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NO.7 SACRAMENTO KINGS

Nov. 10, 1997
Nov. 10, 1997

Table of Contents
Nov. 10, 1997

NBA '97-98

NO.7 SACRAMENTO KINGS

After watching his team's first six practice sessions during
training camp, managing general partner Jim Thomas declared 50
victories to be a reasonable goal for this season. "I don't
think that's out of the question," he said. "That's where we
should be." It's a measure of coach Eddie Jordan's boundless
optimism that he didn't immediately begin scanning the want ads
upon learning of his boss's expectations. The Kings, who haven't
finished better than .500 since Reagan's first term, won 34
games last year and will be hard-pressed to equal that total.
Their best player, guard Mitch Richmond, is underpaid and
unhappy about it; their most talented forward, Brian Grant, left
for Portland as a free agent; and their starting point guard,
Bobby Hurley, has career averages of 3.8 points and 3.4 assists.

This is an article from the Nov. 10, 1997 issue Original Layout

If Jordan can guide Sacramento to 50 wins, he should not only be
Coach of the Year but should also have a statue in his honor
erected outside Arco Arena, one just like that other Jordan has
in Chicago. Still, he chose to react to Thomas's statement
diplomatically. "That tells me the team and the coaching staff
must be doing a great job if he can say that after six
practices," said Jordan, who replaced Garry St. Jean for the
final 15 games last season. "It's good for us to have high
expectations."

No one knows quite what to expect from Richmond, 32, a five-time
All-Star. He has been a paragon of professionalism during six
years with the Kings that have included only one playoff
appearance, but there are indications that his long-standing
dissatisfaction with his contract--he will earn $3 million this
season and $2.5 million next--has finally started to affect his
attitude. He not only didn't play in Sacramento's first three
preseason games, but he also didn't even bother to attend two of
them. While he blamed his failure to go on the road with the
team on a sore Achilles tendon, he was no doubt sending a
message to management with his absences.

Richmond isn't the only player causing Jordan to cross his
fingers and hope for the best. Forward Corliss Williamson,
limited his first two seasons by back problems, will move into
the starting lineup. At 6'7" and 245 pounds Williamson has been
branded an "in-between" player: too short to line up at power
forward and not quick enough for the small forward slot. Jordan
hopes Williamson's performance over last season's final eight
games, when he averaged 17.6 points and 5.6 rebounds at small
forward, was a sneak preview of what he will produce this season.

But the most intriguing King this season will be Hurley, who was
nearly killed in a car accident in 1993, during his rookie
season. He returned to action 11 months later, but his career
never took off--at least not until Jordan, upon his promotion
from assistant coach, inserted Hurley into the starting lineup.
The 6-foot, 165-pound Hurley responded with an average of 8.1
assists over the final nine games.

That earned him the point job this season and the chance to
prove that he is an NBA-caliber player. His passing skills have
never been questioned, but his defense and his jumper have--he's
a career 34.1% shooter. In the off-season he fired 300 to 500
shots a day and intentionally turned himself into a gunner on
his summer league team in New Jersey, shooting off
pick-and-rolls and working on his three-point shot. "I don't
think I've ever had the thought that this could be my last
shot," he says. "I want to be calm on offense but play with
abandon on defense. I want to see if a big guy can really knock
me on my face with an elbow when I set a pick. Some people may
think that's crazy, but that's how I hope to play--very
aggressively."

Jordan is confident that Hurley will be one of the league's
pleasant surprises. "He had great success with Duke [where he
won NCAA titles in 1991 and '92], and he's seen the lowest of
times as a professional," Jordan says. "And he's still there
working every day. That shows a lot of strong fabric, and that's
what this team needs." Unfortunately for Jordan and the Kings,
they need far more than that. --P.T.

COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER SETTLED AT SMALL FORWARD, WILLIAMSON (4) HOPES TO PICK UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF [Corliss Williamson and opposing player in game]COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER [Billy Owens]