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The Beam Shines For All, With Patrick Redford

3:22 PM EDT on May 4, 2023

Malik Monk prepares to push the button that illuminates the beam after Sacramento's win against Golden State in Game 2 of their NBA Playoffs series.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Even before they went 17 years without a postseason appearance, the Sacramento Kings had a difficult history. They had moved around enough, and generally been miserable enough since the days when they employed Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas played their home games in Cincinnati as the Royals, that they had never really developed an identity beyond "one of the last two or three NBA teams the average fan remembers exist." Even the name, which was itself the result of a compromise—when the Cincinnati Royals moved to Kansas City in 1972, they arrived in a city that already had a better and better-established team playing under that name—was absurd on its face, if not quite up to the unparalleled Dada sublimity of "Utah Jazz." What even was a Sacramento King, beyond a short and vague way of saying "person who plays for a non-playoff team in the NBA's Western Conference"?

This year, that changed. The Kings abruptly grew into a new identity as one of the most prolific offensive teams in the league's history; their best young players blossomed into All-Stars and the organization's familiar roster tweaks turned up real contributors; they lit the damn beam and kept on lighting it. The Kings, suddenly and for the first time in something like a generation, were very good. It was one of the best stories in the league, in short, and one that Defector's own Sacramento King, son of the soil Patrick Redford, covered ably for us all season long. This week, we had Patrick on to discuss his coverage of the team's thrilling and too-brief postseason, which consisted entirely of a dazzling seven-game first-round series against the Golden State Warriors and ended on Sunday.

If this sounds like a lot of Sacramento Kings talk to you, I will give it to you straight: it's kind of a lot of Sacramento Kings talk. But the Kings as a team and an organization were fascinating as a masterpiece of institutional dysfunction long before they were fascinating as a basketball team, and both of those things are fun to talk about. The three playoff games in Sacramento were impossibly loud and lit, and Patrick's experience covering the series—he was at all three in Sacramento and attended a fourth in San Francisco—was pretty fertile ground for conversation not just because the series itself was so great, but because Patrick's status as a lifelong fan of this absolutely miserable franchise added an extra level of pathos and mania to something that was already pretty rich in both.

The rest of the NBA Playoffs will have to be pretty spectacular to meet the standard set by Kings/Warriors, and while the early games haven't quite delivered on that there are still a number of tantalizing ways that this all could go. Patrick helped us break down the early goings-on in the second round and speculate about the various more promising things that might await in the weeks to come, and also the fact that either the Heat or the Knicks will definitely be in the Eastern Conference Finals. There was also some chess talk down the stretch, here, not in the metaphorical sense you tend to hear on NFL broadcasts but because Patrick literally covers chess for our website. I didn't have a lot to add here but I did think my question about whether "everyone was having a good time" was a pretty astute one all things considered.

In the back third, we took a minute to celebrate a CBA legend turned veteran NBA irritant, and also that whole lost genre of basketball Guy, and then turned to a special Oops All Voicemails edition of the Funbag. Patrick put in a good word for Holy Cross basketball. We were treated to an exciting new wrinkle on the classic "sandwich + bathroom" conundrum that somehow become a part of my (highly troubling!) personal brand, this one involving souvlaki (in my mind) and a convention center bathroom (in point of fact). The relative bullshit vs. non-bullshit nature of beanbags came up for debate, with a consideration of memory foam's addition to the space and a stirring tribute to the team-building experience of kicking the shit out of a beanbag to get it into shape. In the generous light of the illumined beam, even the bean bags seemed...well, less bullshit than before.

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