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Best game this season for the Kings as they beat LA

The Sacramento Kings, sporting the worst record in the Western Conference, battled the Los Angeles Lakers, who are the most All-Star laden team in the NBA on Wednesday evening. Had Laker point guard Steve Nash not missed the game due to injury, the Laker starting five alone would contain five All-Stars — compared to zero on the entire Kings roster.

But, Kings fans had hopes for a good game. As King fan Saul said, “If we play an A game and they play a B game, we’re perfectly capable of taking this game.” We played our A game.

Laker Dwight Howard, arguably the best center in basketball, played twice as many minutes as foul-plagued DeMarcus Cousins, but Big Cuz equaled Howard’s point total, while gathering only one fewer rebound.

Kobe Bryant was “held” to only 38 points. What amazing is that John Salmons (called “the unsung hero” by Coach Smart in his post-game press conference) played as tight a defense on Bryant as anyone could do. Bryant was just that ridiculous.

Jason Thompson outscored and outrebounded Pau Gasol. Tyreke Evans had a solid, well-rounded game, and Marcus Thornton came off the bench to score 23 points in a 103 – 90.

Good News/Better News

The good news was that 15,249 fans showed up, and Sleep Train Arena was rocking. The better news was that Kings fans outnumbered and outcheered Laker fans. When Kobe stepped to the foul line, for example, he was greeted by Laker shouts of “MVP,” but boos from Kings fans drowned out the homage to Kobe. This dynamic was a welcome change from many recent games where Sacramento’s arena saw more yellow Laker jerseys than Kings purple.

Kings personnel dismiss the effect of hearing louder cheering for their opponents in their own arena. (Smart observed, “When you have a branded team like the Lakers, there’s nothing you can do about it.") Nevertheless, they are quick to credit the positive effect of hometown support, so it is hard to believe that there is no negative effect when their opponents get stronger support than they do in their own crib.

Family

It’s not often that a heterosexual male reporter walks into a Kings locker room, sees someone, and thinks, “Wow, he’s adorable!”  Then again, it’s not often that you enter the Kings locker room and see a 5-year old boy shyly hiding behind his dad.

Thanksgiving is a family holiday, and Chuck Hayes began the celebration early by bringing his son to the game.  The boy loves to watch his dad play and, fortunately, did not see the injury which sent Hayes to the locker room and receive five stitches above his right eye.  Instead, he saw his dad step up when Cousins’s foul trouble forced him to the bench for most of the game.  Hayes kept Howard in check and helped limit the big Laker center to a fraction of the 23 points and 18 rebounds he had totaled against the Kings 10 days ago.

Chuck Hayes exudes a calm maturity that few Kings have yet developed.  His devotion as a father is evident every time he comments upon, or simply looks upon, his son.  The highlight of Hayes’ summers is the quality time he gets to spend with his son, although even during the basketball season, they see each other almost every day.  Hayes is a dad who enjoys “watching him play, teaching him, answering his questions” along with passing on the right values, and the boy is obviously following his dad’s footsteps toward an honorable manhood.

Metta World Peace/Ron Artest

When he was Ron Artest and playing for the Kings, Metta World Peace was famous as much for his legal and emotional problems as for his considerable basketball prowess.

Those who meet him, on the other hand, find a warmth and sincerity which is rarely seen in the facade that professional athletes usually maintain. World Peace’s twinkling eyes will look right at you and he speaks with a genuine smile.

World Peace maintains he has nothing but good thoughts about Sacramento and his tenure with the Kings, even though the Kings are now his opponents. He has fond memories, and maintains friendships with various Kings players (he mentioned fellow New Yorker Francisco Garcia) and the Maloofs.

Giving Thanks

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to thank Mark Needham, SacPress sports reporter, who was scheduled to cover this game but had to bow out. Because of Mark, I was able to enjoy a delicious dinner (highlights included tender prime rib, chicken cordon bleu, and red velvet cheese cake) followed by an unforgettable Kings victory. May you all have a Happy, Healthy, and Delicious Thanksgiving.

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