SACRAMENTO KINGS 24-29.What has changed:Years and years of the rumor that Peja Stojakovic could one day be traded for Ron Artest finally came true. The Kings are now just 2½ back of the #8 Lakers and are far more probable for the postseason than they were a month ago.Ron Artest gives the Kings a defensive stopper that they haven't had in a while. Doug Christie wasn't as good guarding scorers and wasn't nearly as effective offensively. The 98.
7 PPG they allow has to be worked on.In December Shareef Abdur-Rahim had to get his jaw wired shut and has not been healthy enough to play a long string of minutes. Bonzi Wells missed half the season and even now is struggling to get on the court.Mike Bibby is once again leading the team with 20.5 points and has more importantly played every game this year.
Kevin Martin has evolved into a productive rookie in the place of Wells. A healthy Brad Miller is having another good year.For the most part it's the same old Kings even without Webber or Stojakovic. They're 6th in assists and 2nd in free throw shooting. But their offensive firepower just isn't as strong. In the old Peja/Webber days a gigantic part of Sacramento's success was from their bench.
Nowadays it's just Abdur-Rahim and Francisco Garcia. Miller, Artest and Bibby play over 37 minutes a night. Even if Rick Adelman wanted to play more than 8 guys he'd be dealing with Brian Skinner, Jason Hart and Corliss Williamson.At the start of the year the Kings began 2-7 at home. While they've improved to 17-11 they are not the juggernaut at home like they once were. Really that's the whole story with the Kings.
They're adequate at most of their statistics but don't dominate in PPG, FG% or even assists like they used to.So can a shell of what were great Sacramento Kings teams go towards the playoffs? Getting Ron Artest helps. Wells, Martin and Artest are hustling players who add another quality to the team. But the team is so young and so ineffective at finishing games that they struggle immensely to close out wins.
In a game at Utah the Kings didn't make a single field-goal. If they're healthy they have a decent chance to topple the Lakers. But knowing how fragile some of these players are it isn't too likely..
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By: David Pincus