Methinks last night's win deserves a little more reflection. Having followed the team through at least a couple thousand games, I'm not prone to overreaction. We've seen nice wins before. We've seen bigger wins before. (This probably wouldn't make the Top 50.) We've seen big performances before. (As Jason Quick points out in his wrap-up article from the likes of Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire, neither of whom turned out to be all that productive or even fun to have around.) I'm not saying that this win is groundbreaking or will change the course of the team overnight. But it is a good sign. It's a good sign that we won with all those injuries. It's a good sign that we played with enough heart, smarts, and poise to challenge a pretty good team. It's a good sign that Nate can finally play Zach because he wants to, not because he has to. It's a good sign that everyone, including the players themselves, are starting to believe in this team and its ability to win.
A cursory look at Nuggets or Kings history will tell you that one of the indications a young team is starting to swing up comes when even in the midst of a pedestrian (or worse) season it wins a few unexpected games at home. It may not be a great team, opponents may mop the floor with it every third night, but you can feel the sea wind change. I remember exactly when this happened with the Nuggets because even though we were a vastly superior team, going into the Pepsi Center was hell. The last week may indicate a little bit of the sea wind changing around here. Even if it takes a couple seasons to produce consistent results, it doesn't feel the same. It doesn't feel the same around here, does it? We may not have taken a large step, but we've taken a step...perhaps our first step forward in at least 3-4 years.
Nowadays they have oversimplified, artificial measuring scales for everything from pain level in the hospital (Randall et al) to meteor threat (Torino). I have my own that generally categorizes where an NBA team is in its progress. (The Dave scale? Naw.) It goes like this:
Level 1: A team that other teams take lightly and it still loses. (The worst of the worst.)
Level 2: A team that other teams take lightly and it wins some.
Level 3: A team that other teams prepare for and it loses.
Level 4: A team that other teams prepare for and it wins.
Level 5: A team that other teams target (circle on the calendar) but gets stalled, never makes it over the hump, and eventually fades.
Level 6: A team that other teams target and it still wins consistently. (True championship contender)
Last year we were clearly a Level 1 team. We may be seeing the early signs of a transit into Level 2...not all that great, but a step up nonetheless. Still, there's a long way yet to go. You can do surprisingly well in the NBA simply by being overlooked. But even if we do manage more wins than expected this year and get some notice around the league, Level 3 is a huge hurdle. A lot of poor teams get a rude awakening there and end up right back down in the basement within a year or two, usually with a fired coach and disillusioned talent. If you get over that hurdle there's still a world of difference between a Level 4 team and one at the top. We're nowhere near our dreams. We've not even been tested yet. Nevertheless our style of play, and the fact that we've notched a couple wins with it, tells you that the outlook is sunnier now than it seemed a couple months ago. Might we finally have the kind of players and staff that are into opening windows instead of closing curtains? In a stale, molding room we just got a real breath of fresh air.
I don't know about you, but I'll take it.