Sacramento Kings avoid circus surrounding Kobe Bryant’s pending debut

Kobe Bryant with a look of disgust against the Kings. (Photo: Steven Chea)

Over the course of his 18 seasons in the NBA, Kobe Bryant has tormented fans at Sleep Train Arena.  He won’t be doing so tonight when his Los Angeles Lakers make their first trip to Sacramento this season.

The reports out of L.A. are that the superstar shooting guard has ruled himself out of this evening’s game against the Sacramento Kings.  There had been speculation that Bryant, who ruptured his left achilles last spring, would make his season debut in the capital city.  But instead, the future Hall of Famer decided to stay in Los Angeles to get some extra work while his Lakers take on the Kings.  He may make his debut Sunday at home when the Lakers host the Toronto Raptors.

“Hopefully that will eliminate some of the media circus that it was going to be (today) because of Kobe’s potential first game,” Kings coach Michael Malone said following practice Thursday of not having to worry about the spectacle surrounding Bryant. “It can just be another game for us to try and protect our home court and improve upon and close out a game.”

The circus that was prepared to arrive in Sacramento has already started to die down.  The NBA announced the game, which was scheduled to air on NBA TV, had been dropped from it’s national TV lineup.  It will instead be available locally on Comcast SportsNet California or on League Pass.  The league had originally flexed the game onto NBA TV programming Wednesday.

Malone wouldn’t have been surprised if Bryant made a last minute decision to make his season debut in Sacramento.  But whether the five-time champion suited up or not wasn’t going to change the way the Kings head coach and his team approached tonight’s game.

“No disrespect to Kobe, he’s one of the greatest players to ever play, but we’re not overanalyzing and overthinking (tonight’s match-up),” Malone said.  “If he plays, he plays.  If he does, he doesn’t.  We have a challenge in front of us regardless.  We’re playing the L.A. Lakers whether that’s with Kobe Bryant or no Kobe Bryant.”

Greivis Vasquez agreed with his head coach and noted that the Kings’ preparation didn’t change much after finding out Bryant wasn’t playing.  The Kings starting point guard said that more than anything, their focus has to be on themselves and not so much on their opponents.

“I think if we’re looking for our future, we just gotta start worrying more about us,” Vasquez said.  “And make sure we’re good so that we can go out there and compete with a high amount of intensity.”

Kings hold practice at Sleep Train Arena

The Kings decided to change practice venues on Thursday.  Instead of holding court in the team’s practice facility, they worked out yesterday at Sleep Train Arena.

This is the first time they practiced inside Sleep Train Arena during the regular season.  They did, however, practice once before inside their home arena prior to the start of the season.

“We wanted to come over here and practice in our arena floor, which we haven’t done the whole season, just to get used to the friendly confines of Sleep Train Arena,” Malone said yesterday.  “Get used to the lighting, the rims and practice (here).”

Perhaps the extra work inside Sleep Train Arena will help out their anemic offense.  Shooting 43.1 percent from the field, the Kings are in the NBA’s bottom 10 when it comes to field goal percentage and currently rank 21st in pace according to Basketball-Reference.

“I think it’s good because our shooting is not really as well as it’s supposed to be,” Vasquez said when asked if he found working out at Sleep Train Arena to be beneficial.  “And practicing over here might help a little bit.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.