The only team with a worse record in the Western Conference has no owner, unless you count the heavy hand of the trade-vetoing NBA. The Golden State Warriors are 6-12. The Sacramento Kings are 6-14. After facing each other on Tuesday in Oakland, one of the region's two NBA squads will come away with win No. 7, still very much outside the playoff picture. The losing team will sink even further, with their record getting ever-closer to the cellar-dwelling New Orleans Hornets.
The Warriors' owners are new. They promised the playoffs and appear poised to break that promise -- which means season ticket prices won't go up next year, if you're looking for a positive. Looking for another? The Warriors are also in the top 10 in tickets sold per game (18,864). Joe Lacob and Co. also negotiated a sweet TV deal with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area that paid them $50 million up front. That should cover the P.A. system at a new arena in San Francisco, the one the Warriors hope to move into sometime in the next 5-10 years.
The Maloof brothers almost moved their team to Anaheim, but they didn't. Sacramento was excited to keep the team around, but it seems like they're on borrowed time. As a result of all the uncertainty and crappy basketball, they aren't drawing: only 14,583 tickets sold per game. Jimmer-mania? Not exactly.
The Warriors might be the softest team in the league. They don't get to the free throw line at all -- especially Andris Biedrins, who's come down with a chronic case of Freethrowphobia. Mark Jackson talks constantly about a new commitment to defense, but the Warriors have no interior scorers and a group of perimeter players who avoid contact like elementary kids avoid cooked carrots. It's almost as if the Warriors look at everything we know about winning basketball (get at least one superstar, focus on toughness, don't live and die via three-pointers) and remain hell-bent on doing exactly the opposite.
The Kings may be the league's most selfish team. I played around with the idea of their mismatched roster leading to one hell of a (premium cable) reality show before the season. In reality, the team has no offensive flow whatsoever. Sacramento has the fewest assists per game of any team in the league, and not coincidentally they also have the NBA's worst shooting percentage (.399, which is phenomenally bad).
Looking in the Mirror
Neither team has done much of anything in recent years, which makes it all the more astounding that they've shared so many head coaches.
Rick Adelman didn't win all that often over two seasons for Golden State in the mid-90s, but the Kings made the postseason in all eight of Adelman's seasons in Sacramento. However, since Sacramento let Adelman go after the 2005-06 season and hired former Warriors coach Eric Musselman, the Kings have been a lost franchise in more ways than one. Now they have Keith Smart at the helm, a year after leading the Warriors to 10 more wins in 2010-11 than they enjoyed the season before.
Besides coaches, the teams share a common irrelevance. Both teams have loyal fans, but as far as NBA regions go, Northern California means little more than Seattle these days on a national scale. That's what happens when you miss the playoffs for years on end. One could blame the lockout for the NBA starting out somewhat of slow in terms of fan engagement throughout Northern California (although the Warriors are still drawing, almost despite themselves). However, if either team won more games than they lost, most local fans would probably be overly excited at this point.
Neither team is making the playoffs in 2012. Between the Warriors and the Lakers (the No. 8 seed) are the Spurs (12-9 with an interior presence neither NorCal team can match), Grizzlies (10-9 this year after an impressive and surprising playoff run the year before), Timberwolves (don't let their 9-11 record fool you, they're the most exciting non-elite team in the NBA right now and they're on the way up) and Suns (7-12 and lost in many of the same ways the Kings and Warriors are).
That's too many teams to leapfrog, and they'd still need the Lakers, Blazers or Rockets to falter as well. Good luck with that.
The Warriors' owners have promises and money. The Kings' owners have wandering eyes and lots of cool Vegas stories. In a fight between two local also-rans, the only thing Warriors and Kings fans can take solace in is the fact that, unlike the Hornets, at least their teams have owners.