WITH the dust settling from the Sydney Kings’ fighting three-point loss at Wollongong in the season opener on Friday night, co-captain James Harvey issued a warning to the rest of the NBL yesterday: ”Don’t sleep on us”.

The Kings have been written off by some but Harvey is having none of it, declaring the 79-76 loss in front of a hostile crowd a big disappointment but proof the Kings are in the game. ”Don’t sleep on us,” the hard-edged former Gold Coast player said. ”We’ve put a lot of hard work in and we’ve got a coach [Shane Heal] who, apart from being one of the greatest Australian players ever, is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around. There’s just no way he’ll allow his team to not be competitive.

”This league is so close, there will be a handful of games between top and bottom. If we’re in that position again, we’ll take care of business.”

They might well have beaten the Hawks but for two factors, foul trouble early for Harvey and Ben Madgen, and a fourth-quarter cramp that put import Corin Henry out of action for a few crucial minutes. Harvey said having himself and Madgen out in the middle stretch cost the other players energy and wasn’t a fair indication of the team’s steam. ”When you’re only able to run six or seven deep in the middle stretch of the game due to foul trouble, it makes it really difficult,” he said. ”In normal circumstances I think we’re one of the fittest teams in the competition.”

They proved that, coming back from a dodgy third quarter and a 70-58 deficit with seven minutes left to nearly steal the victory. ”We went into the game with an expectation we were going to win,” Harvey said. ”So, to drop a close one, which most people said was a pretty tough-fought game, is pretty disappointing.”

Among the positive signs was the form of the imports. Darnell Lazare nailed 21 points on 10 of 14 shooting from the field and Henry netted 15 points, with six rebounds and four assists. ”Both had some pre-game jitters, being their first appearance in Australia,” Harvey said. ”But they performed very well.”

The Kings take on another great rival this Friday, the Melbourne Tigers, in Sydney. ”I’m a first-year Kings player and the first two games are the two greatest rivalries for the club, Wollongong and Melbourne,” Harvey said.

”Hopefully we can pack the Kingdome and get our first win on the board. Hammer’s our coach, Chris Anstey’s their coach, so there’s a lot of history just among the coaches.”

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