There were two types of kids growing up: those who had the luxury to order every WWF/WCW pay-per-view and those who watched the program through the TV fuzz with the sliver of hope you’d be able to decipher a body slam from a clothesline. Making matters worse, the audio was always crystal-clear, too. It was the visual that was always out of whack, causing for several of these moments during my elementary and middle school years, and let me tell you; it sucked returning to school Monday morning hearing accounts of what went down, who got thrown through a table and who turned on who. It was the “you had to be there to experience it, bro!” phase of my life, and something I still side-eye my mother about to this very day.
Now, a decade and change later, here I am finding myself in the exact same predicament with the forthcoming, but still “tentative” NBA season. The usual storylines are there. Is this the year power officially shifts out west to Kevin Durant and the Thunder? How many times will we hear Chris Paul and Dwight Howard trade rumors before we all hang ourselves with computer cords? Will Mike Brown last longer than Rudy Tomjanovich in Los Angeles? Will the Bulls sign a viable two-guard to put alongside Derrick Rose? Can the Celtics fight Father Time one more year? And, the most controversial one, will the Heat right last June’s wrongs?
Still, there’s one out there no one seems to be talking about (which could mean I’m the only one to give a damn.) Are the Sacramento Kings poised to be the most exciting team no one will ever watch play?
There are three things working in Sac-Town’s favor: youth, talent and unpredictability. The Kings are one of the youngest teams in the league. This means they’re going to run, take wild shots (which occasionally go in) and be just ignorant enough to play the really good teams really tough some nights, while getting beat by 20+ on others. Tyreke Evans is one of the best players no one knows about and is on the same platform as John Wall this year, in terms of a potential breakout season. By breakout for Reke, there’s a possibility he could be one of the 25-5-5 players in the league. Meanwhile, who knows what to expect from Demarcus Cousins? He could become the next great power forward out west and average a solid 20 and 12 for damn near a decade, but there’s always the possibility of him getting into a fight on a team plane, missing practice, mentally checking out of a game and all sorts of other Metta World Peace/Rasheed Wallace-like antics.
In an ideal world, Tyreke/Demarcus almost single-handily keep the Kings in Sacramento, challenge Durant and Westbrook for Western Conference supremacy and become everything T-Mac and Yao were supposed to be. It’s a stretch, I know, but the talent’s there. I swear it is.
Then, there’s The Jimmer. In a world full of comparisons, some refer to him as the second coming of JJ Redick, but what if he pans out like another high-profile college athlete who’s turning water into wine in another sport? Another athlete no one believed whose game would translate over to the pro ranks? Another athlete whose success may be more attributed to those around him? If you haven’t caught on by now, I’m talking about Tim Tebow.
Just say this: what if Jimmer goes through a stretch where he wills the Kings to late wins in March/early April with late-game theatrics that made him a cult legend at BYU? And, like Tebow, what if he receives the bulk of the media credit? There’s a possibility of a Demarcus practice meltdown in there somewhere resulting in him punching Jimmer in the face, a la Michael Jordan to Steve Kerr.
Of course, all of this remains a stretch. Yet, if dreams do come true, the Kings threaten for the eight-seed out west, while Jimmer evolves into the white Robert Horry (clutch shots and game winners), Tyreke evolves into the player I see him as and Demarcus turns into the physical monster we know he can be, and that’s just those three. Still take into consideration Francisco Garcia and John Salmons are going to shoot whenever an opportunity presents itself and Tyler Honeycutt has all the intangibles of a serviceable back-up in the league, if they just give him a shot (I guess the same applies to Isiah Thomas as well.) Meanwhile, JJ Hickson will be so happy to be out of Cleveland he’ll quietly be one of the better reserves out west.
I say all that to say this: Sacramento is roughly about $26M under the salary cap. Tell the Maloofs to pin their ears back and throw themselves in the Tyson Chandler race. Samuel Dalmbert’s been flirting with Miami so much this summer that he’s all but gone. Wouldn’t Chandler be a great upgrade, pending he doesn’t resign with Dallas (or maybe even Golden State?). Plus, is there anyway we can get Don Nelson associated with this team, in some capacity? It’s not like he’s never coached a young team with erratic personalities before.
With talent comes potential and there’s lots of it in Sacramento, pending management points them in the right direction. Who knows? Maybe the Kings end right back in the lottery in 2012. Or maybe, just maybe, they run, gun, yell, fight, claw and shoot (erratically) their way to the eighth seed. Does the conference’s top dog really want to play this Kings team with nothing to lose and more ignorance than a Waka Flocka concert during Spring Break in Miami in the first round? I’ll answer that for you. Hell no, you don’t.
All that being said, here’s your chance. Tag the Kings as your sleeper team now, and if they fall flat on their face, who cares? That’s what sleeper picks are built for; they’re like athletic insurance policies. But if they shock everybody (including myself) and make a run, you can at least say what my privileged friends got to say on Monday following a WWF pay-per-view. You had to be there to experience it, bro.