When Kings rookie center DeMarcus Cousins slammed into Lakers center Pau Gasol on the low block and hammered in a one-hand duck, it seemed like a flashback at Arco.
How many times did Shaquille O'Neal brutally crush Vlade Divac in the post? Time after time after time. Divac and the Kings would plea offensive foul, but the refs almost never saw it that way. They simply let O'Neal bruise at will.
So when Cousins did his best impersonation of Shaq in his prime, the Arco crowd responded with a burst of jubilation. That happiness lasted just seconds.
You see, these are still the Kings.
And those other guys are still the Lakers.
And in the dark cruel universe of professional basketball, there is no justice for Kings fans.
Only heartbreak. And whistles.
Like the one called on DeMarcus Cousins for an offensive foul on the above-stated play.
Now let's get this straight: The referees had nothing to do with the Kings' 112-110 loss to the Lakers on Wednesday night, but it was just another sign that the basketball gods are not ready to change the physical makeup of the NBA universe.
And, in the end, the night was greatly disheartening.
The talent level between the Laker and Kings is still staggering. Kobe Bryant basically toyed with Sacramento like a cat with a ball of yarn. The Lakers offense clicked in every phase. The Kings battled and managed to stay close, but I doubt anyone in the building thought the Kings had a chance.
Furthermore, in another embarrassment, Lakers fans in the stands outcheered Kings fans. It was sad. In 2002, an atmosphere like this couldn't be imagined. Walking the concourse, I saw dozens and dozens of fans in Kobe Bryant jerseys. And nobody gave them a second look.
Arco used to give the Kings the top home-court advantage in the league. Those days are long gone. They couldn't even manage to sell out Wednesday night. The announced attendance was slightly over 16,000, but I saw wide swaths of empty seats.
You could almost smell the desperation coming from Kings management. The huge screen above the arena hawked ticket deals at every timeout.
On a night that should have been a coming-out party, it ended up feeing like a New Year's hangover.