Last night established two truths in my mind: Kobe Bryant is the MVP, and the Kings deserve plenty of kudos.
I went digging through the old blog archive (on the right side of the page if you ever want to look back) to pull out this tidbit from an Oct. 13 post...
* CBSSports.com's Tony Mejia has the Kings winning 26 games this season, while ESPN's John Hollinger sets the mark at 27 (Insider only article). All of which proves (Kings coach Reggie) Theus has a very real chance to overachieve here.
And that was with the presumption of relative health, or at least something short of the ailments that led to 17 starting lineups. That was before Mike Bibby was gone, before Theus would be asked to coach 21 players by the time it was all over. To be truthful, though, I thought the predictions like those above were insane all along.
If they had stayed healthy, I actually saw this team sneaking into the playoffs. The reason was pretty simple: too many guys with plenty to play for. Brad Miller needed to rebound from his disastrous season, Ron Artest needed to continue repairing his reputation on and off the floor, Kevin Martin needed to show he was worth his huge extension, Mikki Moore needed to show he wasn't an overpaid pickup, and Bibby needed to remind the league that he could play as he approached free agency. And after they spent so much of the 2006-07 season trying to accomplish individual goals and losing sight of the team objective, it seemed reasonable to think they would try the collective approach this time around.
It didn't work out quite like that, but this was some other version of success. In any normal season, the Kings would have been in playoff contention almost until the end. Remember this from a Feb. 4 post? The last 15 No. 8 seeds in the West...
2006-07: Golden State, 42-40
2005-06: Kings, 44-38
2004-05: Memphis, 45-37
2003-04: Denver, 43-39
2002-03: Phoenix, 44-38
2001-02: Utah, 44-38
2000-01: Minnesota, 47-35
1999-00: Kings, 44-38
1998-99: Seattle, 25-25
1997-98: Houston 41-41
1996-97: Clippers, 36-46 (three teams under .500 made it)
1995-96: Kings, 39-43
1994-95: Denver, 41-41
1993-94: Denver, 42-40
1992-93: Lakers, 39-43
What's more, the most hopeful of fans could easily fall back on the argument of how things could have been different if a few of the 'should have won' games went the other way. In all, they had 12 losses to sub .500 teams - with seven of those coming against the lowly Clippers (three times), Memphis (twice), and Minnesota (twice).
VOTING BALLOT UP NEXT
I'll be back tomorrow to reveal my awards voting ballot that is due to the league on Thursday, so head back for that. - Sam Amick