University of Washington's Isiah Thomas has been one of the league's best rookies. Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Game 61 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings


Blazers: 28-32 (4th Northwest Division)

Kings: 19-41 (5th Pacific Division)

Game Details: Power Balance Arena Sacramento, CA. 3:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: 750 AM (KXTG)

Projected Blazer Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1”, North Carolina), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5”, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8”, MSB Le Mans, France), PF J.J. Hickson (#21, 6’9”, North Carolina State), C Joel Przybilla (#10, 7’1”, Minnesota)

Projected Kings Starting Lineup: PG Isiah Thomas (#22, 5’9”, Washington), SG Marcus Thornton (#23, 6’4”, Louisiana State), SF Tyreke Evans (#13, 6’6”, Memphis), PF Jason Thompson (#34, 6’11”, Rider), C DeMarcus Cousins (#15, 6’11”, Kentucky)

The Blazers have games left that will matter, you better believe that. Five out of Portland’s last six opponents will be either fighting for a Playoff spot or jockeying for post season positioning. Those teams won’t be thinking about lounging beside the pool and enjoying a much less stressful off season than the one we suffered through before the late start of 2011-12. They’ll be thinking about taking an easy game off an eliminated team. The outlier in the Blazers’ remaining engagements happens this late afternoon in Sacramento.

Portland versus Sacramento: two lottery bound small market teams with less than nothing to play for between the two of them. Sunday could go one of two ways. It could be a loose, up and down, wide open slop fest that stays close, or it could be a loose, up and down, wide open slop fest that turns into a blowout. Not sure if either option is going to end up in good basketball.

There is a level of intrigue in Portland’s Sunday match up, and it has a lot more to do with the game being played off the court than the game being played on the court. If you follow professional basketball closely, then you know that maybe the only franchise more steeped in drama than the Blazers is the Kings. Things are falling apart in SacTown, worse than they are in Portland.

Schadenfreude is defined poetically by Dictionary.com as “a malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortune of others.” Certainly Blazer fans can look at Sacramento, and their front office problems, and although it doesn’t erase all the crap we’ve had to deal with, it does give us something to point at and say at least we’re not them.

Here’s the thing, though. Instead of congratulating ourselves on not being Sacramento, we should all hold our breaths and hope that the Blazers don’t become the Kings. It’s very possible. Think about it. Ten years ago the Kings were winners of 61 games and reached the Western Conference Finals. Five years later they missed the Playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. They’ve been in the draft lottery ever since.

I’m not saying that Sacramento’s inability to win is what is keeping the Maloof brothers from making money and is threatening that team’s future in their current location. I don’t know enough about the Kings to make that accusation. I just know that when the Kings were rocking Arco Arena and were every Blazer fan’s second favorite team, there was no chance they were going anywhere. A failing product doesn’t engender confidence in those individuals tasked with financing a new arena with a billion dollar price tag.

Like Sacramento, Portland is a small market team without a national fan base. The Blazers rely on a winning team to bring in the fans. They rely on the fans to make the product financially valuable. They rely on a financially valuable product to keep the team in the Rose City. If the product begins to fail on a regular basis, there is no guarantee that the Blazers will always be here.

I know it’s a stretch to say one bad season (a season that featured more turmoil than anybody expected to see) will lead to the demise of the franchise and the rise of the Kansas City Trail Blazers. But I doubt that when the Kings were consistently locking horns with the Lakers in some of the most classic match ups of the last decade that 10 years later their team would cease to exist.

Think about that while you watch Sunday afternoon. It might help contextualize what it means to be a lottery team in this league.

Also watch for this one thing:

  • How does J.J. Hickson play against his old team: J.J has been good in Portland. Good enough that he’ll be on the roster next season I almost guarantee it. He was not good in Sacramento. So not good that they told him they didn’t want him and wouldn’t mind not getting anything in return for him. That should motive J.J. to have a big game.

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Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

Tags: Blazers J.J. Hickson Kings