Another season ends with the Lakers visiting the Kings, with the Kings preparing for an appearance in the NBA draft lottery, and with the arena situation evolving by the hour, if not by the minute.
But regardless of the outcome, there will be no tears tonight.
In contrast to the wrenching scene inside Power Balance Pavilion during and after the Kings' overtime loss to the Lakers on April 13, 2011, the mood figures to reflect a combination of recent developments, among them rookie Isaiah Thomas' emergence and DeMarcus Cousins' improvement, as well as the disappointment of a 21-44 season. The major surprise, of course, is that the team is present and accounted for at least through 2012-13.
"We're not going to memorialize the last game because this isn't the final game in Sacramento," said James Ham, co-founder of the Here We Stay grass-roots movement formed when the Maloofs flirted with a relocation to Anaheim. "Last year against the Lakers, we had people manning Twitter and Facebook. We would tweet something and all of a sudden thousands of people would start the 'Here We Stay' and 'Sacramento' chants. But we don't have anything planned (tonight). There's just too much uncertainty in the air. Unless something dramatic happens in the next few days, we probably won't know what the future holds until the (relocation) deadline next year."
There are a few other notable differences between season finales. Phil Jackson is retired and living near a beach somewhere. His replacement, Mike Brown, is 0-1 here, with the Lakers losing the Kings opener Dec. 26. Derek Fisher plays in Oklahoma City. Metta World Peace is suspended for seven games. Sacramento native Matt Barnes is sidelined by a sore ankle.
Even Kobe Bryant is more banged up than usual, though he is expected to play for a few reasons, among them his tight duel with Kevin Durant for the league's scoring title and the fact he loves tormenting Kings fans on their home court.
So, tonight, don't expect sniffling or the need for tissues. While the arena situation remains unresolved and perhaps murkier than ever, this latest Kings-Lakers encounter could be remembered as the final home-court appearance for at least a few familiar faces.
Here We Stay, sure, but if the plan is to improve, that doesn't include everyone.
Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie anticipates an active offseason, mainly because he has a number of roster spots occupied by (a) players whose contracts are expiring and he wants to retain, (b) players whose contracts are expiring and he intends to escort out the door, or (c) players with contracts that make them appealing to other clubs in potential trades.
In what should come as no surprise, Petrie thinks the product stinks, too. Though the Kings have been eminently more watchable under coach Keith Smart, who replaced Paul Westphal after a 2-5 start, a 21-44 record is a 21-44 record. The offense isn't as dreadful, but the defense is horrific nonexistent to be precise. The Kings rank last below even the woeful Charlotte Bobcats in opponent's field-goal percentage and points allowed.
The lack of frontcourt length and shot blocking remain the most glaring deficiencies. And shooting. Absolutely shooting.
With approximately $15 million in salary cap space, the Maloofs need to spend both wisely and generously this summer, and Petrie has to avoid a repeat offseason performance. Arguably, Petrie had a worse year than his team, with the questionable signings of the overweight Chuck Hayes and Travis Outlaw, the unnecessary spending to retain Marcus Thornton, and the draft-day swap that brought back John Salmons.
While Salmons was effective before being sidelined by a sore hip, his skills somewhat duplicate the unique talents of Tyreke Evans, whose move to small forward was inevitable, and conflict with those of Thornton, a quick, explosive scorer who also wants the ball.
Jason Thompson? A contributor and free agent who would benefit from consistent playing time. Jimmer Fredette? Too soon to judge. Thomas? The highlight of the Kings' season. Cousins? The highlight of the Kings' roster.
Smart has a hefty workload this summer, and it begins tonight when the Lakers leave the building.