It is perfect timing for the world champion Los Angeles Lakers to show up in Sacramento earnest.
No more exhibition games and no more regular-season games during which the Kings could spend the first halves looking like they wanted to give up 80 points.
Sacramento (3-1) gets the Lakers Wednesday night at Arco Arena and it’ll be something serious. Granted, serious and special come in different packages for the teams, Sacramento has an opportunity to prove something to itself.
This will be Sacramento’s first opponent destined for the 2011 playoffs. That’s a bit of a guess, but anyone betting against a Lakers post-season appearance is on for double-double wager at your local cheeseburger establishment.
Those who have watched the Kings win three of their first four games should be aware of how slim the margin can be between winning and losing. The Kings just as easily could be undefeated as winless.
Victories are not to be undersold, no matter the method of achievement. The ‘W’ is the bottom line.
And there is certain strength in being able to come back from double-digit deficits to get a win, even if a similar ugliness exists in the abhorrent performance that takes a team to such depths.
For example, the Toronto Raptors, in Monday night’s Kings home season-opener, literally conducted fast-break drills that ended in dunks and lay ups throughout much of the first half.
It wasn’t exactly the way the new-style Kings wanted to greet their sellout crowd. However, led by Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih, the Kings were able to hang around in the second quarter and eventually outscore the Raptors in each of the final three quarters.
Evans is a statistical phenomenon. He’s perhaps on his way to becoming the most unusual player I’ve had the opportunity to watch.
The guy can look like one of the most devastating drivers I’ve ever seen. Therefore, passing the ball, particularly in a one-on-one situation, is unnecessary, if not even foolish.
Then Evans can attack a defense, either in a half-court situation or on the break, and appear to be one of the most selfish cats ever. He has no problem driving into a group of three or four defenders and forcing up an off-balance attempt that seemingly has nary a chance of conversion.
On a similar possession, Evans can draw all of that attention and somehow find an open teammate he seemingly has no apparent ability to locate and hit for a basket or at the least, an easy opportunity.
And just like Monday night, despite the distractions of receiving his 2010 Rookie of the Year award before the game and missing the start of the second half with an upset stomach, Evans finished the night with 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot in nearly 37 minutes of action.
It was another night at the office for 21-year-old.
Not to be overlooked was the contribution/on-the-job training of center DeMarcus Cousins. The 20-year-old is on the early road to becoming a low-post, go-to-guy. Without him they become a jump-shot reliant, Evans-penetration dominated offense.
Cousins quickly is showing his mettle as a beast. Clearly, he’s ferocious on the boards and is capable of getting rebounds the Kings have struggled to get for years. Cousins rebounds in traffic. He rebounds with people on his back or on each shoulder. He rebounds with the hands of others on the ball, at least momentarily.
Yet, on this night, it was possible to watch him grow. He had two low-post moves blocked virtually before they left his hand by seven-foot non-shot blocker Andrea Bargnani.
Cousins, who played just 17 minutes, scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half. Ten of those came during the fourth quarter where he played Bargnani like an oboe.
The education taught in the first half already had been eaten, digested and evolved into a learned lesson in the fourth quarter. Cousins is an amazing case. Among all the words of critics heard about him during the draft, I can’t remember any of them mentioning his considerable intelligence.
Its clear Samuel Dalembert is rounding into shape. Dalembert grabbed a Kings’ season-high 14 rebounds in a little more than 22 minutes. His career-high is 23 boards. Dalembert’s tremendous length did not result in a blocked shot on the stat sheet, but if there was a stat for altered shots, he’d have had a couple.
What the Kings have lacked in recent years are players of impact - those who change the directions of a game with intelligence or heart in addition or independent of talent.
Omri Casspi didn’t do much in the first half, but his steal and driving dunk with 1:16 left in the third quarter was dynamic and quickly sent the crowd into a frenzy. Casspi outran the Raptors defenders and quickly forced down a surprising two-handed dunk.
“I just said, ‘(bleep) it,” Casspi said after the game.
Casspi clearly is unafraid of the moment. He scored 12 of his 14 in the second half and nine of those came on three of three three-point shooting in the fourth.
What Casspi appeared afraid of on this night were rebounds. He didn’t have one in nearly 33 minutes. Perhaps it was a positional thing. Toronto small forward Linas Kleiza had just one rebound during 34 minutes.
On a night, where Carl Landry’s jump shot was harassed by Reggie Evans (game-high 19 rebounds, 10 offensive), Darnell Jackson (eight points), Jason Thompson (seven points) and Luther Head (nine points, three assists) made impacts off the bench.
Donte Greene was the lone active player to receive a DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision). Coach Paul Westphal said after the game Greene has done nothing wrong.
“There is no problem with Donte,” the coach said of Greene, who started at small forward in the season-opener but has been replaced by Casspi. “There are only so many minutes. We had so many bigs out.
“I’ve found out Luther and Darnell can come off the bench with energy and I don’t need Omri to come off with his energy. But it’s nothing Donte has done. Right now, Omri is the answer to the equation. It’s more of the contributions of Luther and Darnell than it is a slam on Donte.”
Greene opted not to discuss the situation following the game.