Life in the NBA Cellar: Kings vs. Clippers, by Chuck Strom

Hield, Clipper defenders

The Golden 1 Arena is still a gorgeous building, but unfortunately for Sacramento’s NBA fans, the Kings are still the Kings, and last night they lost in mostly the same way they did on the two occasions I saw them last year. They built a lead in the first half, coughed it up in the second, rallied late to tie the score due to the heroics of Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield, then fell short at the end. I was curious to see if the Kings let streamers onto the floor like the Blazers do after a victory, but that will have to wait for another time.

There are glimmers of hope for Kings fans in some of their young talent. Hield showed his skills well enough last night, leading with 27 points off the bench. Much has also been made of rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox, who was recently profiled in The Ringer. I watched him for much of the night, but except for making a difficult shot just before halftime, he seemed somewhat lost on the court and confirmed with quite a few bricks that his shot still needs a lot of work if he is going to live up to his intended role as the face of the franchise. I hope it was just an off night – Sacramento fans could do with reasons to hope for the future.

The Los Angeles Clippers, on the other hand, may be headed for a dark night of the soul, despite the fact that they came away victorious last night. They are barely above the Kings in the NBA standings, and it is evident that they sorely miss their former star guard, Chris Paul, whom they traded to the Houston Rockets in the recent off-season. Their fortunes might have been better had the player they traded for, point guard Patrick Beverley, not suffered a season-ending knee injury, but now the Clippers look to be headed for the NBA lottery along with the Kings. This could be a more difficult pill for the Clippers to swallow, given the higher expectations of the franchise in recent years, and one has to wonder if we may be seeing the last of the group that had improbably replaced the Lakers as the glamour NBA team playing at the Staples Center. Perhaps they might stick together for another season, hoping that the return of Beverley might improve their fortunes, but it is easy to envision that any stretch of losing beyond this year will likely lead to a breakup of the team from coach Doc Rivers on down and a rebuilding similar to that of the Kings, and as Sacramento fans can attest, a rebuilding can last a very long time.

If that is the case, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer will have some decisions to make, including whether the team’s future truly belongs in Los Angeles where it likely fated to live in the shadow of the Lakers in the hearts of that city’s NBA fans. Though Ballmer hasn’t said anything of the kind up to now, one should never forget his history with Microsoft, and thereby with the city of Seattle, which has been in the market for an NBA team since the Sonics left for Oklahoma City. As Bill Simmons pointed out a few months ago, a new Sonics team in Seattle would face much less competition for fan interest and corporate sponsorship than the Clippers in their current home. If I were mayor of Seattle, I would get to work on luring the Clippers. They may be ripe for the taking, and it could be a match made in NBA heaven.

Chuck Strom

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