Amidst a season so tanktastic as this, it's important to find ulterior motives to watch a struggling Sixers team like this night in and night out.
In late October, a writer-friend named Mark-who I know through covering Colonial Athletic Association college basketball-emailed me about joining a 5-man NBA wins pool with him and several other basketball nerds, many of whom happen to boast an elusive light-blue check mark next to his name on Twitter. With an opportunity to follow the League in a new and exciting way, I figured why not and accepted the invitation. I can neither confirm nor deny whether the pool was for money.
The organization of the pool was simple: each nerd would draft 6 teams and whoever's crop totaled the most wins by April took home the crown. Naturally, we used a snake draft, so whoever picked fifth also picked sixth. Mark then used the site Random.org to determine a draft order by rolling dice for each person in alphabetical order of first name, trusting he didn't cheat.
I ended up grabbing Picks 5, 6, 15, 16, 25 and 26. Frankly, I was elated to snag the 25th and 26th picks, knowing that this season was going to be a tankfest and I wouldn't end up with the Utah Jazz or the Sixers. When the draft ended, I was content with my group, drafting Houston, Golden State, Atlanta, Portland, Sacramento and Orlando. Turns out, swiping Portland in the 4th round was the biggest steal of the draft and when Mark last updated us with the standings on Christmas Eve, I was a healthy second and just 13 wins behind the guy in first place, Alex. In first, Alex has San Antonio, Indiana, Dallas and Denver, drafting Boston and Charlotte with his last two picks. After much analysis, I realized what was separating Alex and I: those last two clubs. The Celtics and Bobcats had combined for 26 wins before Santa slid down everybody's chimneys while the Kings and Magic had only netted a combined 16 for me.
Now, there's one monkey wrench to this simple pool: we're able to trade teams.
I sent an email out to the group making everyone aware that the package of Sacramento and Orlando was on the trading block in search of a 6-10 seed in the West, making the claim that with Rudy Gay and Boogie Cousins clicking the Kings would be on the rise and Tobias Harris' return could catapult the Magic into the playoffs of the Leastern Conference. Nobody bit.
After I watched Phoenix dismantle the Clippers on Monday, I looked at who owned the Phoenix Suns and saw that Adi happened to have the surging Toronto Raptors as well. Tuesday morning, I mulled over offering the Hawks, now down Al Horford for the rest of the season, along with the Kings and Magic for Phoenix and Toronto. But I got cold feet, thinking I just hadn't seen enough of the new-look Kings to pull the trigger in case Adi accepted.
Tonight, I have that chance. The only significant time I've spent watching the Kings post-Gay trade this season was Sacramento's triumphant 108-103 overtime victory over Miami last Friday. In that overtime period, I saw Boogie play some of the most inspired defense I've ever seen-not sarcasm-and Gay look nearly unstoppable on every offensive possession, backing down smaller wing defenders and flipping in turn around baby hooks. Tonight will be my first opportunity to catch a full Kings contest this season. And while I'll be watching its entirety primarily to write a recap for this esteemed website, I have another reason as well. Can Boogie and Rudy play their way into my heart and NBA wins pool group forever?