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Road Worriers: Early Schedule Hasn't Been Kind to Kings

Every season since 2004-05 has, for the Kings, begun with a road trip of at least three games. The road is tough, even for the league's best teams. In the NBA, studies have shown teams beat evenly matched squads 60 percent of the time at home. It follows, then, that road teams beat evenly matched squads only 40 percent of the time. It comes out to roughly a 3-point advantage.

Let's not pretend the Kings have been "good" over the past six seasons, a span which includes two playoff berths, the entire Eric Musselman-Reggie Theus era, and the worst season in franchise history. In 2004-05, the Kings won the West's sixth seed despite the midseason trade of Chris Webber and a brutalizing injury to Brad Miller (the real talisman that season). But the Sonics, thanks to Ray Allen on Garbage Bag James, whipped the Kings 4-1. In 2005-06, a midseason trade for Ron Artest helped save the campaign and land Sacramento into the playoffs as an eighth seed; the Kings, behind Bonzi Wells and Kevin Martin, tested the Spurs before falling 4-2. Since then, the high-water mark has been 38 wins. The team has desperately needed a nicotine winning patch, or 30.

But while the Kings have not been good over the last six years, the early schedule certainly hasn't helped. In those opening road trips -- one of which the Kings have faced in every of the past six years -- the Kings are a combined 2-17.  Here's the breakdown:

Year

Record

2004-05

0-3

2005-06

1-2

2006-07

1-2

2007-08

0-3

2008-09

0-4

2009-10

0-3

The best start the Kings have had in the past six years is 1-2. (You may remember the 2006-07 road win at Minnesota, which included a jubilent Eric Musselman, post-DUI, embracing his bewildered players. Sadly, Muss was psychic, and that was one of the season's high points.)

Now, you may think, "Well, hmph, the Kings suck anyway, so it doesn't matter if they have to start on the road, because they'd lose at home, too! Hurf durf."

Not quite.

With one unsurprising exception, the Kings have been great at home in November over the past six years. Take a look at the team's record in each season's first 10 home games:

Year

Home Start

2004-05

9-1

2005-06

6-4

2006-07

6-4

2007-08

7-3

2008-09

3-7

2009-10

8-2

The dreadful 2008-09 season aside, the Kings have done pretty well at home early; last year's 8-2 start at ARCO Arena particularly stands out, given that includes a third of all Kings wins over the course of the season. The Kings obviously been as good on the road early in each season. The combined record for 10-game road starts over the last six years is 15-45. (That includes those dastardly season-starting road trips.)

Why does it matter? As the talking heads say, you play 41 at home and 41 on the road, and you play, essentially, the same schedule as every other team in your conference. The schedule, in the end, comes out even. (In fact, there's a belief in some corners momentum isn't even real at the NBA level. I'd disagree -- confidence is a real phenomenon, in my opinion, and while I trust the science on hot streaks I'm not currently willing to dismiss the impact of confidence on athletes.)

Where it matters is in fan confidence, and one step further, attendance. Going into the past three home openers, the Kings have been 0-3, 0-4 and 0-3. That stings. The schedule-makers in Secaucus (and, ahem, Bristol, if we're being honest) can't conjure an early-season winning record for the Kings. But they could offer a little help in the way of ending the long streak of season-opening road trips. The schedule will be out next week; we'll see if the Kings get an early break this time around.