Kobe Bryant might not care that the Lakers lost to the Kings last night, but I know a collection of fourteen guys – top to bottom – that care plenty, and showed just how much in last night’s season opening victory.
I said multiple times late last season that you were watching the birth of a team – last night’s tilt only proved that point.
Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a slight to former Kings who’ve moved on. We’ve appreciated their time in Sacramento, but this is a group of men who click. A collection of players who’s talent mesh and skill sets compliment each other. This is something we’ve lacked in Sacramento for a long time, and that’s a true team. We’ve had good players in the past decade, we’ve even had some talented teams who put up a fight (think Artest/Wells) and gave us hopes of grander, but we haven’t had a collection of puzzle pieces that fit so perfectly together since Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and the rest of the crew were rumbling the Arco hardwood.
Overreaction you say? Hardly.
In no way am I comparing the talent level – simply the emergence and eventual cohesiveness of the two rosters. Watching last evenings game, you couldn’t find a King who wasn’t smiling or clapping, even if they didn’t see floor time. You saw leaders like Chuck Hayes teaching players how to correct mistakes – but praising the hustle and fire. You saw castoff’s like J.J. Hickson, who had his desire and effort continually questioned in Cleveland, swarming for the ball on both ends. When a King hit the floor, there was a bum-rush to pick him up.
First game emotions? Feeding off the crowd? Sure – you can add all of that into the mix, and while it certainly added to their hustle and emotion, it wasn’t the deciding factor as those guys on the floor made the plays. Like you can’t teach speed, you can’t teach heart. You can’t teach fire. You can’t teach desire. Most importantly, you can’t teach team – you become one.
I’ve seen a lot of pundits already throwing excuses out for the Lakers, claiming they beat themselves more than the Kings beat the Lakers. Bologna. The Lakers have some issues currently, there’s no doubt about that. They were missing their man in the middle. Kobe’s feeling the affects of playing two extra seasons of playoff basketball throughout his career – but the Lakers are still a talented team, even with all of that said. But despite what a paper might tell you, the Kings were the better team on the floor last evening – and while they’re certainly going to run into some rough patches throughout the year as any young team does, you’re in the first stages of watching a talented group of players become one. Enjoy it, because as we all know, it’s a pretty rare thing.
Last night was only the start of what’s to come.