The Sacramento Kings are in the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, and they’re up against the heavily favored Golden State Warriors. Two Times colleagues, both Kings fans, discuss.
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Kevin Yamamura and
The N.B.A. playoffs are upon us, and all four of California’s teams have made it in the same season for the first time.
Two of them — the Sacramento Kings and the Golden State Warriors — are playing each other, starting Saturday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. The Kings have the best story of the bunch, not only reaching the playoffs for the first time in 17 years but also winning the Pacific Division and finishing with a better record than all of their in-state rivals.
They also have the best celebratory device, a purple beam they shoot into the sky after each win. “Light the beam!” has become a rallying cry for the Kings faithful.
Yet oddsmakers and fans outside of Sacramento have their doubts about the upstart Kings. The Warriors are the reigning N.B.A. champions, and they’re heavily favored to win the opening round and to possibly make another deep run. The Los Angeles Lakers have LeBron James. And the Los Angeles Clippers have reached the playoffs in 10 out of the last 12 seasons.
Below, two long-suffering Kings fans who grew up in the Sacramento region — Kevin Yamamura, a New York Times editor who oversees California coverage, and Kellen Browning, a Times tech reporter — discuss their team and how residents in their hometown often feel that they have something to prove.
Kevin Yamamura: So, how many wins did you think the Kings would have before the 82-game season started?
Kellen Browning: I was optimistic we could break 40 wins — as one Kings fan notably predicted during a Summer League game — and sneak into the playoffs as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed. I did not expect this level of success!
Yamamura: Yet here we are with 48 wins and the No. 3 seed! Still, the Warriors ended the season on an 8-2 run. And they’re the Warriors. Should we be worried?
Browning: Absolutely. The Warriors were a mess all season, but they get Andrew Wiggins back and they’re the defending champions. I’m definitely nervous. But I’m also confident in our supercharged offense and think we have a decent shot at dethroning them.
Yamamura: The experts and the oddsmakers aren’t giving the Kings much of a chance. It feels so Sacramento. We’re the Rodney Dangerfield of California, we get no respect.
Browning: Exactly. We’re always the underdogs. And we’ve been consistently underestimated even throughout this successful season. We’ll just have to prove it on the court.
Yamamura: The thing about Sacramento is, it’s a huge metro area that would be dominant in most other states. But this is California. And Sacramento is close enough to the Bay Area that there’s a gravitational pull there.
I love Sacramento now, in a way I didn’t when I was younger. You grew up in Davis. Did you ever wish you were growing up in the Bay Area instead?
Browning: I liked Davis! It’s a small, suburban college town, but I had a busy enough childhood with school and friends and sports that I never really longed for a bigger city — until I was ready to go to college. Then I definitely wanted to spread my wings and ended up in Los Angeles.
Yamamura: The last really great playoff series we had, and the last intense rivalry, was with the Lakers in 2002. Sacramento fans brought out the cowbells, like we weren’t afraid to own our valley identity. That was such a great time. The city came together, everyone packed the bars and had parties to watch games.
Back then, we had the Northern California-Southern California rivalry to help fuel the fire. Is there such a thing as a Kings-Warriors rivalry?
Browning: In the early 2000s, the Kings were great and the Warriors weren’t. During the recent Warriors dynasty, the Kings have sucked. So this is the first time we are both good at the same time. This is an opportunity to start a really great rivalry.
Yamamura: I have to say, in recent playoff seasons, I’ve noticed quite a few Warriors jerseys around Sacramento.
Browning: Yeah, it’s a shame, but I get it. The Kings have been bad for two-thirds of my life. Some people may have been ground down and gravitated to other teams over the years. But I’m hoping we don’t have too many Warriors fans in the building on Saturday.
Yamamura: Well, the tickets are way cheaper in San Francisco than in Sacramento. Maybe Kings fans will be the ones taking over their opponents’ building. And how often can you say something’s cheaper in San Francisco than in Sacramento?
Browning: So true! Almost never. That shows the passion that Kings fans have for this team, and for the fact that we are finally having a really fun, successful season.
Yamamura: You live in San Francisco now. Do you miss home?
Browning: I love living in San Francisco. There’s always so much to do. But I do miss Sacramento as well — it will always be home. I will say, it’s been very tiring to be constantly surrounded by smug Warriors fans, including some who I work with. It will be very satisfying to knock them down a peg.
Yamamura: Sounds like a rivalry is brewing in our own San Francisco bureau!
Well, I’m not going to ask you for a prediction. But where will you be watching these games?
Browning: I’ll be at the Golden 1 Center on Saturday night! After that, it will probably be a mix of watching games in Sacramento and San Francisco, with my dad or my friends. Definitely need to plan some watch parties.
And I’ll give you a prediction anyway: Kings in 7.
Kellen Browning is a technology reporter based in San Francisco, where he hopes to celebrate a Kings series win in Dub Nation. Kevin Yamamura is an editor on the National desk who oversees California coverage from Sacramento, where he can see the beam from his house.
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Drug crisis: San Francisco politicians may soon convene to discuss the city’s response to drug dealing and use, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Creamy white beans with herb oil.
Today’s tip comes from John Becker, who recommends visiting the Getty Center in Los Angeles:
“The Getty is such an incredibly beautiful set of buildings, constructed from quarried Italian stone that built the Roman Colosseum, and housing world-class art with meditation-inducing outdoor gardens, sculptures and fountains all perched with scenic views of Los Angeles. And it’s free!”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
After a rainy winter, spring has arrived in California. Tell us your favorite part of the season, whether it’s in the form of road trips, festivals, sunny afternoons or wildflower sightings.
Email us at CAToday@nytimes.com, and please include your name and the city where you live.
After years of little change, Lake Tahoe’s water clarity made an encouraging improvement in 2022, according to a report published this week by the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at the University of California, Davis.
In the final five months of the year, the lake’s water became the clearest it had been in about 40 years.
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back on Monday. Enjoy your weekend.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Soumya Karlamangla, Briana Scalia, Isabella Grullón Paz and Bernard Mokam contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
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California's Underdog Team Makes It to the N.B.A. Playoffs – The New York Times