LAS VEGAS - They came in healthy, which was progress in and of itself.
The last time the Kings made a Sin City stop for the preseason, they entered UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 26 2007 with hung heads and lowered expectations. Point guard Mike Bibby had injured his left thumb in a practice the day before they faced the Lakers, and gameday came with the MRI results that would reveal a torn ligament and a subsequent 11-week absence. This time, they were on the mend.
Point guard Beno Udrih, whose signing came as a result of Bibby's injury and led to his five-year contract in the summer, returned from a strained left hamstring that kept him out Friday against Oklahoma City to face the Lakers. Third-year guard Quincy Douby made his exhibition debut after a suffering a spained right ankle in training camp. These ailments, however, were far different from the one that changed last season so drastically with Bibby.
"Banged up and hurt are two different things," Theus said. "In the preseason, guys are afraid to push it too hard. And quite frankly, I don't want them to."
Exhibit A was revealed in the second half, when Douby (sore right ankle) and Martin (sore right knee) removed themselves from the action.
No fan of Vegas
Donte' Greene doesn't like Las Vegas, and it has nothing to do with the obvious reason.
While he's a little more than four months away from the 21st birthday that will finally open all of Vegas' doors, he said he won't be a fan then either.
"I hate Vegas," said Greene, who played one season at Syracuse before he was drafted in June. "I don't know (why), I just really don't like big cities. I've never been to Miami. My first time to New York was my senior year in high school. That's why I love Sacramento.
"A few years from now, I'm going to buy me a house (in Sacramento) and just live out there. I ain't going nowhere. I love Sacramento."
On the scene
* On the surface, the Theus hiring last summer would seem to have a positive effect on the Kings' fanbase in Las Vegas.
Yet while his UNLV ties may have put him on the front page of the Las Vegas Review Journal on the gamedays of both preseason games the last two seasons, the pregame reaction showed this remains Lakers country. It was hearty cheers for Kobe Bryant & Co., and heavy boos for the Kings. The allegiances were shown once again when the Dodgers win over Philadelphia in Game 3 of the NLCS was greeted with a loud ovation.
* As could be expected, the Maloofs had a strong presence at the game.
Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof was joined by brothers George, Phil and mother Colleen courtside.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather also watched the game courtside, including one play in which he impored the official to tell Kings swingman John Salmons to "stop crying."
* It doesn't seem all too long ago that Andrew Bynum looked the part of a high-school draftee, having been taken at 17 years, eight months and two days to become the youngest player ever drafted in the NBA.
And then there's the now. Two weeks away from his 21st birthday, Bynum's once-frail frame is among the game's most biggest aty present and reason enough for the Lakers to be encouraged by their frontline. Bynum missed the final four months of last season wtih a dislocated left knee cap and bruised bone in his foot. - Sam Amick