Kings (6-16) at Lakers (18-3)
Scoring: Kings 16th (97.8), Lakers first (108.3).
Shooting: Kings ninth (46.2 percent), Lakers fifth (47.3).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (105.5), Lakers 14th (97.6).
Shooting defense: Kings 28th (47.8 percent), Lakers sixth (43.7).
Assists: Kings 18th (20.6), Lakers second (22.9).
The links: Lakers coverage in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News and Riverside Press-Enterprise.
The almanac: On this date in 1971, the Lakers beat the Hawks for their 21st consecutive victory, breaking the league record shared by the Washington Capitols (over two seasons) and the Bucks. Los Angeles went on to win 33 in a row. On this date in 1988, the Heat set the record for most consecutive losses at the start of a season, 17. The Clippers later tied the mark. On this date in 2001, Rick Adelman became the 22nd coach to register 500 wins as the Kings beat the Magic at Arco Arena.
There has never been a situation like it in American sports: a city so branded by tragedy looking to a franchise to lead the perception change. Sports was certainly part of the healing in New York after 9/11 and New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina, as two examples, except those places already had major-league franchises in place. Oklahoma City pursued the NBA with the specific intent to help shape the perception.
As a hoped-for credibility boost of a city that even its mayor says lacks an image, it's not hard to draw a comparison to the impact of the Kings coming to Sacramento. The Thunder coach until a few weeks ago, P.J. Carlesimo, said he heard the correlation several times. The mayor, Mick Cornett, openly uses Sacramento as part of his Oklahoma City blueprint.
He uses a phrase people in Sac would love: role model.
"Our three role models are Sacramento, Portland and Salt Lake City," Cornett said. "Communities that have one team and have supported it well, teams that can go deep into the playoffs and towns that also have a high quality of life. The next step is Charlotte: Can you get that second franchise?"
He's following the arena issue here, not long after Oklahoma City voters voted to tax themselves to improve Ford Center as part of the SuperSonics relocating from Seattle, and naturally had an interest in the Sacramento mayoral race. Plus, both are state capitals.
"We have more in common than people would think," Cornett said.
I spent about seven hours over two days of numbing cold at the memorial built on the site of the former Murrah Building and in the course of writing the story talked with civic leaders, Thunder players and coaches, and average citizens. I left surprised.
No one there seems to duck the bombing. While I tiptoed through questions about the horrible day and its lingering impact, figuring people are so exhausted with being tied to the terrorism as other, positive parts of its past are overlooked, Oklahomans essentially invited me to ask more.
When I told Kari Watkins, the executive director of the memorial, that it feels wrong to like the site, wrong because it's there for all the wrong reasons, she talked about how OKC views it as a tribute to people lost and heroes remembered. When I mentioned to Cornett that I may be over-delicate in asking certain questions because I didn't want to pick at their old wounds, he assured me that was not the case.
In all the ways that the people of Oklahoma City seem grounded, nothing is more telling than understanding their image is tied to a single act, by people who didn't live there at that. But instead of trying to push the bombing as far into the past as possible, they developed a moving memorial and spotlight it as a treasure of the city. Which it is.
"Because it's so well done, it's a positive," Cornett said. "It's not necessarily bringing up something people have forgotten. No one's forgotten."
That's why the story of the birth of the Thunder is so meaningful. For the mechanics of the major characters and what the move means for Oklahoma City and Seattle, Bruce Schoenfeld wrote a thorough story for the New York Times magazine in October. I was struck by the emotions. The story is entirely about emotions. Not just any franchise relocation, OKC is all about what that city has been through as much as where it's going with the NBA.