They beat L.A.

As a rule, player introductions at Sacramento Kings games generally suck. The lights fizz out, some cheesy video featuring Donte Greene’s only fast-break dunk ever projects on Joe Maloof’s bed sheets, and a Rob Zombie song abusively crunches over the arena’s busted speakers, sounding like Cookie Monster with emphysema.

So, when the house lights darkened on opening night and some 17,000 fans whipped out purple glowsticks, it was pretty damn cool. Something from a Los Angeles rave scene, but without rampant methylenedioxymethamphetamine use. Or Skrillex.

Sure, there was Metallica—this night’s intro song was “Blackened,” the classic opening track from 1988’s And Justice For All …—but, hey, this is Sacramento, not Anaheim. Nickelback rules, remember?

Anyway, kudos to the Maloof Sports and Entertainment organization for nailing opening night. And kudos to the team for its win—scratch that, triumph—over the much-despised Los Angeles Lakers. If the first game of the year, which many fans praised as the best Kings game they’d ever attended, bore indication of things to come in 2012, then perhaps things will be all right for Sacramento NBA fans.

Because if there was any love lost for the Kings, it certainly melted away late in the fourth quarter, when 21-year-old center DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins withstood a brutish charge from Reviled One Kobe Bryant. It was a stand-up moment for the young squad, one that showed fans that while they’re barely older, they’re finally smart enough not to choke.

They can beat L.A.

Interestingly, this was the first Laker game at “Arco Arena” I’d attended that did not feature occasional chants of “Let’s go Lakers.” And, unlike the final game of last season—what was thought to be the last Kings game ever in Sacramento—local fans far outnumbered Kobe fans.

Maybe it’s true: Los Angeles has gone Clippers?

Regardless, for the first time since 2002, the Kings aren’t boring. The offense gets the ball rolling early in possessions and doesn’t make too many dumb mistakes. Guard Marcus Thornton is cold-blooded. Tyreke Evans appears reborn with a jumper that’d make Pete “Coachie” Carril proud. “Boogie” Cousins is yoked and slimmed-down and never once reverted to 6-year-old potty tantrums during opening night.

And new guys such as J.J. Hickson, Jimmer Fredette, Travis Outlaw and Isaiah Thomas showed hustle the venue formerly known as Arco Arena hasn’t seen since, well, it was actually named Arco Arena.

Really, though, opening night was a tipping point. Mayor Kevin Johnson, who sat courtside with wife Michelle Rhee, accepted a personalized jersey from Joe and Gavin Maloof. No love lost there, either, it seems. And their newfound rapport, whether facade or sincere, and the Kings big win had most in attendance believing.

It was as if we all could see the future: “Yeah, you know, the Kings are here to stay. They’re gonna build that damn arena—even if the city goes broke doing it.”