Just because you are characters doesn’t mean you have character

I’ve always felt that if you’re a fan of a losing team it’s best to see some progress while still losing a bunch of games.

That’s what you should want from your team. It comes down to either being a playoff team or being a lottery team. Those are the only two options possible. So if you were not going to make the playoffs, why wouldn’t you want your team to have a chance at the best player available in the draft?

Moral victories are often a bunch of newspaper fodder to keep buzz about the team going. There has to be some interest in order to sell this team as a commodity. The team is selling interest to get you to buy tickets. The newspaper is selling interest to get you to keep buying papers and reading about the team. The blogs are selling interest in order to get page views from you. It’s basically one big Mad Men advertising project with Don Draper asking you to step into his office to see what size authentic jersey you are.

Moral victories essentially build character in a team but most importantly, they get the team believing they can win when in fact they aren’t winning. And the fact that they aren’t winning is really what is best because it gets you more ping-pong balls. I firmly believe in this strategy. Be competitive but don’t win 35-40 games. Winning 35-40 games is basically spinning your tires. Yes, you’re close to the playoffs but you’re also far away from getting that much better.

Well, the Kings have inadvertently been subscribing to my theory on this. They’ve been insanely competitive in games for the past month, while still losing a significant amount of them to keep their lottery balls plentiful and probable. They have blown painful lead after painful lead, all while showing even though they are good enough to be competitive they’re also just crappy enough to stay in the hunt for the #1 pick.

However, that can only take you so far with a young team. It’s one thing to blow a game to the Warriors in which you should have closed them out before letting it go to overtime and eventually losing. It’s another thing to come back the next game and allowing yourself to do the exact same thing. The young guys have to know their fight means something on some nights.

This win over Portland was one of those nights.

It seemed to be ripe for the losing. The Kings seemingly try to pry defeat from the jaws of victory quite often. They’ll fight hard for three quarters, get themselves a nice lead and then completely fall apart in the fourth quarter. It’s almost like clockwork. They commit a turnover here or take a bad shot there. Then the Kings start pressing themselves on offense, using up way too much shot clock and falling apart on both ends of the floor.

Against the Blazers, the Kings looked like they were ready to fall apart. They couldn’t separate themselves from Portland. The game hovered around a four to six-point lead for the Kings throughout a six-minute stretch the Kings would usually let seep out of their collective grasp. However, instead of the Kings’ usually collapse, they decided to rally against the Blazers on foreign soil and go on a big game clinching run.

Tyreke scored seven points during this 13-2 run to close the game. Samuel Dalembert blocked two shots to stamp his defensive dominance in this game. Omri tipped in a big shot and the Kings forced a couple of big turnovers. Instead of letting the Blazers come back and ruin another solid effort, the Kings rallied to finish off the game in a way that would make fans proud.

This doesn’t mean there is a turning point in the season somewhere under the surface here. Whether there is or not doesn’t really matter. This victory was just enough to validate to the Kings they are capable of winning games. If they had lost another effort on the road like this one, we’d all be trying to sell this to Kings fans as another notch on the moral victory belt.

It would be a character-building exercise on a team that is cast as a bunch of characters who don’t really fit together.

You know what builds character? Winning. Being competitive only takes you so far when you’re a young, bad team. I still believe you want to be competitive while losing a lot of games because ultimately, you have to get lucky in the draft with a franchise player to truly rebuild. However, every once in a while that competitiveness needs to be validated.

The Kings validated their own talent and effort tonight with a win. Maybe they go on a big run for the next couple weeks or maybe they continue to struggle in a lot of these games.

What’s important is they ACTUALLY built some character instead of talking themselves into believing they did.


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