Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Brown made it clear from his introductory press conference that under his leadership, the team would have a new culture.
After an altercation during the Kings' 139-114 win over the Houston Rockets led to four ejections, it's undeniable that a result of that culture shift is an overall fighting spirit for the league's high scoring "Beam Team."
Early in the fourth quarter, Malik Monk and Rockets guard Garrison Mathews sprinted to the backcourt after a loose ball. During the chase, Mathews dropped his shoulder into Monk and was called for a foul. While he looked at the referee, Monk poked the ball out of his hands from behind.
This upset Mathews and he confronted Monk, who did not stand down. The two came face-to-face in a heated exchange and players from both sides rushed to the altercation near the Rockets’ bench to separate them.
Things got chippy between the Rockets and Kings 👀— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 14, 2023
Four players were ejected from the game. pic.twitter.com/SX3kiUPUfK
Officials reviewed the incident and determined that Rockets forward Tari Eason acted as an “instigator” while Kings forward Chimezie Metu acted as an “escalator.” Monk, Mathews, Eason and Metu were all given technical fouls and automatically ejected.
With the win, the Kings (23-18) moved five games over .500 for the first time since April 2006, when they made their last playoff appearance.
"I had no issue with it,” Kings veteran Harrison Barnes told reporters regarding the altercation. “At the end of the day that's the fight that we need as a team, that's the fight that we'll need this season, and that's the fight we'll need for the playoffs."
Fighting for more than just respect
Beyond fighting for respect of fans, officials and opposing teams, as Yahoo Sports' Vince Goodwill wrote, the Kings have shown that they're willing to fight through adversity and for each other.
Kings leading scorer Domantas Sabonis fractured his thumb in a loss to the Washington Wizards in December. Instead of taking the recommended surgical route, he has decided to play through the injury.
He recorded 19 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high 16 assists in the team’s second straight victory over Houston. The performance was his fourth triple-double of the season.
Brown is no stranger to fighting for his team. He was fined $25,000 and ejected in a December win over the Toronto Raptors when frustrations boiled over regarding the officials.
On Friday night, he kept that same energy when praising Sabonis and made a point to call out his players’ lack of recognition in early All-Star fan voting returns after the win.
“If he and [De’AAron Fox] aren’t an All-Star, shame on the whole process.” “They’re just not getting enough love and it’s a shame.”
Even without their 'due respect," the Kings are the top scoring team in the NBA. Leading the Pacific division and fourth in the Western conference, we can expect them to keep fighting their way to breaking a 16-year playoff drought.