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Slow Return to Reality

Whenever there's a major injury, the Kings always play from Mars for a spell. The first quarter was perfect like that, with the team forcing the action in the right way and piling up points we'd expect to miss. The Kings were full of swag and transition energy, and Jason Thompson almost dared Tayshaun Prince to beat him.

Of course, in the end Prince did beat Thompson, with those two fouls on the right baseline killing the Kings late. You can't fault Thompson too much -- Francisco Garcia is 27 years old and still makes those mistakes. For a dude playing out of position in his eighth NBA game, I can forgive.

And you have to forgive the overall leak of execution from the game. Sacramento should not be in games like this right now, not with two of the team's three best scorers out. From the second quarter on, the Kings slowly leaked away the high performance displayed in the first. Detroit caught up by halftime, but the Kings still played really well ... but the bad possessions came more frequently. By the middle of the fourth, the dam broke and it became a turnover party. You can see it crumbling before you; I imagine the team sees it, as well. But what can you? I mean, other not throwing the ball out of bounds or dribbling it into three opponents.

Beno Udrih played inspired defense for the first time this season. He went hard, and you can't fault him for his effort or decision-making (for the most part). Spencer Hawes and Thompson continue to impress with their energy and skill-level ... I really couldn't be more excited about the young frontcourt at this point. Against two-guards and most small forwards, John Salmons is a better defender than Ron Artest. There's no way Ron-Ron could have tamped down Rip Hamilton the way Salmons did. Artest defends the bigger players (Paul Pierce, LeBron James) more effectively, but Salmons' combination of strength and agility is really dynamic.

After four games on the road and four at home, this team is right where we expected it to be: on track for about 30 wins. But the future is much brighter than it was a month ago. Kudos to Reggie Theus for thinking outside the box and inserting Thompson at the three. It didn't result in a win, but it gave us all a reason to be excited.