Every team needs that guy.
For the Golden State Warriors, it's Draymond Green. For the Memphis Grizzlies and now the Houston Rockets, it's Dillon Brooks. For the Kings, that guy is Trey Lyles.
The Kings forward became an easy fan favorite last year in his first full season with Sacramento. Aside from being a solid contributor off the bench for the Kings, especially in big moments in the playoffs, Lyles' grit and toughness have been appreciated by his teammates, coaches and fans.
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That was the case Monday night when the Kings hosted the New Orleans Pelicans at Golden 1 Center for the NBA In-Season Tournament Quarterfinals. Things got chippy in the second quarter between Lyles and Pelicans center Jonas Valančiūnas, and both players had to be pulled away by their teams.
"I'm never going to initiate, but [I] will definitely not allow things to go overboard and just let them walk all over us," Lyles said after practice Wednesday (h/t "Deuce & Mo" podcast). "So there comes a point in time in games that we got to stand our ground, and a couple of those times happened the other night."
After Valančiūnas elbowed Lyles, the Kings forward shoved the Lithuanian big man before both players got in each other's faces at the half-court line. A technical foul was assessed to Lyles.
Later in the game, tensions carried over with Lyles and Pelicans forward Naji Marshall at the scorer's table. The two exchanged some words before Kings big man JaVale McGee walked over and let Marshall hear it, too.
"Yeah he came up to the scorer's table as well so I appreciate that," Lyles said of McGee. "It just shows that the team is there for one another and we have each other's backs."
Monday wasn't the first time Lyles has stood his ground, either.
Last season, Lyles got into it with Milwaukee Bucks forward Brook Lopez. With time expiring in the contest, Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo dribbled out the clock and walked right in front of Lyles, who pushed the two-time NBA MVP. Lopez then confronted Lyles and things quickly escalated.
Both players were ejected and Lyles was suspended for one game without pay, while Lopez was hit with a $25,000 fine.
Valančiūnas is 7-foot. Lopez is 7-foot-1. Lyles is 6-foot-9, but it's clear he won't ever back down. Kings coach Mike Brown believes having a guy like Lyles with moments like Monday's altercation can help get the team fired up.
"It's a grown-up game," Brown said Wednesday. "It is a kids' game on one hand, but there are a lot of stakes out there. Emotions are high and you got to stand up for yourself, as long as you don't cross the line. I'm all for it."
"At the end of the day, nobody wants to be a pushover in any business that they're in, especially when you're at the highest of high levels. So it can for sure be a rallying point."
Lyles said he doesn't condone violence in any way, but when a big bully tries to have their way with the Kings, they know who they can count on to step up.