Power Band Pavilion was loud, rockin’ and ready to explode with every shot that fell in the basket. The arena was filled with Sacramento Kings fans dressed in black as the Kings called the first game of the season a “Blackout Event.”
The place was sold out with every inch of the arena filled with Kings fans as the team hosted the Los Angeles Lakers, who were coming off of a terrible loss to the Chicago Bulls. The fans were screaming, chanting and swinging their cowbells, which was very reminiscent of the early 2000s when this rivalry was huge.
This also marks the first game of having this Kings' team in Sacramento for at least another year. The fans were also excited to witness Jimmer, and what he can actually do in this league.
Coach Paul Westphal decided to keep Tyreke Evans at point guard, while Thornton was the off guard, John Salmon the small forward and Cousins and Hayes manning the middle. This was the starting lineup that I was expecting with Thornton providing his great shooting ability to open the floor up for Cousins to work the middle and Evans to slice through the lanes.
The rotation looked solid, as Westphal chose to use the rookies Jimmer and Isaiah Thomas a lot, while Travis Outlaw and J.J. Hickson provided solid minutes for the frontcourt. I was surprised that Jason Thompson was rarely in the game, which is certainly alarming because he is such a solid big man.
Coach Westphal did a great job coaching and subbing players against the Lakers, and I hope he will continue this trend throughout the season.
Although this team does not have a true point guard that can create for others, the starters seemed to mesh well against the Lakers tonight. The Kings looked to move the ball as the Lakers looked slow on the defensive end. There were numerous cuts by the bigs that allowed easy buckets by the rim.
What impressed me the most in this game was how much the Kings defense had improved. The presence of Chuck Hayes seems to motivate this team to want to play defense, especially with DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins continued to rotate to the right spots on his help defense, and he even took a charge against Kobe.
If Cousins can continue to stay motivated and willing on the defensive end, then this team can be deadly. I fully expect the veteran Hayes to keep Cousins on the right track, as he is the leader and this team respects him.
Defense will be the key for this team to compete in this league, and hopefully grab a playoff spot in the West. They will need crucial stops at critical moments in games, and this team has the ability to do so with Hayes directing the defense.
What I was also intrigued to see was how Jimmer Fredette would adjust to the NBA game. In 26 minutes, Jimmer gave the Kings six points and three assist, and looked comfortable playing the point guard position.
He has a great feel for the game and his ball handling skills were very solid. Jimmer’s defense was something that most people worried about, but he seemed to move his feet well and is strong enough to take on some contact.
The only thing I was disappointed about with Jimmer was that he did not attempt a single three-point shot. The kid was drafted to shoot the long ball. It was his first game, and he was nervous at moments in this game, but I fully expect him to shoot the long ball a lot as the season progresses.
When the Kings first signed Marcus Thornton to a somewhat large contract for a guy who’s main specialty is to score, I was a bit skeptical. After witnessing Thornton dismantle the Lakers with numerous crossovers and a deadly three-point shot, I would seriously give the guy a bonus.
He provides this team with a guy that can score a lot of points in a short amount of time. He reminded me of what Jason Terry provided for the Mavericks last season, and I am excited to see what else Thornton can do.
I also love the fact that when the Lakers were making a comeback at the end of the game, and the Kings started to look very young and inexperienced, Thornton wanted the ball in his hands and he provided. He was deadly with some clutch jump shots that ultimately finished the Lakers.
I was a little concerned that Tyreke Evans seemed to shy away from the ball at the end of the game. It could be his demeanor or whatever, but he needs to be the man on this team because he has all the talent in the world. I really hope that Evans can take the next step in his third year just as Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Kevin Love all had. He needs to be the man for this team if they want to make the playoffs.
Most Sacramento Kings fans still feel like this game was part of the rivalry, and you could see the Kings definitely wanted the win more. This type of fire must continue with every game because this team is very capable of making the playoffs with this roster.
The future for the youngest team in the NBA is very bright, and after a big win against the Lakers in their first game of the season, the future looks like it is now.