Thursday's 103-102 loss to the visiting Utah Jazz doesn't help the club's overall record - another Lottery appearance is a lock - but the Kings are increasingly entertaining to watch. Keith Smart wasn't kidding when he promised to implement an uptempo style. When Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons fully commit to defending aggressively (and consistently) on the perimeter and in transition, the Kings will start winning games. And again, those 28 assists indicate a willingness to share the ball these days. No one misses that sluggish, dreadful, one-on-one style of the previous two years.
A few other thoughts, observations, musings:
* The Kings were immensely relieved to learn that Jason Thompson only aggravated an old ankle injury when he fell to the floor in the closing seconds. When Thompson had to be helped into the locker room, his arms around a trainer and teammate, most media types and scouts in the building suspected a more ominous injury such as an Achilles tear or torn knee ligament. The Kings press people were quick with the diagnosis.
* Watching Utah Jazz rookie Alec Burks on that crucial baseline drive reminded me how much Tom Abatemarco - known around here for years as Coach T - kept telling people before the draft how much he liked this kid. Abatemarco, in his second season as an assistant in Colorado, is convinced Burks will be an excellent NBA small forward.
* Evans was late guarding Burks on that baseline drive, but his defense throughout the game was exceptional. He had three steals, but challenged shots and used his size, strength and long arms to alter shots and make a nuisance of himself. He was also virtually unstoppable driving to the basket.
* Cousins took the blame for the defeat. He said he went out to challenge Devin Harris' last-second shot and left Al Jefferson, who scored the putback. Should someone have rotated? Was that when Thompson fell to the floor? Smart wasn't certain, either, and was waiting to look at the tape. But one of Cousins' best qualities is that he looks in the mirror and is willing to take the hit.
*. Tyreke wants to return to the starting lineup. You knew that was coming. After two-plus years as the Kings' franchise player - a position now shared with Cousins - he would never have been content coming off the bench. Players love hearing their names during introductions.
* A final thought about old friend and longtime colleague Lacy J. Banks, the longtime Chicago Sun-Times beat writer who passed away after years of ill health. Lacy was one of the sweetest, funniest, most unique people in our profession. He loved literature, quoted Bible passages and spoke fluent French. I loved the way he shouted my name - with a perfect accent - whenever our paths crossed. His flowery, intellectual questions and observations absolutely delighted Phil Jackson, and he was a media fixture during the Michael Jordan era. We called him "The Rev," and he will be missed ....