There was desperation at Oracle, but it sweated in two small pockets.
An early start time, on a weekend, between two lottery teams. This is when a fan treats the game as theatre and not the day trading of his self esteem. This is when basketball is watched, and not lived. The NBA season is long and failing teams experience a natural senioritis. The easy-going exit permeates fan experience.
If infrared showed competitive terror, Keith Smart and Kings fans to my left would have flashed ruddy colors amid a sea of green.
I had never seen so many Sacramento supporters here–perhaps that’s because there is likely only so much time left to be one. A group of them, 50 feet over, bellowed disproportionate passion. There was a cowbell clang, crazed free throw chanting, multiple signs. The sound was considerable enough that Matt Steinmetz chided my nearby media table for creating “all that Kings noise.”
During a game break, I sprinted to their section and hung out a little bit. They’d all come here from the Sacramento area. Some would not concede that an imminent team loss had driven them to Oakland, deflecting with “It’s not a done deal!” Others admitted to having been motivated by preemptive grieving. One woman appeared a little drunk, a little sad–and Sacramento wasn’t losing. When I took a poor-quality photo, it caught a “Go Kings–We Still Believe” sign.
Their celebratory wake makes sense. Cheer the team while it’s still here, breathe life into these otherwise meaningless moments, because these moments are all that’s left. And who knows? Perhaps God will reward your faith. Perhaps a writer, one more famous than this bespectacled camera-botcher, will notice and shame the Maloofs into decency.
Down on the court, Keith Smart’s frenetic gesticulations exuded “It’s not a done deal.” He hasn’t let go–yet. Maybe an impressive ending flourish can save him. All he has are these final few games, under the watchful eye of Joe Lacob. Joe sat courtside with Warriors co-owner Peter Guber–who rarely attends. What are they whispering when Smart makes substitutions?
The Warriors lost by a little, a hobbled Monta Ellis left early with a concussion (He went to the hospital for examinations and did not travel with the team to Denver). When I asked Keith Smart if this was a game Golden State wins with a healthy Monta, he said: “Oh ya. Ya, without a question,” almost before I could finish mine.
Coaches don’t usually blame circumstances, at least Keith Smart usually doesn’t. He’s under a public, private pressure. I wonder what circumstances he’ll be in after the lockout. I wonder if the Warriors will be Northern California’s only team by then.
Twitter is: @SherwoodStrauss