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3 SACRAMENTO KINGS
Phil Taylor
October 29, 2001
In the skilled—and well-scrubbed—hands of Mike Bibby, the league's most explosive offense will be even better
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October 29, 2001

3 Sacramento Kings

In the skilled—and well-scrubbed—hands of Mike Bibby, the league's most explosive offense will be even better

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projected lineup

2001-01 record: 55-27 (second in Pacific)

Coach: Rick Adelmsn (fourth season with Kings)

STARTERS

PVR*

2000-01 KEY STATS

SF

Peja Stojakovic

42

20.4 ppg

5.8 rpg

1.21 spg

47.0 FG%

40.0 3FG%

PF

Chris Webber

19

27.1 ppg

11.1 rpg

4.2 apg

1.69 bpg

1.33 spg

C

Vlade Divac

67

12.0 ppg

8.3 rpg

1.15 bpg

1.07 spg

48.2 FG%

SG

Doug Christie

54

12.3 ppg

3.6 apg

4.4 rpg

2.26 spg

39.5 FG%

PG

Mike Bibby#

39

15.9 ppg

8.4 apg

3.7 rpg

1.30 spg

45.4 FG%

BENCH

PVR*

2000-01 KEY STATS

G-F

Hedo Turkoglu

129

5.3 ppg

2.8 rpg

0.70 spg

41.2 FG%

32.6 3FG%

G

Bobby Jackson

137

72 ppg

2.0 apg

3.1 rpg

1.10 spg

43.9 FG%

F-C

Scot Pollard

220

6.5 ppg

6.0 rpg

1.26 bpg

0.62 spg

46.8 FG%

F

Gerald Wallace (R)#

283

9.8 ppg

6.0 rpg

1.5 apg

1.17 spg

43.8 FG%

F

Lawrence Funderburke

288

4.9 ppg

3.3 rpg

0.3 apg

49.6 FG%

62.3 FT%

#New acquisition

(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)

*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)

Mike Bibby, the kings' new point guard, hates germs almost as much as turnovers. In restaurants he has been known to head immediately for the men's room to scrub up after shaking hands with well-wishers or after using a stranger's pen to sign an autograph. While that seems like slightly compulsive behavior, such a stickler for cleanliness might be what Sacramento needs, now that the team has washed its hands of the exciting but unpredictable Jason Williams. After three seasons with Williams at the helm the Kings are counting on Bibby to tidy up their attack and help them make their most serious run at a championship ever.

"Everybody's looking forward to playing with him," says center Vlade Divac. "Jason could do some spectacular things, but obviously he also made mistakes by taking a lot of chances. This team has so much talent that all we need is someone to take care of the ball and be consistent. Bibby has shown he can do that."

The draft-day trade that brought Bibby and guard Brent Price from the Grizzlies for Williams and swingman Nick Anderson is a steal for Sacramento. Bibby is a more consistent shooter than Williams (45.4% to 40.7% last season), and his average of 8.4 assists ranked fourth in the league. In fact the only question about Bibby, 23, is whether his unadorned style will mesh with Sacramento's flash-and-dash offense. He has no doubts on that score. "I like to push the ball as much as anybody else," Bibby says. "Running with these guys will not be a problem."

Although Bibby's primary running mate, forward Chris Webber, will likely miss the first two weeks with a sprained left ankle, at least he's in the fold after signing a seven-year, $l23-million contract. (The Kings also re-upped shooting guard and defensive stopper Doug Christie with a seven-year, $48-million deal.) "The only team that's better than us is the Lakers," Webber says, and it's hard to argue with him. Divac, who's never exactly been a conditioning fanatic, showed up at training camp in surprisingly good shape after a summer of running and weightlifting. Small forward Peja Stojakovic, 24, has blossomed into a dangerous scorer and could earn the All-Star spot he barely missed a year ago. The only King improving at a faster rate than Stojakovic may be Hedo Turkoglu, a 6'8" swingman who will get significant minutes at all three perimeter positions. Defensive-minded point guard Bobby Jackson and frontcourt banger Scot Pollard fill out an eight-man rotation that's as solid as any in the league.

Webber's flirtations with other teams during his free agency were traumatic for the Kings, but the team may ultimately benefit: He now has an added incentive to prove wrong those he feels snubbed him. "[Rockets guard] Steve Francis told me they thought I was cocky," Webber told The Sacramento Bee, referring to members of Houston's front office, "and I'm going to try to kill them every year for that." He was also offended by how he believes the Magic courted Raptors center Antonio Davis more seriously than Orlando did him.

While it doesn't exactly sound as if staying put was Webber's first choice, Sacramento fans will forgive him that if he can take the Kings farther than the conference semifinals, where they were swept by the Lakers last season. The Kings did beat the Suns in the opening round for their first playoff series win since 1981, which makes them a dynasty compared to what Bibby endured in his three years with the Grizzlies, who went 53-161 in that stretch. "I don't even know what the playoffs feel like," he says.

This year, he's likely to find out what the conference finals feel like, and if Webber maintains a healthy anger throughout the playoffs, the Kings may be in for an even better feeling.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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