THE SETUP: Keeping tabs on a struggling team means looking for the intrigue that doesn't jump right out and grab you, right?
Then I've got just the tidbit for you Kings fans.
Ignore the fact that tonight's game at Arco against Minnesota matches two teams with a combined record of 1-8, and keep your eyes focused in on Francisco Garcia and Rashad McCants.
It's safe to say - like bet-my-mortgage safe - that the Kings new point guard and Minnesota's shooting guard have no love lost for each other. Their caustic relationship dates back to their college days, when Garcia's highpoint was leading Louisville to the Final Four in 2005 while McCants' North Carolina team won the title that season.
The rivalry grew during summer league in July. Before Garcia was excused so he could go to New York and welcome his newborn daughter into the world, he had a very heated late-night exchange with McCants at the Palms casino in which I was told McCants had to be herded into an elevator to be taken out of the situation and Garcia was certainly not backing down. And by the way, it can also be safely noted that you won't ever see Garcia back down in those types of situations. For all his flair and Dominican style, he's a tough hombre. As for McCants, his Hoopshype.com bio says it all in terms of his reputation - "difficult character."
Now both third-year players are being given opportunities like never before, with this matchup the latest in what seems like a can-you-top-this? sort of competition. The spoiler, of course, will be if McCants' sprained ankle that kept him out of Friday's loss to the Lakers sidelines him again. He was probable as of Saturday morning, though.
THE OUTCOME: Ah, that was fun. Nothing like the age-old pastime of observing human nature. There was certainly plenty to watch, with Garcia and McCants carrying a whole different vibe between them than any other two players on the floor (like when your dog's at the park and he just seems put off by a certain other pooch).
The lasting image on this night, though, is that of a furious McCants ripping the head band off his head and flinging it 20 feet toward press row when the Kings' win was all-but-official and the T-Wolves had fallen to 0-5. For a moment, I thought the lasting image would have come with 1:08 left, when McCants buried a three in Garcia's face to cut the Kings lead to 94-93. Garcia was outscored 16 points to 10, but it was McCants who went home with the "L."
- Sam Amick