With football now officially over, it's time to turn 100% of our attention to the hardwood and it's almost limitless opportunity for profit each and every night. We're past the half way point of the NBA season and one of the stories I've been following the closest is the fall of the Sacramento Kings. Thought by many to be a major player in this year's NBA championship race, the Kings find themselves sitting at 21-27, good for just 12th place in the ultra-competetive Western Conference.
Not only is Sacramento four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot, they must leapfrog four teams to even get there. So how did a team that has won 50 games each of the last five years and come within seconds of reaching the NBA finals fall so quickly? It's not an easy question to answer. In my opinion, much of the Kings's success was directly attributable to their very deep bench and Rick Adelman's ability to get these substitutions important quality minutes and to accept their roles as secondary pieces. Even with owners whose pockets are as deep as the Maloof's, players like Tony Delk, Vlade Divac and Bobby Jackson became highly prized and went on their way. Gerald Wallace went in the expansion draft to Charlotte, and until injured, was the main man for the Bobcats. Darius Songalla left after last year and he's been invaluable to the Bulls off the bench.
In 2003, the Kings went out and got Brad Miller in free agency to help C-Webb on the boards. Miller, a slick passer with range on his jumper, semed to be a perfect compliment to Sactown's kick out perimeter players but despite averaging 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, has never quite fit in. His production this year is off significantly.
Unable to get over the hump in '03 and '04 and after a slow start in '05, the dismantling of the Kings nucleus began in earnest with the dealing of Doug Christie to Orlando for Cutino Mobley. Christie was and excellent passer (led Kings in assists nine straight years) and their sole defensive stopper. On the surface, this appeared to be a change simply for changes sake as Mobley was strictly a shooter in a lineup of shooters. Last February 24th, long-time GM Geoff Petrie pulled the trigger on an oft talked about Chris Webber deal, sending the ex-Wolverine to Philly for Kenny Thomas, Brian Skinner, and Corlis Williamson. Neither team has benefitted from the trade save that the Kings were able to unload Webber's huge contact. This year has been a nightmare from the outset including the Kings 93-67 opening night loss to the Hornets.
Free agent pickup Sharif Abdur-Rahim has been hurt and ineffective while the now departed Peja Stojakovic suffered through his worst shooting season as a professional. Peja is simply unable to create his own shot and was the one hurt most by the Webber deal. Point guard Mike Bibby has been the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal season. While it may not be providing dividends right now, the Artest deal was a Godsend for the Kings.
Stojakovic was in his walk year with no chance of returning and the Kings were able to get a lock-up premier defensive power forward who is owed a very cap friendly 28 million over the next three years. The Kings are just 3-3 SU & ATS since getting Artest but things can only get better as the other's become accustomed to his play. The Kings are probably done for this year as after tonight's home game against Chicago, the Kings have 33 games left, 19 of them on the road. The Kings top priority at this point should be getting Artest into the mix and reestablishing their one-time home dominance at the Arco where they are just 14-13 as of this writing. Barring some type of deal before the deadline, possibly involving Brad Miller, I see no light at the end of the tunnel or buy signs at the betting window for the Sacramento Kings.
The season is essentially a writeoff but with a solid front office and a committed ownership that won't accept anything less than excellence, the 2006 Kings are most likely a one year aberration. .
By: Jeff Allen