“A man without spirit is whipped. ... But give ’em one ounce of faith and they’ll be dug in deeper than a tick on a hound.”
– Coy LaHood, Pale Rider, 1985
New starting point guard Darren Collison seems to have given the Kings some faith.
Faith that they’re a better team than they believe themselves to be.
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Faith in coach Michael Malone’s offensive game plan, which begins with defense.
Faith that they can win even tough back-to-back road games – something almost laughable in recent seasons.
Most importantly, faith in one another – to play for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the name on the back.
Yes, the Kings have started the season 3-1 before, only to have their spirits – and playoff hopes – whipped by the All-Star break.
But this 3-1 start feels different.
Outside of the opening-night debacle against the Warriors, the Kings are playing team basketball. They’re moving the ball more, creating chemistry, crashing the boards and working hard on defense.
Collison, the offseason pickup from the Los Angeles Clippers, is leading by example. He’s been in the face of the best guards in the Western Conference. Steph Curry (7-of-17 shooting) had to work for his 24 points. In the three wins, the opposition’s starting point guards – Portland’s Damian Lillard (4 of 13), the Clippers’ Chris Paul (6 of 12) and Denver’s Ty Lawson (1 of 8) – were a combined 11 of 33 from the floor.
And with Collison more concerned about assists than points, he’s made DeMarcus Cousins (23.7 points) and Rudy Gay (26.3) even more dangerous.
To say the Kings are a playoff-bound team would be greatly premature. But with Collison, the team and fans have reason to believe.
Tuesday’s poll results
What will the 49ers’ record be in 2014?
▪ 12-4: 3%
▪ 11-5: 7%
▪ 10-6: 25%
▪ 9-7: 46%
▪ 8-8 or worse: 16%
Total votes: 103