A jokester forward can make a serious impact on this contender
By Chris Ballard
Team Page | Conference ranking: 1 | Overall ranking: 1
It's media day, and Chris Webber is all business. He scowls. He gestures forcefully as he speaks. The Kings need to get mean this season, he preaches to the cameras. Playoff victories don't mean anything without a title. People will need to step up. People like 6'7" Gerald Wallace, the third-year forward who must help fill the void left by the departure of Jimmy Jackson and Hedo Turkoglu.
Just as Webber is making his point, Wallace himself walks over, looking very focused. Or at least as focused as a man in a purple velour leisure suit, big puffy hat, dollar sign earrings and giant sunglasses can look. Abruptly, many of the cameras turn away from Webber and follow Wallace as he pimp-walks away, having a good time in one of the costumes that was on hand for a photo shoot.
As much of a jokester as the 21-year-old Wallace may be, he is serious about earning meaningful minutes and living up to the Kings' expectations. During three years of mostly spot duty, he has shown flashes of brilliance, especially on defense and in transition. After recovering from surgery in June to correct tendinitis in his left shoulder, Wallace says he worked on his jumper by making 1,000 to 1,500 of them a day, often shooting 3,000 or more to get to that number. While this figure seems hard to believe -- even if Wallace hoisted a shot every five seconds, without resting, that would take four hours -- Sacramento isn't paying him to do math. And they've got to like his confidence. "I don't feel any pressure," says Wallace. "I'll take on all the competition. I'm ready."
If he's not joking, the Kings could be even better than last year.
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Kings
"The best anyone can say is that the Kings -- like the Spurs, the Lakers and the Mavs -- can win the West. It's too close to call.... As good as he is, what has Chris Webber accomplished? Webber can be dominant, and he's still only 30, but he's missed 43 games the last two years and at crucial times he has not come through.... Brad Miller gives them toughness in the post that they haven't had before. He'll battle inside against Duncan and Shaq, and he can pop outside and hit the 15-foot jumper. I'm curious to see if Miller can help shake the Kings out of the self-doubt that they figure to have after blowing it the last two years.... Last season the Kings became an elite defensive team because of their speed and quickness. They can't knock you around, but they take advantage of the zone rules and play smart team defense by overplaying the passing lanes.... Their point guards, Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson, have to stay healthy. Bibby is a pass-first guy, and Jackson usually isn't, but Jackson is the toughest player on the team. There have been times that I thought they were better off with Jackson, because he gives them a sharper edge.... The other key guy is Peja Stojakovic, who has been fighting injuries the last couple of years. People think of him as a shooter, but he's as smart as anyone at his position, and he can put it on the floor and drive past people knowing that he's tall enough to pull up and shoot over the defense.... The Kings aren't as deep as in previous seasons; to win the championship they need to be tougher and avoid injuries. They also need the kind of luck they haven't had the last couple of years, which means that bad things have to happen to their rivals -- like the Kobe Bryant situation, which may open the door for Sacramento."
Issue date: October 27, 2003