More postseason jitters?
?Two things Seattle hasn't seen in a while. 1) A square mile without a coffee bar, and 2) the second round of the playoffs. The Sonics have won 63 and 57 games the past two seasons, but in the postseason they've choked worse than a kid drinking his first double espresso, losing in the first round.
?Reasons this year will be different. Sorry, can't think of any. Seattle has added guard Hersey Hawkins, the kind of outside marksman the Sonics need. But this is largely the same squabbling cast that has imploded the past two years.
?Why you should watch the Sonics anyway. They're the best highlight-film team in the league. The Sonics are immensely talented, with three All-Stars: point guard Gary Payton and forwards Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf; they're deep; and they have a smothering defense.
?Outlook. Either 1) the Sonics will go all the way; or 2) they will lose in the first round, and coach George Karl will quit and return to the Albany Patroons of the CBA. With the Sonics, who knows?
Rock-solid at last
?By the numbers. The Kings won 39 games last year, 11 more than the previous season, by improving their defense. They were eighth in the league in points allowed (99.2 per game) after finishing 25th (106.9) the season before.
?Name that 'tude. Last season, thanks mostly to hard-nosed rookie forwards Brian Grant (6'9", 254 pounds) and Michael Smith (6'8", 230 pounds), the once soft Kings displayed a toughness worthy of a team that features nicknames like General ( Grant), Animal (Smith), Rock (All-Star guard Mitch Richmond) and Big Nasty (first-round draft choice Corliss Williamson). "We want teams to think twice before they come down the lane against us," says Grant.
?Outlook. All the factors that made Sacramento a pleasant surprise last year are still in place, including Grant and Smith's inside toughness, small forward Walt (the Wizard) Williams's offensive emergence and Richmond's consistent play at both ends of the floor. But if Sacramento is to get to the playoffs, Bobby Hurley will have to prove he is an NBA point guard.
A jolt from Joe?