You don’t need me to tell you why it’s special that the Golden State Warriors are playing the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the NBA’s Western Conference Playoffs, which kicks off on Saturday night.
I’ll give you the brief rundown, anyway. The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since the 2005-06 season, when Steph Curry was a senior ... in high school. During that stretch of futility, the Warriors have drafted one of the 10 greatest players in NBA history and two other Hall of Famers, signed arguably the greatest scorer to ever live, lost said scorer, and won four titles.
At the start of the year the Kings were the model of NBA futility and the Warriors were a dynasty.
Then Sacramento shocked the world by jumping from a 30-win team to a 48-win team, despite making barely any changes to their roster (though adding former Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown helped). The Warriors, big brothers to the Kings for the last decade, struggled just to make the playoffs, while Sacramento cruised to the No. 3 seed.
Oh, and in case you’re new to the whole geography thing, their respective arenas are about 75 miles apart.
It’s a perfectly crafted narrative. The upstart team trying to break through against the dynasty trying to hang on. The battle for Northern California supremacy.
If you remove your fandom from it, any outcome is hilarious. If the Kings — projected to maybe make and win the play-in tournament by the rosiest analysts — beat a healthy Warriors team that entered the year as championship favorites, that’s objectively hilarious. Not to you, of course, but to others. And if the Warriors, who marched through the season with all the seriousness of an 18-year old on senior ditch day, proving wholly incapable of winning games on the road, arrogantly flip the switch to big brother the crap out of their young neighbors who had the audacity to think they were the better team, well ... that’s objectively hilarious, too. And that one you would find funny.
It’s the perfect series. The perfect narrative. The perfect set up.
And it’s perfect beyond the first round, too.
Let’s not count chickens before they hatch and assume the Warriors will win this series, even though that’s my prediction. But if they do win? Well, thanks to the Los Angeles Lakers thrilling (if ugly) win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, the Warriors second-round matchup would be against either the Lakers or the Memphis Grizzlies.
Do I even need to explain that one to you?
The Grizzlies would be a repeat of last year’s second-round series, which featured endless trash talk, countless finger-pointing, and Dillon Brooks’ attempt to end Gary Payton II’s life. Since that point Ja Morant has said he doesn’t fear any Western Conference team, Brooks has gone out of his way to tease the Dubs at every chance, Klay Thompson has unleashed his arrogance fully in their direction, and Draymond Green has produced a 50-part podcast series aimed at making sure no one ever loves Brooks again.
And if it’s not the Grizzlies, then it’s just a casual encounter with Golden State’s Southern California rival, their former teammate D’Angelo Russell, and the man they faced in four consecutive NBA Finals appearances: LeBron James.
Stories don’t get much better than that.
But if they did, it would involve the Dubs making it to the Western Conference Finals and being met by the Phoenix Suns, so they could face Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, with Klay’s feud with Devin Booker being just a footnote in a narrative-filled series.
Then, for dessert, the Warriors could rematch with the Boston Celtics to once again try and stand in their way ... or maybe face the Philadelphia 76ers so they can do what they do best: break James Harden’s heart.
This is putting the cart a few light years in front of the horse. The Warriors have an exceptionally game opponent waiting for them in Sacramento, and it will take them accessing a gear they haven’t shown since July to beat them.
But the narrative is there. The set up is there for the perfect story.
All they need to do is win.