? A hearty congratulations to them, they deserve all the excitement they can muster after putting up with this feeling for so long. I can't imagine another April like this. Call me spoiled by the success - I don't care. The Kings will rise again, and all we can do is pray it starts next fall.
Two men are crucial to the rising again. One is pictured up top. The other, Geoff Petrie. Some fans have given up on the latter. But not me. It's going to take a miracle, and I only know one guy who can do it.