It could regain that status if the Sacramento Kings continue to pile up wins at their current pace.
Closing out its four-game homestand Tuesday night, Sacramento goes for its first five-game winning streak in three seasons when it faces a Chicago Bulls team opening an extended road trip.
Behind Jason Thompson's career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds, Sacramento (5-4) improved to 4-1 at Arco Arena with Friday's 109-100 victory over Houston. Although only 11,762 fans were in attendance for that win - the Kings' fourth in a row - first-year coach Paul Westphal said he can begin to feel the impact of the fans at Arco, where Sacramento won 30 or more games each season from 1999-2005.
"I don't think you can overestimate how important the fans are to a young team, to a team that's trying to be relevant again in the NBA," Westphal told the Kings' official Web site. "To know the city is behind them means a whole lot. When the players play well, the fans want to come and cheer and when the fans come and cheer, the players play better."
Sacramento, which went 11-30 at home last season en route to a franchise-worst 17-65 finish, looks to win its fourth straight at Arco for the first time since March 13-26, 2008.
The Kings' last five-game overall winning streak was Jan. 31-Feb. 10, 2007.
Thompson has been a major contributor to Sacramento's recent surge. The second-year forward is averaging 20.2 points and 11.6 boards in his last five games.
"He's having an impact in a lot of ways like rebounding, he's one of our most creative passers, and he can shoot the ball," Westphal said.
With leading scorer Kevin Martin sidelined for at least two months due to a broken left wrist, rookie guard Tyreke Evans has picked up his play, averaging 23.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists during Sacramento's winning streak.
He became the first Kings rookie since Lionel Simmons in 1990-91 to have four consecutive 20-point games when he scored 20 against the Rockets.
Evans will look to continue his strong play versus Chicago (5-4), which opens a six-game trip that will last the rest of the month.
The Bulls overcame a 20-6 deficit and avoided a three-game slide with Saturday's 94-88 victory over Philadelphia.
"We needed it," forward Luol Deng said after scoring 19 points. "This is a big win before our West Coast trip."
Tuesday's game will be the first matchup between these teams since their February trade, in which Chicago sent Andres Nocioni, Drew Gooden, Michael Ruffin and Cedric Simmons to Sacramento for Brad Miller and John Salmons.
Miller, who played in Sacramento from 2003-09, is averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 boards this season, while Salmons is scoring 12.6 points per game.
"Brad and John were big for us last year," Kings forward Donte Greene said. "When they left last year it was a little disappointing, but it will be nice to play them again."
Nocioni, who spent his first four-plus NBA seasons in Chicago, has started the last five games. He is averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in that span.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose had 14 points Saturday, but matched a career high with seven turnovers.
"Teams are playing me a little bit different this year with double teams and I'm getting the ball taken away,"said the top overall draft pick from 2008. "I need to fix it."
Rose averaged 10.0 points and 9.5 assists against Sacramento in 2008-09, helping Chicago sweep the season series for the first time in 11 years.