It didn't take long, and it didn't make much sense for those of us unaware of the backstory or the context of the day at large.
Less than four minutes into play on Tuesday night at Arco Arena, Ron Artest was clearly fed up with Kings coach Reggie Theus. There had been an exchange in which Artest asked Theus about a play call from the floor and appeared less than thrilled with how the conversation had gone. And seconds later, there was Artest staring at Theus from afar while the coach continued on with his duties. A few minutes later, Theus finally acknowledged the obvious as Artest continued looking in his direction. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "What?"
Like all of the Kings, they battled through on this night and appeared to have resolved the issue by the beginning of the second quarter (although Artest's edge continued as he drew a rare technical for arguing with an official in the second quarter). All in all, though, this was among the edgiest nights at Arco this season. Even stranger was how much of it was amongst the Kings themselves.
Francisco Garcia grew tired of being blamed for perceived mistakes and yelled in an exasperated tone at Theus. Mikki Moore and Theus had a tense moment of their own as they both vented to officials about the Warriors' physical play. The real perspective from my vantage point, however, actually came from press row.
Associated Press reporter Greg Beacham is the main man for all of Northern California sports, meaning he has to prioritize when it comes to the NBA scene. What that means, of course, is that after years of making the trek from the Bay Area to cover the more-competitive Kings, he has been busy at Oracle Arena all season long and unfamiliar with this Kings' crew. So as the courtside flare-ups continued on a fairly routine basis, Beacham kept leaning my way and asking, 'Is this normal?'
As always, the feel-good win glossed over all the early theatrics and the Kings eventually directed their ire toward the opponent. Kevin Martin (34 points on 13 of 22 shooting) won the latest round against Monta Ellis (3 of 9 shooting, 11 points), their media-driven rivalry related to the Warriors guard winning last season's Most Improved Player award by a historically-close voting margin to Martin.
Artest had Martin's back when he was nailed in the face by Kelenna Azubuike in the second quarter. While Martin lay on the ground and was tended to by trainer Pete Youngman...
...Artest griped with the officials and Warriors point guard Baron Davis.
"Kevin, that's our golden child," Artest said. "You can't hurt the Golden Child."
THOSE WINNING WARRIORS (Just not on this night)
The largest part of the Warriors' winning equation this season has been far from rocket science, as Davis has finally avoided the sort of significant setback that has plagued him in so many seasons past.
With 66 games logged, he has already played more than any season since the 2003-04 campaign while averaging more minutes (39.4 per game) since that time as well. What’s more, the offseason trade that sent longtime Warrior Jason Richardson to Charlotte was supposed to leave a void for one of the team’s younger talents to fill. Ellis has done just that, upping his scoring (16.5 points per game to 19.5), rebounding (3.2 to 4.7), and shooting percentage (47.5 percent to 53.3) while gaining coach Don Nelson’s confidence like never before.
“He’s quite a player,” Nelson said of Ellis. “He was a bit of a pouter when I first got him, and we had to get through that last year. (But) he’s playing all the time now so there’s nothing to pout about. We haven’t seen that side of him this year."
Ellis - whose mind had to be somewhere else in light of his brother being shot over the weekend - said on Tuesday morning that he was paid little attention to the award last year. Once he won it, however, he wanted to show he'd earned it.
"I really didn’t even pay attention when I was in the (mix)," Ellis said. "It wasn’t even one of those things that was in the back of my mind. (But) I didn’t want to get Most Improved last year and then come back and have a bust season this year, so it just carried on from last year and picked it up even harder this year."
The 2005 second round pick out of high school in Mississippi can be a restricted free agent this summer, and there has already been word that Memphis will try to lure him away with all their cap space. Ellis is already quite a bargain at $770,610 and will certainly be looking for a payday.
So, I asked Monta, is he eager to lock up his future in Golden State considering how well he's fitting in these days?
"Ummm, I mean time will tell," he said somewhat reluctantly. "Right now the most important thing is trying to make the playoffs and go through that and when the offseason comes and I have to make decisions then I’ll make it but right now I’m just focusing on basketball."
* Kings swingman John Salmons played despite a right ankle that is still bothering him. John said he had an X-Ray taken on Tuesday and all is fine and that he has no plans of sitting anytime soon.
"We've got a lot of time off coming in a couple of weeks," he said.
* Theus' pick for best play of the night? The second quarter sequence in which his team grabbed five straight offensive rebounds in one possession and a Garcia layup put them up 52-51 and sparked quite a spike in the building's decibel level. In all, the Kings won the boards battle 48 to 43 and that one play accounted for half of their offensive boards.
* My pick for highlight of the night? Brad Miller pretending he was Kevin Garnett in the fourth quarter.
With 4:20 remaining, the Kings were whistled for defensive three seconds and Davis went to the line. He missed the free throw, then tried a pretend attempt out of frustration that Miller blocked from behind. Then Miller - a la Garnett and his infamous move from his Minnesota days - goaltended when Davis tried yet another free throw. Davis was whistled for delay of game, and Mikki Moore finished the sequence nicely by actually blocking Stephen Jackson seconds later on a layup attempt.
* Moore had yet another fine outing, with 19 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. His dunk over Azubuike was monstrous with 4:45 left in the fourth to put the Kings up 10.
* Beno Udrih (lower back strain) and rookie center Spencer Hawes (left midfoot sprain) are day to day and I should know more on Wednesday.
* The Warriors missed a golden chance to pull away from Denver (which lost to Detroit) and remain in eighth.
* When the TV cameras caught my mug allegedly looking angry at an anti-Kings call in the second half, Beacham accused me of being a homer beat writer. He obviously hasn't read the bio on this page, as the only hoops allegiances I've ever known are the blue and gold kind.
* Q&As are coming soon, but ye ol' gas tank - my own personal Arco Arena, if you will - has gone dry.
* Speaking of Arco, it was filled with Warriors fans who were as vocal if not moreso than the home crowd. Artest assessed this latest trend rather accurately after the game.
"It’s not surprising (that there were so many Warriors fans) because we’ve got to win," he said. "We win a little bit next year, the next year after that, and we just pack this thing and then there won’t be any tickets left for the Golden State fans. It’s our fault. It’s our fault because we’re losers. When we’re winners, the fans come out. I totally understand why there weren’t that many Sacramento Kings fans out there."
* As always, don't forget to relive the win via our multimedia slide show. - Sam Amick