Welcome to Hoop Dreams, a season preview unlike any other. The premise is simple: We’ll be providing 30 of these fictional forays because it simply stinks that only one team can win the title each year. The list of contending teams seems to shrink with each succeeding campaign, and we wanted to provide something to those fans who only get to dream of Larry O’Brien during the offseason. Before October, every team can win the NBA title. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading. – Ed
Before players were even trying on their Christmas Day alternatives, the Sacramento Kings were in dead last in the Western Conference and barely a blip on the playoff radar. Reporters and clever bloggers were already using headlines like “Kissing Cousins Goodbye” or “Boogie Mights” in trying to determine which team would finally win the DeMarcus Cousins trade sweepstakes. Bill Simmons even saw a .000002 percent increase in his ratings after he and John Cena analyzed how the Celtics could land Cousins for one draft pick and tickets to a Bosstones show.
It was the same old, same old for Kings GM Vlade Divac, as he shopped Rudy Gay around to fringe playoff contenders and worked diligently to help Arron Afflalo in his quest to play for every team in the league. Teams would even call about acquiring Matt Barnes for cash, which the Kings aren’t ever used to seeing. At best, the Kings would collect a couple mid-to-late first round picks while giving their young players and rookies more time on the court. At worst, well, they’d continue to be the Kings. Hell, as long as owner Vivek Ranadive didn’t turn the Golden 1 Center into a Walmart, the Kings couldn’t get any lower than they had been, and so there’s a silver lining for everyone.
And that’s not to say there weren’t some bright spots in the early months of Dave Joerger’s punishment from God … I mean first season as Kings coach. Willie Cauley-Stein was the focus of SacTown’s defense renaissance – a defenaissance, if you will – and he had most NBA experts believing that he could be the next star … of nonstop trade rumors. It was great for Cousins, both on the court and in the locker room, because he finally had someone with whom he could role play what it might be like to play for a team that doesn’t rival the Washington Generals in terms of respect and expectations.
But then the unthinkable happened. On the morning of Monday, December 26, as the Kings were preparing to be blown out by the Philadelphia 76ers (who had shocked the NBA by losing only one game by that point in the season), the world experienced a tragedy so rare that only the dinosaurs could have empathized. In the time that it takes to eat a Moons Over My Hammy breakfast, some of the world’s largest cities were obliterated by meteorites. Pop. Pop. Pop. One by one, cities from Moscow to Melbourne were struck by tiny space rocks that were still large enough to wipe them out. It was horrifying to watch (from a safe distance, obviously), and when the dust settled, the world looked like a giant ball of Swiss cheese.
Oh, and there was an insane amount of civilian casualties from the space shower, and everyone was super sad about it, naturally. It actually inspired world peace and caused what few politicians survived to rethink their priorities and focus on making the best of what some people believed was a second chance at humanity. Billionaires created a new economy that favored equality and – it was just awesome. You had to be there.
Because sports are always the answer in times of tragedy and healing, the remaining millions of people turned to the major sports leagues for entertainment and solidarity. Unfortunately, every American city that had a football, baseball, basketball, or hockey franchise was wiped out. That is, except for one – Sacramento.