I'm not sure why these Blazers losses have me so verklempt. I mean, Portland is the third or fourth best team in the conference; obviously, I'm not down about the one-point road loss, especially given that John Salmons was an inch away from ending it with a win. As we've been over myriad times, we don't hate the Blazers 'round here … there's something to be said for the mutual hatred of the Lakers and small town kinship.
There's certainly some mirroring going on between the franchise. Brandon Roy and Kevin Martin are of equal quality, and it's not hard to imagine one of Spencer Hawes or Jason Thompson becoming as good as LaMarcus Aldridge within a couple years. We need the third monster someday to catch up; it could be the other young big, it could be the '09 draft pick, it could the '10 free agent. The future looks as bright for the Kings now as it did for the Blazers in Winter '06. There's no reason to really worry right now.
I think there's a general understanding — correct me if I'm wrong — that this is the way it goes with a young rebuilding team. You will lose games to better teams nine times out of 10. It's a fact of life. We accept this, yes? I accept it. I got jittery in the final four minutes of this game not because I'd just die if the Kings blew it. I got jittery because of how excited I'd have been if the Kings actually won. It's almost the opposite of a, say, 2004 game. When you're a good/great team, there is relief with a win and devastation with a loss. With a rebuilding team that harbors hope, there is ecstasy with a win and indifference with a loss. We aren't going to remember the ball bouncing off back iron. We'll remember Spencer Hawes stripping Greg Oden, running the floor and finishing ferociously, drawing primal screams from us and the bench mob alike. Just give us a glimmer, and we'll be patient.
And I think that's the difference between us and Joe Maloof. We can brush off the end of the game because we can smell the bread baking. Maloof's running a business the only way he knows how: success now, success now, success now. In hotels and beer distribution, you don't need to have patience. There are no rules forcing a semblance of parity. If the Maloofs owned a baseball team, it'd be the Yankees or Red Sox or Angels — the fam would buy a championship. (This is what they tried to do in 2001, 2002, 2003. Those attempts left us looking at the free agent class of '10 rather than '07 or '08.) We know tomorrow will be brighter — we see it in Shock, we see it in Hawes, we see it in the Jason Levien hiring, we see it in Martin.
Hell, we see it in the Blazers. The difference between bad and good is patience. Most of the Kings — the players, the coaches, the front office, the fans — are ready to wait. Maloof's got to learn to do the same. Reggie Theus needs to remain the coach of this team. He got the message, and he's doing his job.